Oprah to Boomers: Drop Dead

Stop the presses! Did Oprah really say she would pursue a younger demographic because after forty, women have things figured out? Nothing more to teach us older broads?

Apparently it’s true. To shore up her biz, Ms. Winfrey said she would like to attract women

in their 30s or perhaps their 20s, to be able to reach people when they are looking to fulfill their destiny.” She added, “By the time you’re 40, 42, you should have kind of figured it out already.

Yah, us over 40s have that destiny thing all out of the way. No sense talking to us anymore.

Okay, it makes sense that she’d want to augment her customer base by adding younger people, but I get the impression she wants to distance herself from the demographic whose undying loyalty made her a billionaire, and that rankles.

Even though I fell out of love with All Things Oprah a couple of years back, I’ve always thought she was one smart cookie, but that comment about having things figured out is ridiculous and self-serving. I mean, look at all the heavy shit we still have to face! Deaths of loved ones, illness and surgeries, loss of jobs, financial challenges, helping our aging parents and/or the younger generations while still trying to carve out some happiness for ourselves, following our dreams even late in life

Does Oprah really think we have it all figured out?
What a failure of imagination.

I understand commerce. Business is business, and she must do what is necessary to keep her financials healthy. So why would she ignore women in the second half of life? It’s a common mistake – I guess some folks just can’t accept that we older women have discretionary income and we’re not afraid to use it. You’d think that would weigh into her biz calcs.

A minor oversight!

Sometimes when you become too rich and powerful, your minions only tell you what you want to hear. Maybe that’s what’s happened to Ms. Winfrey. However, she might want to sneak off to a broom closet with her personal laptop and check out She-Conomy by Stephanie Holland to get all kinds of late-breaking info about who has the bucks in this country. Or maybe catch some of the great wisdom about marketing to women by Marti Barletta. Maybe even invite Stephanie and Marti to present. Hell, Oprah could do a gigantic segment on women entrepreneurs in the second half, from starting-out-on-a-shoestring to Fortune 500 CEOs (all 20 of them).

Oprah seems to be assuming women our age (ahem – her age) aren’t still on a path to conquer old demons and new worlds. But maybe I’m reading her wrong, and what she really meant to say was this:

By the time you’re 40, 42, let alone 60, 70, 80, and up, you’re so completely awesome that I can’t think of anything else I can tell you.

Or this:

I’m only 58. I need to restart my own growth curve and I haven’t quite figured out how to do that. Any ideas?

Yes, Oprah. Start hanging out around Any Shiny Thing, where we could illuminate a small planet with all the wisdom, friendship and warmth we generate! Ladies and gents of AST, what would you advise Miss Oprah to do, personally or regarding her business? Any ideas? And keep it friendly.

Thanks to my friend Sarah Stockton for alerting me to this intriguing article in the first place. It appeared in the NY Times on November 29.

Oprah Struggles to Reinvent Herself

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 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.