The Mindset of success over 50.

Psychologists have long known that success is fueled by grit, passion, and a growth mindset—a deep-seated conviction that you can excel at a new pursuit.

But grit—a combination of perseverance and determination—rises through middle age and peaks in your 70s, as do a number of other helpful intellectual traits. Harvard and MIT researchers who tracked the cognitive skills of 48,000 people over time found that while mental processing speed is already on the downswing by the time you depart college, your ability to perceive the emotional state of other people and your vocabulary, comprehension, and aptitude for math keep climbing until at least 50. Though short-term memory declines after age 35, the mind’s accumulation of facts and knowledge peaks around retirement age. In many ways, that’s when your mind is best suited to dominate on the job.

Such an overabundance of determination may be unusual, but gritty, later-life professional success is not. Starting a business later in life may be the smartest thing you have ever done for yourself.

How to Stoke the Fire

1. Make It Meaningful
Once you pass the half-century mark, avoid work you don’t find compelling. The pandemic provides the perfect occasion to ditch—or be fired from—a position that doesn’t do much beyond keeping the lights on and the fridge full. “When you lose that just-OK job, you have the opportunity to take a big risk,” says Boden. “Take all the good from your past ventures and throw them into the future.”

2. Move Your Body
“Physical activity is very important to keep the gray and white matter in your brain more functional,” says Sigmundsson. His studies show that successful older people are all physically active, including everyone mentioned in this article. Anything that gets your heart pumping, such as walking, swimming, yoga, biking, or weights, will do the trick.

3. Fight Weakness
Which is lowest: your grit, passion, or growth mindset? Help nurture your weakest trait by surrounding yourself with people and deadlines that bolster it. If your entrepreneurial passion is fading, find an enthusiastic business partner and/or join a professional group. Talk to a source that can help you find that right entrepreneurial opportunity.

“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.”
Leo Buscaglia (1924 – 1998) American Author & Professor.

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
Helen Keller (1880 – 1968) Deaf and Blind American Author, Activist and Lecturer

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
Helen Keller (1880 – 1968) Deaf and Blind American Author, Activist and Lecturer