Women and a few men--150 in all--waited for the speaker to begin. It was something about diamonds, so it would probably be good, right? It turned out that the reference to diamonds was not about the jewels but about the shape and her message was to be sure we avoid letting our lives narrow to a point as we age.
In my mind diamonds have lots of positive associations: jewelry, princesses, baseballs, engagement and wedding rings, lasting forever. So I was disappointed that this woman associated diamonds with this ominous message: if you're not watchful, you'll reach the width of the diamond sometime in your 40's and then your life will narrow to a point as you get older. So beware! Forget diamonds, think of your life as a circle.
What really annoyed me about this speaker was her use of the word "we" as in: "We always slow down as we age. We give up trying new things as we age." And other pretty outrageous assumptions applied to everyone.
She obviously does not know the women (and men) I know, who belie those statements all the way into their 70s and beyond. For an audience of business owners and executives, many of whom are well into mid-life, this message was disrespectful and ignorant.
To make her point she told her own story of deciding at age 50 to climb Mt. Rainer. She trained for a year, did the climb, overcame some heavy doubts at a crucial point, and returned to tell the tale.
I know women well over 50 who challenge themselves physically and mentally everyday, over and over. They are testament to ever-expanding anticipation of new experiences and new frontiers over the course of their whole lives. No one ever says "Well, I can't do that, because I'm in my 60s now." A 102-year old woman in my extended family is now recording her life's experiences and her command of the language would make most writers and speakers half her age jealous.
I am known for reminding my clients and speakers everywhere that they must "Put the Audience First." This means really knowing who you're talking to. This means respecting them and believing that you can talk up to them, not down or based on outdated or contrived assumptions. This means telling relevant stories that inspire the audience to recall their own stories and to take new action.
I for one am not ready to give up my belief that diamonds represent many delightful, wonderful and yes, romantic, things. How about you? What's your next diamond?