Dick Clark: When Is It Time to Step Away?

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As the ball drops in Times Square on New Year's Eve to ring in 2010 once again Dick Clark will be on TV counting us down. Since his stroke in 2004, he has done so with slurred speech, a lot less spring in his step, and a lively spirit. Some see his continued presence on the show a triumph and celebration of perseverance and courage. Others watch and cringe seeing only a man who has stayed too long at the party.

This story of Dick Clark is only one story, albeit a very public one, of many that happen every year. At what point do you step away from a career, pass the baton, and move onto another phase of your life in a different role? How much of people's reactions are a reflection of what someone should do versus their own discomfort with the sight of someone else aging or losing faculties to old age or medical challenges?

The Wall Street Journal recently ran the story "When It's Time to Pass the Baton" specifically about Dick Clark and this question.

Mr. Clark turned 80 this past Monday, and a lot of people consider him a hero for remaining on the job. They see him as a role model for resiliency, and a vital steward of New Year's Eve, a holiday designed to look back as well as forward. They ask: Why surrender Dec. 31 to the young?

Others argue that Mr. Clark has become an inappropriate symbol for what should be a happy celebration, because he reminds viewers of sadder things: the ravages of illness and the hazards of aging. He had his time, they say. He ought to let go of the baton and allow a younger generation to run with it alone.

Just a few months ago, Oprah called it quits with her show (though far from calling it quits with her career) saying:

I love this show, this show has been my life, and I love it enough to know when it's time to say goodbye.

The difference, for many, when it comes to making that call has to do with an inspiring vision that pulls them forward to that next phase of their life.  If 100% of your identity is wrapped up in your career and you big adieu, then who are you?  No matter how much you love to play golf or relax on the beach, at some point you need something to sink your teeth into.  Everyone has a legacy to leave and it doesn't end the moment you choose to retire from a job or sell/close your business.  You can continue to design your legacy even after your career as you knew it ends.   Purposeful living continues if you choose to embrace it. Many don't know how.

The conundrum of when to retire runs rampant in sports.  When teams stop winning, or even if they keep winning but fall short of the ultimate National Championship prize, questions buzz regularly about long-time coaches and whether they should step down already.  College football Bobby Bowden bowed out (a year earlier than he had hoped) this year as the second winningest coach behind another old-timer Joe Paterno of Penn State in his 43rd season as head coach and not looking to retire anytime soon.   For most of us, though, there is no Win-Loss column or a raging pack of fans to tell us when to move on to the next chapter of our lives whether that is retirement or simply a new chapter somewhere along life's journey.

More and more Americans 80-plus continue to work.  According to the Grumpy Editor:

The American 80-plus work force is increasing.  The Department of Labor reports about 5.1 percent (or 511,000) people in that age category held jobs last year. That’s up from 3.7 percent five years earlier and 3.1 percent in 2000.

Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't add that for many, the choice to keep plugging away in a job is far more financial than a directional life choice.  Even if you do retire, you may choose to continue to do some work for pay to slow the drain on your savings.  This post from The Digerati Life showcases another elderly entertainer who isn't calling it quits anytime soon along with some financial tips to follow if you don't want to work forever.

The answer to the question when to pass the baton is a highly personal one that we all must make at different times in our lives.  Fortunately most of us don't have to do it in the public eye and the scrutiny of millions.

What do you think? When is it time for Dick Clark to pass the baton? What is your criteria for determining when it is time to step away from something and move on? Have a great New Years and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, offers life and business coaching for women to help you gain the clarity, confidence, and courage you need to take your business and life to that next level. Get the free eCourse "5 Steps to Move from Fear to Freedom & Experience Greater Confidence" at her website

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