4th-Quarter Game Changers

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Are life’s record smashing performances reserved for those sprightly early decades? Not for seasoned vets who know how to strew the seasoning.

  • Colonel Harland Sanders began franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 65, using $105 of his first Social Security check.
  • TV journalism maven Barbara Walters was 68 in 1997 when she cocreated The View and sold ABC on the idea. She and Joy Behar (now 68) are the only cohosts still with the show since its inception, which was lauded as “wildly different” from the get-go for its creative slant.
  • Management guru Peter Drucker wrote more than half of the 39 books to his credit when he was past the age of 65. And he was churning out riveting, fresh ideas into his 90s.
  • Angela Lansbury, 85 in 2011, wowed Broadway crowds two years earlier as the clairvoyant Madame Arcati in a revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Therewith Dame Angela carted off her fifth Tony in an illustrious career.
  • Roy Neuberger–investor, art collector and philanthropist–made an old-fashioned killing off the 1987 market crash. He was 107 when he died on Christmas Eve in 2010. In his autobiography, So Far, So Good: The First 94 Years, Neuberger wrote: “I am not as good a walker as I used to be. When I was 80, I could walk very long distances…Three times a week [at age 94] I work out with a personal trainer…In 45 minutes I do 42 exercises…It costs $45, so it’s a dollar a minute–well worth it.”

Each embraced the make-it-happen mind-set of the never sidelined former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Formidable “Little Nell,” as her pals knew her, served on the National Advisory Committee to the Peace Corps in her 70s and even pitched Good Luck margarine on TV, donating the proceeds to charity. “I could not, at any age,” she summed up her life, “be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on.”

Most of us learn to be our very best only after years of hard-tested effort. Mark Twin nailed it when he said: “The first half of my life I went to school, the second half of my life I got an education.”

No one can beat an experienced and determined mind, able and willing to apply new lessons.

Mackay’s Moral: It’s no accident they’re called your golden years. 

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