Relevance is the capacity to connect, be useful, or contribute to a matter at hand. The term relevance is most often used to describe ideas. But, I’ve also heard people, especially older individuals, uniquely use the word saying, “I just want to stay relevant.”
People are important and always relationally relevant. I suspect that those who say they “want to stay relevant” mean they want their knowledge and experience to contribute in the present and future. They want their lives to matter, have influence, and make a difference.
If a person allows their experience, knowledge, perspectives, beliefs, and thought processes to become outdated or crystallized, their attempted contributions can be irrelevant to conversations, issues, and situations. They no longer have a contribution that matters to the situation. If you choose to stop learning and freeze your thoughts and perspectives, you will become less relevant to more and more topics having smaller and smaller effects.
Knowledge and experience have “use by” dates due to rapid change and the exponential growth of knowledge in our world. For example, many people make themselves irrelevant to technology and personal computing matters because they choose to ignore change, stop learning, and live a crystalized existence in this regard. These are not the people you go to for help with your computing issues. Other examples of time-bound relevance include experiences, principles, and approaches to leadership, management, communication, and interpersonal relationships.
It’s important to note that some knowledge and experience are timeless. This is called wisdom. Wisdom is founded on principles that are perpetually relevant and gathered from life experience.
You can’t be relevant in every area, but are you relevant in the areas that matter to you? Are you relevant where you want to be relevant?
Here’s the key. You can only stay relevant if you continue learning — stay curious, discover new ways, ask questions, fail quickly, adapt readily. Continuous learning is uncomfortable because it requires a change of mental habits and perspectives, some of which are long-held and comfortable. It requires disagreement and healthy arguments, and if you can’t find your way to disagree in the spirit of learning, you may quickly become irrelevant.
If you want to “stay relevant,” keep learning.