Second Acts By Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine
For those thinking of switching careers, this is a great place to start. On one level, it is inspirational, with brief profiles of famous second-act lives we know of – George Foreman, Ronald Reagan – but also some that surprised me. Did you know Brigitte Bardot quit acting to become an animal-rights activist? Pollan, a life coach, goes beyond these stories to the thrust of the book: to analyze the things that keep you from your dream second act. There are the obvious obstacles like age and money, but there are others, more subtle, like esteem. “It’s incredible how much power over our lives we give unconsciously to other people,” Pollan writes. We worry more about what other people think than what we really want to do. The author goes through each of 12 common obstacles and asks you to consider them in a variety of ways, involving exercises and analysis on your part. Whether you end up choosing a second act or not, if you follow this guidance, you’re sure to know yourself better.
Laughter, Sex, Vegetables & Fish by Dr. John Tickell
If Tickell has written one of the most off-the-wall health books out there, it is also one of the most enjoyable. Interspersed with valuable, no-nonsense research are the Australian’s light-hearted quips, a ready doctor’s wit and self-effacing humor. In talking about genetics and the body’s ability to handle saturated fat: “If you have chosen your folks well, great. If you haven’t, you have to try harder.” Tickell boils down the art of living longer to three areas of concern, “ACE”: Activity (exercise); Coping (stress reduction, that’s where laughter and sex come in); Eating (a diet mostly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, fish – wine, meat, treats in moderation). In fact, in all things, he eschews fanaticism in favor of moderation. He treated too many lifetime marathon runners with their joints in tatters too early in life. Don’t forget having a laugh at things – and he definitely practices what he preaches. In talking about reducing cholesterol he suggests: Eat a quarter of the egg yolk (for flavor) on a sandwich of egg white and whole grain bread. Then give the other three quarters to your dog. “Let him have the heart attack.” He quickly notes, “Most people wouldn’t do that, because they love their dog.” But you get the point – right, mate?
Healthy at 100 by John Robbins.
This author should win the Nobel Prize for best book about aging and health. It’s a page-turner from the get-go as he examines cultures where folks in their 90s and 100s are still climbing mountains and tilling gardens – not to mention dancing. Oh, and these folks by and large show few signs of cancer or heart disease. The elderly are celebrated, unlike in our culture, where the opposite is often true. Robbins offers a scientific look at isolated civilizations – in the Caucasus, in west Pakistan, in Ecuador’s Andes, even in Okinawa, Japan. It is stunning stuff.
The big lessons are: a basically plant-based diet; vigorous daily exercise; healthy relationships. The last one may be the toughest for us, and the author suggests how to plug into life around you, and lift yourself. Robbins has written many books but none more influential than 1987’s Diet for a New America, which blew open the seedy world behind the beef and poultry industry in America. He hits another home run with this one. Also of interest is his account in the book about his own lifestyle choices: He gave up what was sure to be a lucrative career in his father’s business (Baskin-Robbins) to research and write about issues he cares about. Lucky for us.
Your Life Calling – Reimagining the Rest of Your Life
by Jane Pauley
What happens when a popular Today Show anchor is dropped from her slot after 13 years? How does it feel? How do you reinvent yourself? We find out in this potpourri of reflections, personal reminiscences and tales of reinvention from folks in all walks of life. Jim Lehrer adroitly sums this book up: “The guide for Baby Boomers on getting from here to there – from a state of panic over how to live the rest of their lives to a state of passion and performance as they do so…” Pauley has no shortage of stories to tell (Our interview, pg. 50). A teacher in the doldrums decides to hike the entire Appalachian Trail – 2,200 miles – and discovers what he calls “trail magic” that turns around his life. After meeting a series of unusually helpful people along the way, people who appear at just the right moment, he realizes that slowing down his life has opened the way for the magic. “Once you believe in the positive force of life more of those magical occurrences, opportunities and good deeds come to you.” Then there is the Broadway singer and dancer whose limbs at 40 are not wearing as well as at 20. At about that time his dog was having a leg problem, which was cured by a pet acupuncturist. The performer, Tripp Hanson, later found the same treatment for his own pain useful, and one thing led to another. At age 4, he wanted to be a doctor, so you can guess the rest of the story: He studied acupuncture, got his accreditation and now practices it on show biz clients. Says Hanson: “Reinvention happens when you realize it’s not going to happen this time unless I do it myself.”
Fired at 50: A Survivor’s Guide to Prosperity by Phyllis Green
At 50, Phyllis Green had it made.
“The year was 1985; life was good and I knew it,” she writes in her newly released autobiography. “What I didn’t know was how uncertain my good life was. I learned quickly that the good life and its rewards disappear on the day you are fired. That’s when I began to navigate the 36 blocks from corporate bliss to unemployment nightmare.”
She immediately asked herself: “How did I get here? What did I do wrong? Why didn’t I see the approaching disaster…?”
How could it happen to this veteran producer, sales and ad executive? Green’s career had been on an upward arc since her first post at a small New Jersey radio station. The next year she was “Weekend Weather Girl” at WCKT-TV in Miami (now WSVN). She continued climbing the TV career ladder, switching to sales, with jobs in Indianapolis, Boston and at ABC-TV’s flagship station in New York City. After a promotion to the ABC network, she successfully brought major retailers to TV.
But when lean-minded Capital Cities acquired ABC, her world changed overnight. As one of her chapter headings tells us, she went from the Four Seasons to canned tuna fish. And, yes, she went those 36 blocks to the dingy Manhattan unemployment office, saying goodbye to ABC luxury suites.
But just a year later, the woman who made her mark bringing retail to TV, opened up her own ad agency. And that is one of her first bits of advice. If you find yourself in this same situation, don’t wait too long to move forward. In fact, Fired at 50 not only fleshes out her success-disaster-success story, it also offers heaps of advice on getting back up after a career disappointment. And for those who choose the path of starting their own business, as she did, there is additional wisdom.
Her Boca Raton agency became so successful it was bought by the world’s largest ad agency. As chairman of Green Advertising, VidPop Productions and Stalder/Green Advertising, Green clearly knows something of which she writes.
— John Dolen