Of the 125 people in Marcellus, half a dozen or so people are over 40. After we read Arthur Brooks’ book ‘From Strength to Strength’ (thanks to a gift from a client who has also become a friend), we understood why those of us over 40 contribute the majority of the pieces to Three Longs and Three Shorts. As Brooks explains in this tightly written book, for people like us in the Finance profession, the raw intellectual horsepower or our brain (which is called ‘fluid intelligence’) starts waning from the age of 40. Thankfully, however, a different type of intelligence starts improving from that age, namely, ‘crystallised intelligence’ i.e. the ability to absorb lots of different bits of information and influences and join the dots. Brooks uses this framework to give professionals in their 40s and 50s a framework for the second half of their careers.
As Jonathan Knee says in his review of this book: “According to From Strength to Strength…the basic problem is the inevitable decline in our abilities. The decline in peak performance begins far earlier than we are likely to admit across professions, not just in athletes. According to Brooks, “on average, the peak of creative careers occurs at about 20 years after career inception,” so that professional decay is likely to commence between ages 35 and 50. Financial professionals peak between 36 and 40.
Like drug addiction, each subsequent hit of success yields a shorter period of satisfaction, necessitating greater feats of performance just as the capacity to produce them declines with age.
Strength to Strength reads like a companion volume to the cult classic from 1979, The Drama of the Gifted Child by Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller. Miller pointed out that talented children can become addicted to the positive feedback that their talents inspire, and may never develop an identity independent of the expectations of others.”
So what is the solution to the mid-40s fade? How can those of us who are in the second half of our careers capitalise on our crystalised intelligence? Brooks’ answer is that we should turn to teaching, writing and mentoring rather than trying to compete with younger people who are at their peak in terms of fluid intelligence.
However, this is not as easy as it sounds. Whilst several of us 40 plusers in Marcellus are writing, teaching and mentoring, we will be the first to admit that old habits are hard to shake off. Says Jim Clemmer: “Arthur devotes a chapter to “Kick Your Success Addiction” with powerful examples, research, and advice on dealing with workaholism and getting off the hedonic treadmill. “The buzz from success is neutralized quickly, leaving a hangover feeling…. after a while, you need constant success hits just not to feel like a failure…the carrot is gradually getting further away, despite the fact that you are running faster than ever. Thus, the dissatisfaction problem compounds the decline problem.”
Arthur provides several steps to transitioning from fluid intelligence to the second curve of crystallized intelligence. This includes pondering our death — what do we want our life to stand for, cultivating (real versus “deal”) relationships, deepening our spirituality, making the weakness of our decline a strength to connecting with others, and filling the second half of our lives with opportunities rather than loss. He concludes with a chapter on Seven Words to Remember; “Use things. Love people. Worship the divine.””
Interestingly, Buddhist and Hindu philosophy plays a key role in the prescriptions that Arthur Brooks dispenses in this timely book (timely for those of us who are battling with the decline of our fluid intelligence and the rise of our crystallised intelligence).
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Note: the above material is neither investment research, nor financial advice. Marcellus does not seek payment for or business from this publication in any shape or form. Marcellus Investment Managers is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a provider of Portfolio Management Services. Marcellus Investment Managers is also regulated in the United States as an Investment Advisor.
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