Age vs. Attitude

Two weeks ago, in Hawaii, Kelly Slater won the Billabong Pro Pipeline contest, one of the world’s top surfing events. He’s 50 years old.

As a surfer myself, I can truly appreciate the magnitude of this achievement. It’s as if a pensioner had just won Wimbledon or climbed Everest. For context, Slater’s co-finalist was the son of one of his former rivals.

Incidentally, Slater is both the youngest and oldest world champion, having won his first title at the age of 20 in 1992. Age was never part of his equation.

Which begs the question, what *is* the right age for anything?

Sanna Marin, for example, became prime minister of Finland at the age of 34. Does that feel young?

Lucy Kellaway recently wrote in the FT that age bias is even more prevalent than gender or race bias – because we are ageist about ourselves. It is deeply engrained.

Ageism is everywhere, and the biggest problem is us.

This leads to poor judgment about our own capabilities – and those of others. We might unwittingly deem someone too old to be hired, or too young to be promoted. And we might disqualify ourselves from something we want to do, simply because it doesn’t fit the stereotype of what’s “right” for our age.

At first sight, Marin makes me feel old but I never aspired to be prime minister. She is simply the right person for the right job.

And Slater won not because or despite of his age, but because he was the best on the day.

In the end, that’s all that matters.

Kelly Slater (left) and Sanna Marin (right)
Images by World Surf League and Getty Images