You can be old at 30 or young at 90 - it’s all up to you
My father passed away at 90, peacefully, in his sleep. Last month I turned 90 myself, and I’m laser-focused on beating my dad in the longevity race. And I have reason to be optimistic. Not long ago my longtime physician told me he had good news and bad news. The good news: he thinks I’ll live to be 113. The bad news: he told me when I get there I wouldn’t be able to see or hear.
“Hell,” I joked with him. “I’m already there.”
This optimism comes despite one of the darkest years of my life, health wise. Last July, I wrote that I had suffered a Texas-sized fall that required hospitalization. That wasn’t all – I had suffered a series of ministrokes in December 2016. Right before the fall, I had recovered 85 percent of my speech and cognitive skills. The fall was a major setback. My speech was badly affected. The months afterward involved daily intensive speech therapy all week, every week.
The fall made me more determined than ever. I wrote then that I would never let age be an obstacle, and I’ve stuck by that. Several times in my life have I been the epitome of the “Old Man Makes a Comeback” story, and this year has been no different. It has been, in some ways, one of my strongest comebacks. Here’s a little update since my fall.
After intensive physical and speech therapy, I was beginning to feel more like myself. I was able to travel and maintain a level of activity that I enjoy. In February, the New York Stock Exchange launched a new exchange-traded fund (ETF) with the ticker symbol BOON, the first ETF named in honor of an individual. BOON allows investors the opportunity to invest in many of the America-first energy policies espoused in the Pickens Plan I unveiled 10 years ago next month. In May, I rang the NYSE closing bell on the trading floor. I dined at the 21 Club in New York, reliving the glory days when I would do power breakfasts in Dallas and lunch in New York on the same day.
Perhaps the most exciting event – in May, I celebrated my 90th birthday. Five hundred friends and family from both coasts and everywhere in between came to Dallas for a Texas-sized party. Some sent me videos wishing me well (with a few jokes at my expense). It was incredibly special and the meaningful event put my health challenges on the backburner, at least for a day.
At times I still struggle. It is often difficult to have my words drag behind my still crystal-clear thinking. Speech therapy is helping, but for someone who values communication, it could always be better. I continue to share my sharpest thoughts and opinions online and on social media, on LinkedIn and Twitter and elsewhere. Some find my age-old wisdom even more relevant in today’s current events.
I understand there are some things that I simply won’t be able to do again, including two of my favorite activities: quail hunting and golfing. I’m now a poor quail shot and I can’t hit a golf ball up my pant leg. But with frustration comes acceptance, and embracing the things I still am able to do. I’m convinced you can be old at 30 or young at 90, and it’s all up to you. Heck, it seems like just yesterday I scored an eagle on the 11th hole at Augusta National.
One thing about turning 90? It’s tough to find people your own age to hang out with. But that’s a rich man’s problem.
I still keep an active office and go there every day. Retirement isn’t an option for me. When you retire you have time to do what you love, and I love to work. I’ve got two brilliant young interns that remind me constantly of the incredible potential of our next generation. I enjoy giving them opportunities and embracing and empowering their ambitious and entrepreneurial spirit. It reminds me of when I was first striking out on my own, and I’m glad to help keep that spirit alive and well in America.
So, from getting back on my feet to celebrating a major milestone and getting back to doing what I enjoy and do best, it’s been a good year. My goal for the next year is simple: keep doing what I’m doing – just stay on two feet and don’t fall again.