Jim Duffy: Mid-life crisis brings new meaning to ‘on your bike’

Male mid-life crisis sufferers will often be seen perusing the adverts for motorbikes. Picture: Contributed
Male mid-life crisis sufferers will often be seen perusing the adverts for motorbikes. Picture: Contributed
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NEW columnist Jim Duffy explains why a hankering for a powerful motorcycle is a classic sign of the mid-life crisis

It’s that time of the year again when I have my midlife crisis.

I’m kinda getting used to it, but every time it happens it’s still unnerving, exciting and a worry for all concerned. What will he do this time? What new career path will he take? Will it be Jesus, Buddha or Allah? Does he want a new sports car? Is he now vegetarian, fruitarian or just into protein shakes? Is he dyeing his hair, getting a tattoo or of course the proverbial ear piercing. Well, this time – it’s a lot worse…. But, let’s circle back and assess my other annual crises?

The motorbike. With most male midlife crises, the motorbike features highly in the must-haves. It starts with the purchase of glossy magazines. Publications such as Ride, where there are lots of pretty girls draped over £9,000 sports bikes. He starts by reading them in Asda and lingering in the magazine aisles for long periods of time – dreaming. These magazines start to lie around the house, but the subtleties are even more pronounced. He starts complaining about getting his car parked in town. It would so much easier with a bike – he suggests. He starts complaining about the fuel consumption of his car and how he could save so much money if he had a bike. Which is completely bonkers. It’s a bit like the argument for installing a log burner in your house at £3,000 only to find it takes ten years to actually make it a commercially viable proposition.

These are the early warning signs of one of the annual midlife crises us boys have. Next, it’s the Saturday morning trips to the motorcycle shop where he looks at keenly priced commuter bikes. But beware! What he is doing here is obfuscating. What he really wants and what he will get – by hook or by crook – is that sports bike. He really wants the Yamaha R6, but he’ll play along with something less sexy for the moment. The easy way to catch him out and really put the spotlight on this midlife crisis is to go to the clothing section of the motorcycle shop. As soon as he opts for a monkey suit – tight racing leathers – you know he is in full blown crisis mode. He’s certainly not got commuting on his mind.

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The next clear sign of the annual midlife crisis is the career change. He’s not happy at his work. He’s not fulfilled. This is the point where he is striving to achieve his potential and assert his DNA upon the world. Probably a bit more serious and earth shattering than a motorbike – unless you slam into a tree at 100mph – but really needs handled with care. The hunter-gatherer part of his brain is working overtime and he is sure that unless something changes, then something has got to give.

For many of us blokes, going to a night class on Spanish or taking up a martial art might allow us to express our manly needs. But, for others, a complete change in direction is in the wind. And that’s exciting, but dangerous. Putting it in context, you’ve probably got a mortgage, car payments, kids and credit cards. And now he wants to open up a shop on the local high street that sells scuba diving gear. It’s not an easy one. I left a career in the police to wash cars! Luckily it worked out OK…

Of course, with all annual midlife crises, the worst kind is when he’s off to find himself. Some personal finance on a motorbike or change of career are almost palatable compared to this one. If it’s just heading off to see the Taj Mahal or climb Kilimanjaro it’s a blip and you’re safe. But if he wants to travel the world or go work in a Kibbutz then Houston we have a problem. And I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to this one… as I’m going through it right now.

But why? Why, when life is trundling along so well, do many men feel the need to find themselves or do something crazy and anathema to their partners, family and employers? The key to this, in my humble, yet semi midlife crises experienced opinion, is that it is a fear of missing out coupled with a drop in testosterone.

In recent years, the bucket list has come into vogue. With some cash in the bank and some time on their hands, the silvertops do stuff they have always wanted to do. They visit places, bungee jump, learn new skills and generally explore life while having life changing experiences and burning their hard earned cash.

I think the male midlife crisis is early onset of the bucket list phenomenon.

Something in the brain gets triggered early causing a need to experience stuff in an accelerated fashion. It might be the fear of missing out? The fact that there are more cancers emerging earlier?

Add to this the funny things that happen as men get older physiologically and it’s a powerful cocktail of hormonal catalysts. The diminishing levels of testosterone may lead to men feeling they need to be more Tarzan like in their forties, before it’s too late. Whatever it is, I know it has happened again this year to many of us… I’m aware of it and I have reacted to it once more. The question for all you annual midlife crises sufferers out there: you generally get something out of it, but what about the poor sods who have to deal with you and your fads?

I wonder if there is a business in all this…?

• Jim Duffy is chief executive optimist of Entrepreneurial Spark, the world’s largest free business accelerator for start-up and scaleup businesses