Two years ago when Michael Clinton retired after a four-decade career in publishing, he wasn’t thinking about really leaving the game.
Instead, he did what came naturally to him, writing a book that would help define his career pivot: ROAR: into the Second Half of Your Life (Before It’s Too Late).
“Everything I was reading and looking at as I was thinking about stepping out of my first career was that it was all about the big wind down," Clinton said. "Many people I knew who were 60ish were saying, ‘wait a minute, I'm not done. I have a lot more that I want to accomplish,’” the former publishing director at Hearst said.
Clinton also formed a new venture with his former employer Hearst Magazines called ROAR forward, a business-to-business platform and consumer membership community focused on the new market of “re-imagineers” over 50.
Here are the insights Clinton offered in a conversation with Yahoo Finance.
What does the ROAR acronym stand for?
The first R stands for reimagining. How do we reimagine who we are and who we can be, and think about our favorite future and how to get there?
The O is owning where you are. That means owning your health numbers, owning your financial numbers, and owning your age. Let's own where we are at the moment and really do a deep assessment.
The A is the action plan. It’s like layering and building multiple personas to create a rich life for yourself.
The final R is reassessing your relationships with the people around you. Are they the ones who give you the lift to be able to move forward in new directions?
You mention the idea of giving yourself permission to change. Can you elaborate?
We put a lot of barriers around ourselves. We live in an ageist culture that has imagery and words and cues that tell us we can't because of our age. Cultural ageism creates self-imposed ageism and that restricts us. We have to kind of let it go and give ourselves permission to forget age appropriate. Be person appropriate and do the things that work for you at that point in your life. Don’t hold yourself back.
Two words that come up frequently in your book are curiosity and passion. What role do those two elements have in our ability to move forward?
The common thread in the 40 people I interviewed for this book who had reimagined their lives after 50 is that they did the work. They did deep introspection for a year plus about what they wanted to do next in whatever field or whatever area of their life they wanted to evolve and change. They had a natural curiosity and a natural optimism about the possibilities that could be there. I think curiosity is a wonderful virtue because it takes you to great places. Many of the people who made a change did it with passion as their life force. Oftentimes to find that passion, you have to go back to your younger self and ask what was left on the shelf in your early 20s.
How can you discover your passion?
Everybody has some passion, whether it's on the surface or hidden. Start with the five words that you use to identify yourself. I don't mean parent or employee or spouse. I mean loyal, funny, and generous. Then ask 10 of your family and friends to give you five words that they would use to describe you. What are the one or two words that rise to the top?
A woman I know who did a version of this when she was 60 found the word that kept coming up was funny. Everybody around her told her she was the funniest person they knew. She ended up going to an open mic session at a comedy club in Atlanta, and it led to her becoming a student of a woman who coaches female comics. Today, she is a standup comic around the southeastern U.S. She'd been an elementary school teacher.
Take a word and mine it.
What have you learned from your second act?
When I stepped out of the day-to-day of my job at Hearst, I stayed on as an advisor to our CEO, but I went back to school and got a master's degree in nonprofit philanthropy at Columbia University. I also wrote this book, which hit a chord with people and has become its own little phenomenon. Now I’m launching a business around it to spotlight this new longevity and how it's going to change the culture. It’s a whole new concept for the second half of life.
Let’s talk about working with other generations. When you went back to school, you probably weren't the youngest guy in the classroom. You got energy from the younger generations surrounding you. How do we capture that to move forward?
This is the first time that four generations will be working in the same workplace. We can all learn from each other — mentor and mentee. The critical piece of this is that aside from the experience and wisdom we can bring to younger professionals, companies need to start opening their minds to upskilling and retraining people over 50 as well. That combination of upskilling and wisdom and experience is phenomenal in the workplace.
What are the biggest challenges for someone over 50 to take control of their next chapter?
We get stuck in our own boxes. Many people now in the 50-plus generation came of age at a time when you were taught that you were supposed to have a linear career. You were going to stay in one industry. You were going to grow in that career and climb up the ladder.
What's great about the younger generations is they don't think that way. They say, "well, I'll do this for 10 years, then I'll go do something else for 15 years. And then I might have a third career." Having that perspective opens one up.
But you must accept that you need the skills and the knowledge to do it. You have to take the time and spend the money to re-educate yourself. It doesn’t have to take an enormous amount of money to do that. If you're really committed to learning something new, you can get a certificate. Volunteer work can help you learn something new.
A woman that I interviewed worked in the restaurant business before the pandemic. She was in her late 40s then and not a college graduate. The restaurant where she worked closed down during that time, and she went online and studied to become a pharmacy technician. She found a job doing that and that led her to start thinking about other healthcare areas that she was interested in. She ended up taking another course as a nurse's aide. Now she's studying to become a licensed nurse practitioner. She found a whole new direction just by going through that learning process.
Step back and think about the script that you're following. We were taught that we were supposed to retire in our 60s and then sail off into the sunset. But a funny thing happened on the way to that idea. Life expectancy and longevity suddenly created a whole new possibility for our individual lives.
As Bradley Schurman notes in his book “The Super Age,” by 2050, 1 in 6 people worldwide will be over 65 years old, up from 1 in 11 in 2019. In the U.S., five states have already hit the mark with 1 in 5 people over 65: Delaware, Florida, Maine, Vermont, and West Virginia.
So when you step back and say, "I have 30 more years to live," it gives you a completely different perspective about how you want to look at your life and how you might build out a completely different path.
Kerry is a Senior Reporter and Columnist at Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon