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Come at Me, Bro: Where Have All the Grown Ups Gone?

The Kavanaugh hearings and impending confirmation have us talking about the 1980s again. The parties. The drinking. The bar fights. All we need now is the Stop Making Sense soundtrack, which, of course, is one of the best albums of all time. Except for the track Swamp.

How did that song end up on the album? I don't know, but those songs take me back to a simpler time when grown ups acted like grown ups. Life had a steady bass beat that we could debate to. Now every day means another petty argument among grown adults, and we're not talking about policy issues anymore. Too many of our leaders are calling each other schoolyard names, shouting over each other, and acting incredibly immature for their ages. Come at me bro, indeed.

Personally, I find the rampant immaturity level as depressing as all of the lying. Immaturity is everywhere, from the moms at the bus stop acting like seventh graders to grown adults trolling each other on Twitter to one of our nation's elite asking a sitting U.S. Senator if she drinks to black out.

The questions I've had rattling around my brain for the last few weeks are fighting their way to the surface: Why can't we act our age anymore? Where have all the grown ups gone?

An Epidemic of Immaturity
There used to be a level of gravitas that was expected of anyone 50 or over. Companies called them "gray hairs" -- the wise, accomplished senior members of the team who exhibited understated decorum in addition to keen intelligence. They had highly-controlled impulses and the ability to stay cool under intense pressure. These were the leaders who lent an air of distinction to any endeavor. The ones who had mastered the ability to administer a Lloyd Bentsen-style smackdown without breaking a sweat.

We looked to these gray hairs as role models. They were who we wanted to be when we grew up. But today, too many Gen Xers (and Baby Boomers) in prominent positions are revealing that they've never quite grown up. Too many are still that seventh grade mean girl, or that obnoxious frat guy. At age 48, or 52. They don't want to own their past actions; they only want to own the latest high-end vehicles. They don't want to act their age; they just want to look cool.


I'm certainly not perfect, but as I reach the mid-century mark I've realized that it requires more of me as a person to pull off this "adult in the room" thing. I'm old enough now to know better, to know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, smart and dumb. My job is to be more thoughtful, and mindful of the consequences. To stay cool under pressure.

I love being a grown up. In a weird way, I feel like I've worked hard for it.

So it is oddly demoralizing to me when I see people my age in leadership positions acting like they're still teenagers with a developing frontal lobe. I wouldn't want to hand them my car keys, much less install them in an entrusted position of leadership. Come on guys, grow up. Please? The younger generations are viewing what middle age means through our actions and decisions, and it can't be a pretty picture for them right now.

Wow, middle age looks really messed up.

There are few things worse than a grown up who won't act like one. So let's fully own our adulthood, and finally be brave enough to be the gray hairs in any room. We can do it if we try.


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