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Oprah Struggles to Reinvent Herself Most Liked Hot Conversation

O Magazine was started twelve years ago. How many articles do you think Oprah Winfrey has published about reinvention? Yet it seems, even for the Big O, it’s not that easy. (Boomers everywhere hide a half-smile of schadenfreude.)

Used to be the only time we had to struggle to invent ourselves was in our late teens, early twenties. “What are you going to do with your life?” was the big question. Now we have to recreate ourselves every decade or so, due to job insecurity. Capitalism depends on creative destruction, and the United States is the envy of the world in the way our CEOs can toss workers into the garbage whenever the balance sheet needs more black ink.

Most of us are vulnerable. We’re the little guy, Joe Employee. We don’t have much power, unless you’re one of the few remaining union members and even they are pretty much toast. Witness the tens of thousands of highly trained and educated teachers who stay home every day, losing their edge as opposed to educating the next generation. But I digress.

Little Guy, take heart. You’re not alone. It seems Oprah is flailing about in her new life-phase. (Warning: mute this article because otherwise you’ll be force-fed an annoying commercial.)

Apparently Oprah’s reinvention has hit a rough patch. Her new cable channel is sucking wind. I feel her pain because I’ve been there, stepping off the cliff from where you are golden into a place where you are tin. You feel as if you’re twenty years old again, but not in a good way. In your new incarnation, you have little power or authority, and must slave away to rebuild it. But this time you’re forty or fifty or sixty or more.

In my late forties, I left a profession in which I’d established a twenty-seven year history and threw myself into freelancing. After ten years of trying and failing, changing my mind, feeling lost and/or depressed, wasting time, wasting money and learning things I’ll never need, I’ve finally figured out my new career. Apparently I’m a teacher and a writer. I’m so happy, it’s obviously the right choice.

From my new vantage point, I’d give younger people this advice: think of yourself as a small business. You may have to reshape it or carry it to an unexpected place, but this will be less jarring if you plan for it. What would you do if you were suddenly tossed from your current job?

Burnish that business called You, Inc.

WHILE YOU’RE EMPLOYED, learn everything you can, network with those who can further your career, keep your eye out to alternate but related industries, think of side businesses you can build in your spare time for emergency cash, and save your money. Living within your means is the ultimate power over the unpredictable future.

For the older people, my peers, this is something you’ve already discovered. If you need tips from your contemporaries about reinvention and finding work in mid-to-later-life, here are several:

I wish you success and contentment, and I hope you’ll take some comfort from knowing that the great Oprah is struggling, too.

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Posted in Any Shiny Thing, books & entertainment, work & money.

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21 Responses

  1. joyful53 joyful53 says

    With my retirement from teaching fast approaching I find myself pushing back the tears a little more often.  Yesterday I had on a CD of children’s’ music in my kindergarten class.  A happy birthday song came on and so did the tears.The song was sweet and the children looked so innocent and trusting (this was morning,by afternoon they take on a whole other look!)  The kids of course noticed.  Grasping that teachable moment as I have for the last 25 years I explained to them that next year when they go to first grade I won’t be at school any longer.  I won’t be a teacher anymore.  That I have been teaching since their parents were little (“Not my dad” piped up Natalia, which is true.  I’ve known her dad for 25 years and she is definitely a late in life blessing ) and it is time for me to try something new…so I won’t be a teacher.  And one little one piped up “Well, what are you going to be?”.  ”A writer” I told them.  ”I love to write and I can’t do them both at the same time”.  ”Sometimes you can be sad and happy at the same time” Perhaps I’m just going to take my teaching to a new venue.

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    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Joyful,
      As they say, I feel ya. I get teary just sitting in the rocking chair in my granddaughter’s bedroom, listening to her breathe and thinking of when that sound was coming from her daddy when he was her age…but back then, I couldn’t sit there in the middle of the day and listen, because I was working 50 hours a week doing HR for a public school district, and somebody else was raising him.

      But I digress!

      What I wanted to say was, a few years ago I volunteered in a kinder class with my son’s wife, Amy, who was the teacher. I did that one day a week for a year and a half. It helped me get close to the little guys again (this was before granddaughter was born). So you can still be there. And you will, trust me, grow to say this (along with all retirees everywhere): “When did I ever find the time to hold down a fulltime job?!?” Best wishes.

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  2. empowerchicks empowerchicks says

    One of the appealing qualities of Oprah Winfrey is her authenticity. She has taught millions of us what it looks like to be vulnerable in public….most of us keep that side of our lives away from even close friends. What a shame.
    Oprah has been honest about the fact that she is building a television network and in that process: the constructing and deconstructing phases of life there are always blips and bumps, joys and setbacks.
    I love that you have used Oprah’s experience again as a teaching example to inspire all of us to accept that change never comes easily….if it did then everyone would do it!
    I am in the process of leaving almost 25 years as a television host/producer to reinvent myself as a writer, public speaker and free lance voice/ on camera person. I am using courage to navigate this phase, working hard to be in whatever the moment presents so that I can help other people not feel like victims of their lives. We always have a choice: we can’t control what happens however we can control our response to what happens.
    I choose to celebrate and embrace change with all of the tears and joy that come with, just like Oprah Winfrey.

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  3. Sidney Sidney says

    I retired Feb. 1st after a 38 year career in corporate America. Like you, I’m also moving forward to create my next work/life based on my interests (writing). I suspect we’ll have similar joys and challenges in creating our solo work/lifes. It would be great if Vibrant Nation hosted a conference so we could come together an share our stories! In summer, so I can drive anywhere in the U.S. and make it a road-trip! Adventure, here I come!

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  4. Caryl Caryl says

    Lynne,  

    What a great piece.Your years of experience and wisdom shine through every word.  If I wanted a guru, I’d follow you–not Oprah.  When it comes to reinvention, we already have the teacher we need–ourself.  We just have to
    listen . .and fail. . .and try again.  This phase for Oprah–falling down the ratings ladder–is a critical life lesson for someone who got used to everything  she touched turning to gold.   The tin phase is painful but
    as they say there is no growth without change and no change without pain.

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    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Carol, thanks for the kind words. Yes, it is almost scary to see that the great Oprah doesn’t have a magic formula – she has spun gold from straw thus far but I think she just hit the wall. Somewhere there was a miscalculation, and that suggests she may have lost touch with the common sense that guided her so spectacularly the past three decades. I predict she’ll regroup and be fantastic again, and I look forward to that day.

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      • empowerchicks empowerchicks says

        The magic formula in life is to believe…..ensure that to the best of your knowledge your parachute is in good working order, step out on  the ledge and take the leap. I for one am very proud of Oprah (she’s one of my mentors) for stepping out of the limelight when she was doing really well and could have done her tv show as long as she wanted to. Oprah believes in the power of OWN and so do I. No project like hers was built overnight….rather than noticing the perceived failure….why not admire her courage and determination. We can always find something wrong with a situation….that’s easy. Why not focus on what’s right about it? I believe there’s room in the world of television for the work Oprah is building and I want to support the concept however I can. I think we’re all pretty fortunate to have Oprah out there showing us that courage helps us to walk through change….nobody said it would be easy otherwise we’d all be doing it!!!!! LOL

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  5. Generic Image S.Loire says

    I would like to follow this one.

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  6. elayne elayne says

    Great post – I am almost at retirement, and have started writing for several publications and online. It is quite satisfying and I am learning so much. Also, I have again started doing geneology. I think the secret is to find out what you are passionate about, and do that!

    1 like

    • Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

      Elayne, have you found any places to write that actually pay you for your work? I teach a couple of writing classes and my students are always asking me but I have to confess, I’m not finding them!

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  7. elayne elayne says

    Aloha Lynne. Yes, I am getting paid to write for a few online magazines – you can do a search on google for whatever you interest is and then add “+ write for us” – that is how I found some great online travel blogs to write for. I am really enjoying it. I also write for hubpages and get a little each day from that.

    The best way to do it is find magazines you are interested in, send a pitch to the editor with a sample of your work. Here are a few examples:
    http://www.qromag.com/about_us/staff/write_for_us/
    https://www.facebook.com/smashmag/app_10531514314
    http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/get_involved/write_for_us
    Of course, they want quality writing before they will pay! I have been getting four to five articles a week.

    Hope this helps.

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  8. elayne elayne says

    Aloha Lynne. Yes, I am getting paid to write for a few online magazines – you can do a search on google for whatever you interest is and then add “+ write for us” – that is how I found some great online travel blogs to write for. I am really enjoying it. I also write for hubpages and get a little each day from that.

    1 like

  9. Generic Image Ladylou says

    I cannot believe you women who are comparing yourselves with Oprah.She has megamillions to fall back on if she should fail.  Yes, there is always a mental and emotional toll to bear – but, if you are financially set in life it is so much easier.  The buck stops there!

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  10. Generic Image kanmko says

    I won’t say that I smiled at Oprah’s OWN challenges. I did go to this season’s Life Class show as an audience member. The two tickets were free and I had a lot of fun. I saw Oprah fans who made me wonder if I was in the right place, because of their excitement for Oprah, and their obvious commitment, – until the show started. Then I watched a show that resonated so clearly with my own life that I had to wonder if it was a set up, but I was sure that it wasn’t. She’s clearly doing something different in the shows that she’s offering, and she’s found as you have noted that it isn’t easy.

    I did gain respect for Oprah as a result of attending this taping of her show. I am studying broadcast journalism and have worked in studio behind the camera and as an assistant producer. One thing that I observed is that her productions go all out. 

    She has taken on a big challenge and she knows, like LadyLou says, that if this doesn’t work, she still doesn’t have to work. Most of us do. Thing is, she’s used to succeeding, and that is partly what helps to make success, having experienced it in some form, already.

    I appreciate your experience and your success in finding what has worked for you, after ten years. I am in a position that affords me so much information and support to help me in my own transition, that I have to give thanks to God and all the people who are helping me.  Hopefully this will translate into my own reinvention.

    My biggest challenges is staying focussed. Staying “busy” and organized is part of the game. I have a lot of ideas (marketing/PR/advertising), how do I leverage them best? Especially as someone new to the system and the market? I thought I was humble, but I am learning that there is also an outer toughness to humility, as well.

    Here’s two of my latest videos. They are part of a class project for the end of the year. Would love to hear your response. 

    souL meMory

    Planet Comicon 2012 KC

    Thanks for reaching out and sharing what has worked for you. Seems that success is something that you and Oprah have in common. Much More Success to You.

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  11. Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

    Loved both of them. The one about the couple is priceless and endearing. Both videos seemed professional.

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  12. NinaAmir NinaAmir says

    Your post inspired me to write the first post I’ve written for a while for VN: http://www.vibrantnation.com/our-blog-circle/as-the-spirit-moves-me/searching-for-my-authentic-self/ (I’ve been worried about some duplicate content issues and have stopped reposting my content from my blogs directly here.)
    Yes, I think Oprah will regroup. I’m surprised more people aren’t watching, but she did kind of rehash her old shows at first. Now she is doing some nice new interviews. I still enjoy what she is doing.
    I have her down as one of my role models here on VN in my profile. I love her, as I mention in my post.

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