It’s hard to put life into simpler terms, but Zinn’s Law establishes a paradigm that’s hard to oppose.
In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn details this idea and explains why it may be helpful at any stage in life.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for another edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn. I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California being invited back. Ray, it’s always a pleasure.
Ray Zinn: Thanks Rob for joining us today.
Rob Artigo: Well, I’ve heard you talk about Zen’s Law. For our listeners of course, what is Zen’s Law?
Ray Zinn: Well, over the years I’ve developed an understanding about there’s a time and a season for all of us. In other words, there’s a time and a place. Time to get married, a time to have children, a time to start your own company or whatever, so the time and the season is what Zen’s Law is all about.
When it relates to your earning power, when it relates to your ability to provide for your family, there’re some characteristics you need to understand.
In the first leg of your life, getting an education should take up until you’re about age 25, whether you get an undergraduate or a masters or whatever. By the time you’re 25 you’re getting educated. In other words, you’re forming the basis of your career.
And then, from 25 to 35 you start developing your career. In other words, you start establishing yourself, letting your position in life, as you would, develop, and so actually you start what we call in the developing stage of your career.
Then, from 35 to 45 is where you’ve established your career. Establishing means you’ve become who you are. In other words, you have made the grade, you’ve set the bar.
And so from then on, from 45 on you start taking advantage of … you milk, the career. In other words, that’s the milking phase of that existence.
From 55 on, depending upon how long you end up working, you just continue on taking advantage of what you’ve established from 35 to 45.
So, Zen’s Law is is that if you’ve not made it by the time you’re 45, you’re pretty done. You’ve already established who you’re going to be, where you’re going to be, how you’re going to be. Your earning power is pretty well maxed out. It’s just like athletes. Depending upon what sport you’re in, an athlete pretty well tops out in the late 30s or early 40s, depending again which sport, and some maybe even earlier.
The early bird gets the worm, so don’t think that you’ve got a lot of time to establish yourself. You have until you’re 45, because think about trying to go finding another job when you’re in your 50s or 60s. It’s not easy. I have a friend who’s in his late 50s, he’s a VP of Sales, and he has just been having nothing but trouble trying to find another job as a VP. Now maybe he can go in as a director or a sales manager, but he can’t find a job as a VP.
So, Zen’s Law is if you don’t make it by the time you’re 45, you’re done.
Rob Artigo: Should I be depressed if that’s my situation, or can I make lemonade with lemons? If I haven’t made it, can I still have a fulfilling life if I felt like I hadn’t hit that mark at 45?
Ray Zinn: Well again, I don’t want you to think that you’re dead because you’re 45. I’m in my 80s and I’m not dead. What I meant by that is that your earning power, in other words, you’re earning potential really has to be established by the time you’re 45, because after that you’re just coasting. Like Rob, you look at your career. You’re what, you’re in your early 50s?
Rob Artigo: Yeah, 51. I’ll be 52 soon.
Ray Zinn: Okay, and so you’re pretty well just where you are, your earning power is going to be limited to what you already established up until you’re age 50, 51. That’s what I meant by that.
For example, if you had an inheritance. Let’s say you got a multi-million dollar inheritance from your parents, that doesn’t mean you’ve earned it. That’s not your earning power. You have a lot of money, you have a lot of income, but that doesn’t mean you have earned it, meaning that that’s your earning potential. Just because you have a lot of money or you can make a lot of money or you have a lot of income isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about what you can do, what your potential individually is, what you’re individual capability is is determined by the time you’re 45.
I think if you think back Rob on your life, you pretty well hit the peak by the time you were 45.
Rob Artigo: Yeah, I think you nailed it. Zen’s Law would have covered the 10 years between 35 and 45 where I had a persistent income that was the highest I had earned at any point in my life.
I’d like to go back to another part of Zen’s Law, to the 20s. I know somebody who’s in the LA area, very creative artistic animator. He was a dancer and did some other things, performance arts and that kind of thing. He had experienced a lot of growth during his 20s, but I think started to feel like, “Oh well, blah. I didn’t really make it big in my 20s,” and he’s now 30 or 31, and people are starting to come to him and go, “Hey, we like what you have to offer artistic wise,” his art, his animation, and I said this, in my experience, is exactly according to the typical time frame for somebody.
They don’t make it the biggest they’re going to be when they’re 28. They start to just really get into that zone in their early 30s and they’re on the upward trajectory there, and I think it fits into what you were saying. That don’t expect it in your 20s. Realize that the real earning part is going to begin in your 30s. You’re going to then peak from 35 to 45.
Ray Zinn: Right. So, up to 25 you’re developing your education. You’re becoming educated. You don’t have a job, you don’t have a career yet, but you’re getting educated. From 25 to 35, you start developing your career, and so that’s the developing times. You’re trying to figure out what am I going to do, who am I going to be, how am I going to do it, and so you change jobs, you look around, you’re trying to develop your career. From 35 to 45 is when you established your career. In other words, you’ve got to being a manager or a director, a vice president, or a CEO. So, that’s your establishing phase where you’re establishing yourself, because from there on, from 45 on you pretty much have to milk it. That’s where you start receiving the reward of your efforts.
Rob Artigo: Yeah. I think that it’s easy to evaluate everything that’s happening in your life when you’re growing up in comparison to other people’s success levels, and then you lose focus on what you should be focused on, which is you and your growth trajectory, your education, what you’re learning in your job, and don’t worry about other people’s success or comparing yourself to them.
Ray Zinn: That’s a waste of time. Waste of time. You don’t compare yourself to anyone except yourself. Most of the good athletes don’t compare themselves, they just try to establish their own record, beat their own record, and I think that’s what you want to do is just beat your record.
Set a plan in your 20s as to what you want to do, have a plan, and whatever that goal would be, dream the highest dream you can dream and then make sure you’ve got the ability to do it, and then start developing that capability and then you’re on your way. But, before you’re 35. Don’t waste time. The early bird gets the worm.
Rob Artigo: Thanks again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thank you, Rob.
Rob Artigo: Join the conversation at toughthingsfirst.com. Your questions and comments are always welcome. Follow Ray Zinn on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Ray Zinn: And also read The Zen of Zinn, a book for all seasons.
Rob Artigo: By a man for all seasons.
Ray Zinn: There you go.
Rob Artigo: Thank you, Ray.
Ray Zinn: You’re welcome.