20-40-60 Rule, or how to embrace that no one really gives a shit

20-40-60 rule

I guess we should cue this up by defining the 20-40-60 rule. We’re going to do that via here:

Originally spoused by actress Shirley MacLaine — andadhered to by Silicon Valley legend, entrepreneur and investor Heidi Roizen — the rule goes something like this: “At 20, you are constantly worrying about what other people think of you. At 40 you wake up and say, ‘I’m not going to give a damn what other people think anymore.’ And at 60 you realize no one is thinking about you at all.” The most important piece of information there, Roizen says: “Nobody is thinking about you from the very beginning.

Little sad, right? No doubt. She (Roizen) goes on to say “Your boss is not thinking about your, your peers are not thinking about you. You need to think about you.” This shouldn’t necessarily be true, but it is oftentimes true. (All situations are different and no generalization works for all, hence the term “generalization.”)

This is why, as the basic life path (i.e. having a standard job) has changed, we need to look at new ways of thinking about careers.

Although we haven’t necessarily done that either …

One more issue around the 20-40-60 Rule: The Temple of Busy

Look at this good article from The Atlantic about “how friends become closer.” Noble topic we should all consider, right? Most of the article is really decent research. But at the end, there’s this cop-out turd:

And you have to be realistic about your friends’ other responsibilities. Sometimes life is so busy that people may not be able to keep friendship from falling to the bottom of their priority list, much as they may desire otherwise.

In other words, busy > friendship. OK. This is why The New York Times called this “the golden age of bailing.” Tech makes it so much easier.

So does this make the 20-40-60 rule true? Is no one thinking about you from the very beginning?

It’s often more about not knowing how to interact (Part 1)

Lemme give you a personal example. I got separated around early March; legally divorced in early July. (Fast!) It’s a tough deal to go through but, ya know, I’ll grow from it.

How many people you think reached out?

Maybe like 2-3 max, aside from people physically around me day-to-day.

Why you think?

Because I’m an asshole and they don’t care?

Maybe. That could apply to me, sadly. That’s a 2017-2018 goal right there.

I’d reckon the real reason is:

They don’t know what to say.

Work is the same shit. A lot of stuff at work is political, fraught, someone gets dressed down in a meeting, there are emotions over a project, someone’s dog dies, whatever. People don’t know what to say in those situations. Humans aren’t great with loss and failure discussions.

So sometimes it’s less 20-40-60 rule and more just people not knowing how to interact.

But nobody cares from the very beginning?

Of course not. Most of us have some friends. Some of us have many. But we should probably be aware that 20-40-60 rule is making this slight comeback at the same time loneliness reporting is on the rise, feelings of social isolation are on the rise, and more are reporting as nervous and anxious than ever before.

That should probably be a concern. But I do believe people care from the very beginning. I trust in humanity in this regard.

What about the work side of this 20-40-60 rule concept? 

That’s a little bit more fraught. Work is fucked up in the sense that we put people in teams, but we reward individuals. So there can be a lot of under-cutting, politics, confusion about roles, all that crap. And lots of people worship at Temple of Busy, so they can seem like they don’t really care about you. The worst types of bosses (there are many), IMHO, are the ones who barely seem to know your name despite working for them for 7 years. That would be a 20-40-60 rule deal because you work for a guy like that and you legitimately mutter to yourself 2 nights a week, “No one has cared since the beginning.” Wow, did I just describe my life a bit? Shit, sorry.

This is all why a “zero fucks given” approach to work isn’t that bad.

But look, at the end of the day…

We’re all just humans trying to get through this deal (Act 2 of life) with a couple of friends, maybe some loves, a few kids, a nice house, a job with some meaning, or whatever floats your own boat. It ain’t easy all the time and yes, there are moments when you have literally only yourself. 

Let’s hit my personal deal for a second. In that moment I got back from visiting my friend and I knew I’d open the door to a place we shared and it’d be half-empty, you think I had anyone else in that moment? Nope. Didn’t even have my dog. So sometimes you just got yourself, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily underscore the 20-40-60 rule. People have cared from the beginning and still do care. Don’t believe it except to think it’s a little bit funny. Rather, realize we’ve all got moments we get lifted up, and we’ve all got moments we gotta do it ourselves. Ain’t life grand?

Anything you got on the 20-40-60 rule?


Ted Bauer


  1. Personal experience tells me that in the workplace no one gives a shit about me.

    Let me explain… I had to take time away from work due to ill health. I was away for a considerable amount of time.

    During that time my manager, my team and departmental colleagues, my HR business partner, the corporate health and wellbeing unit and the company in general forgot about me. In fact they forgot about me for 10 months! Yes, that’s right, no one noticed I was missing, no one cared enough to think ‘H’uh, I wonder where he is?’… No one at all! Guess how that made me feel…

  2. Most often friendship is ethereal and really dependent on time and location. Is this real friendship? Well, maybe not. But basically, you talk to your coworkers, your neighbor, parents at soccer practice, all that stuff. You see these people maybe for years, and in some sense you’re compelled to spend time together. But visiting their house? Going out to dinner, or bowling or a concert or something? Probably not. Don’t ask them to help you move, pick you up from the airport or something. Over time your expectations about friendship go down.

    Mind you, I’m not saying most people are jerks, and I’m not. Sadly, I am a jerk, too. I’m busy. Lots of work, kids, scouting, church, etc. So while I can see people during those times, it’s not easy to see them other times. Plus, logistically, it’s tough. We have one car, and not unlimited cash. Makes it tricky.

    I’d like this to change.

    • @joshmccormack omigosh, your first paragraph resonates with me entirely! I used to take it personal but – yes! people are hypocrites at work…they ACT like they’re your friend, but the minute you need them (otherwise known as not in fair weather) whether it is for companionship to go to a concert or a pick up from the airport, as you stated, they’re suddenly not available. I on the other hand, make myself available to those who need someone like that, though as I get older I am becoming more selective of who I do those things for as I cannot accept one-way situations – it just isn’t fair to ME. people just like to take the easy way out by not fostering relationships outside of work, but that’s disingenuous. thanks for your post!

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