After weeks of intense media speculation and some of the most awkward moments ever seen on live TV, long-time “TODAY SHOW” newscaster and consummate TV veteran Ann Curry finally said goodbye this morning to the show where she has spent the last 15 years. Regardless of one’s perceptions and attitudes about Curry, any woman over 40 who, against her own wishes, has ever had to leave something or someone she loves, who has experienced a pang of empathic pain in her gut, heart and head watching Curry break down as she described the end of the dream job she has wanted and worked hard to land for so many years… this is for you.
If you’re a real woman over 40, as opposed to playing one on TV, you too have had to DEAL. Spit flies, pigs happen, and there you are, sleepless in the battle. Debilitating illness, the loss of a job, spouse or child, stress from caring for a beloved parent, or the dissatisfaction with your role or job or career is a huge DEAL. Sometimes it becomes an ORDEAL. That’s why it’s critical to play the hand you’re DEALT to your advantage, learn from the DEAL, and figure out a better DEAL.
This DEALS with cheering up Ann Curry – but also every other woman who’s facing such a huge loss. Yes, Ann Curry is being paid big bucks to exit the show, but the loss of the TODAY SHOW platform is a huge one for Curry personally and professionally.
Still, as the late, great Nora Ephron, advised: “Suck it up.” Ephron died this week from leukemia [see Nora Ephron: 1941-2012 – I’m Crying Even Harder Than She Made Me Laugh], shocking even close friends who had no idea she was suffering from that deadly disease, because why??? All together now! She SUCKED IT UP! She DEALT with it – with miles of humor, grace, self-deprecation and other admittedly super-human qualities that only Ephron had. Which is why we all loved her.
Lots of other famous (and not so famous) women over 40 who have suffered business or personal setbacks learn the benefits of sucking it up and focusing on a better DEAL. I have the research to prove it. In fact, I literally wrote the book on it. Not only that, but when I got fired from a job I loved more than 20 years ago, the experience led me to even better opportunities than I ever imagined. I became a lot stronger because of it, went on to earn an MBA in Finance and Leadership – in my 50s – and started a company to help others DEAL with it!
So, here are just a few inspirational women who ultimately became household names over the age of 40, as Ann Curry did (and probably will continue to be). And, in italics, my tips for Ann. Yes, they are in green for a reason! As in go forward! Advance!
1) Juliette Gordon Low, whose husband left her for another woman, finally realized when that happened that she had ignored a major part of her being: her brain! She founded the Girl Scouts when she was 52 as an inspirational organization to help young girls develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. In so doing, she also helped older women to develop their skills as mentors and teachers.
So, Ann, you are already working to enhance the mission and profile of several nonprofits. Now you can do that without the “conflict of interest” and time constraints that a morning talk show gig can entail.
2) Rachel Carson, a marine biologist and nature writer, was 55 when she wrote the landmark book Silent Spring, the first vocal criticism of the U.S.’s policy on pesticides. It led to a nationwide ban on dangerous pesticides, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
So, Ann, find a momentous social cause or political issue you want to delve into, use your remarkable reportorial skills and obvious gravitas, and write a landmark book about it that becomes your signature calling card. Look at what Brokaw did with the Greatest Generation!
3) Maggie Kuhn founded the national senior citizens’ activist group, “The Gray Panthers,” when she was forced to retire at age 65 from a job she loved. Do the math—Kuhn marched on for two more productive decades and drove many significant national reforms for seniors.
So, Ann, stop apologizing for what you called “not being able to carry the ball over the finish line.” Rather, you need to acknowledge that what others perceive to be a weakness is actually a phenomenal strength. Your strengths as a writer and reporter are well-honed and earned at the news desk, and in the world at large, covering serious news, rather than the entertainment arena, where you’re often asked to gush over yet another low-fat recipe for chocolate cake or exclaim horror over one more soccer-mom murder suspect. A lot of people can gush over chocolate cake and express shock over soccer-mom murder suspects. Not all of them can bungee jump one day, interview the Dalai Lama the next day, and show up on the front lines in Iraq the day after that. Let alone, do all that when they’re over 50. You can, and you did, and you will break new records.
4) Liz Claiborne decided in her late 40s, after a successful career in retailing and working for others, to start her own company because she felt the marketplace was not meeting the needs of working women, thereby endearing herself to millions of American working women!
So, Ann, find the need that you uniquely can meet, as the following contemporary women over 40 did:
- Katie Couric had her on-air colonoscopy, and became identified as the catalyst for a health education and research foundation that raises funds and awareness of a disease that most people still whisper about. And, became beloved by millions more viewers!
- Robin Roberts modeled on-air during a “Good Morning America” segment her newly shaven bald head after her cancer treatment, and became beloved by millions more viewers! This month, thousands of people are signing up for a health test most had never heard of because Robin announced yet another setback in her health that she is hoping to beat.
- Ellen DeGeneres expanded her media presence as a cheering, DARING voice for the gay community by challenging the moms who protested against JC Penney when the retailer featured the comic in their ads. And became beloved by millions more viewers!
So, Ann: Build your OWN signature unmet need, albeit within the NBC family, so you won’t have to be known forever as “…TODAY SHOW host who had her job only a year…” You too could become beloved by millions more viewers!
5) Mary Kay Ash founded her eponymous cosmetics company when she was 45, after she was passed over for a promotion in favor of a younger man that she had helped to train at the cosmetics company where she had spent many years.
Sound familiar??? So, Ann, do read between the lines here. You helped train – by osmosis and directly – a lot of younger women – and men – at NBC. Rather than obsess about the inherent failure embodied in the cliché that “those that can, do; those than can’t teach” – revel in and share your strengths! You have the ability to teach many others what you have done so well for so many years. Not just in TV news! So many people in so many industries yearn to have more credible and reputable research skills, more credible and reputable camera presence, more credible and reputable presentation skills, and more credible and reputable sales skills. YOU have all of that. You can start a company that teaches people to do all of that and more!
On a final note, I’m rooting for you to revel in your true self as you prepare your Next Big Close-up. As most of us over 40 know from experience, that is not so much about money, but about fulfillment, relevance, value and pride in our achievements. So, Ann Curry, DEAL with it, suck it up, and know that the best wishes of millions of women over 40 – and certainly millions of us over 50 – are with you!
Have you experienced (and learned from) a professional or personal setback after 50?
What did you learn?
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Ann Curry represents older women and what’s wrong with the media, from Beverly Mahone