Energized! Making the most of a midlife crisis

I would assume that nearly everyone, sooner or later, brushes up against a question along the lines of “What am I meant to do with my life?”

It was Canadian psychologist Elliot Jacques who coined the term “midlife crisis” in his article “Death and the Mid-life Crisis” (International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1965), describing it as “the adult encounter with the conception of life to be lived in the setting of an approaching personal death.”

It’s not surprising that the question of what we want to accomplish in life crops up at a time when we’re realizing that our own mortality will be, after all, subject to a curtain call. 

Michel Laberge says, for him, the question came into sharper focus when he was 40.

While a midlife crisis can be a time when some people hanker after a new car or a different partner, Michel says he wanted something else: to make nuclear fusion happen.

His goal? Build a less expensive alternative to the multi-billion-dollar fusion reactors currently under development. Fusion, Michel believes, could help to solve the world’s energy dilemma, and he wanted to come up with model that could lend itself to smaller, more economically viable applications.

Pursuing his vision with zeal, he quit his job and built what he calls a “small machine for creating fusion” in his garage. When he got it to work, he donned a suit and tie and went to raise money to reproduce his invention on a larger scale. 

While building his company, General Fusion, hasn’t been a smooth ride – it was difficult to find the kind of funding needed for an ambitious project like this – Michel doesn’t regret his move. His energy and enthusiasm are evident when he shows off his facility. Yes, he’s having fun. 

In 2014, Michel was one of only two Canadians invited to speak at TED Vancouver.
In his talk, he says that in addition to the big labs, only a few small companies have joined the race for achieving fusion, General Fusion among them. Michel believes his team has a good chance to “crack this nut.” 

Regardless whether or not General Fusion ultimately succeeds, I believe that Michel’s experiences over the past decade and a half have brought him to a place where he finds his life fulfilling. 

Maybe going after something big is the secret for making the most of a midlife crisis?

Read about this project on TheRAC.ca