Michael Clinton, 68: Re-Imagining Possibilities

Michael Clinton is approaching later life with intention and drive and, with his book ROAR, is providing practical advice to help others do the same. He discusses the danger of defining ourselves only by our career, the importance of helping others, and the “reimagineers” redefining what is possible in later life.

Life is filled with transitions and, with people our age, the key question is: are you making that transition, or is it being made for you, to you?  In other words, do you control your trajectory forward or is it in the hands of someone else?

There has recently been published what seems like an entire library of books around how to deal with the changes of midlife. The very best one we have read is ROAR by Michael Clinton. It is on our desk right now filled with underlines, page markings and quotes from our enthusiastic reading of it. The book excels because it is an original — Michael wrote it without diving into the vast amount of paper already printed on the subject, from the academic to the anecdotal. His book is from his own research and his own point of view. And it is compelling.

The short version is: take responsibility for who you are, where you are, and then plot your own journey forward. Get real, and do it now; you have a lot more to contribute to the world around you. Michael Clinton moved to NYC from Pittsburgh with $60 and a college degree. He jumped into publishing starting as a low-paid reporter and, through concerted effort, he rose to the top slot: president and publishing director of Hearst Magazines. When he talks about being your own best advocate, your own best resource, he has some serious cred.

Having spent time with him, the words that come to mind are positive and enthusiastic. He inspires people to raise their game, to move forward into the later parts of life with intention and drive. There is so much more we can do, so much more we can squeeze out of life, if we do a bit of work to prepare and direct the time we have. “Embrace what can be yours. Ask questions, Why not me? It’s time to step forward, reimagineer — the second half of your life awaits you!”

Michael working on his book of photography

How did it feel to leave your job after so many years at Hearst?
I had been preparing myself for years. The danger we all have is only defining ourselves by our career seat. I had been working on many other identities, something I call “life layering” in the book. When I stepped out of my amazing seat, I was able to lean into those other identities that included writer, photographer, philanthropist, marathoner and more.

“As I saw that a lot out there was about the ‘wind down’ in the second half, I wanted to become a voice in how we can ‘wind up'”

When did you decide to write the book?
It started with a last lecture to my entire management team, encouraging them to ROAR into the second half of their lives…on all fronts. Many of them told me that I should write a book about the subject. As I saw that a lot out there was about the “wind down” in the second half, I wanted to become a voice in how we can “wind up.” 

“Roar” by Michael Clinton

How did you go about finding all the people to interview?
Some of them were people I knew, some via word of mouth and many through an editorial assistant, Olivia Crane, who found me many of the “Re-imagineers” in the book. They are all people who have made a big change in their midlife…either in career, lifestyle or love. They were bold in their pivots.

You urge people to reimagine their lives, before they are at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control. When does someone need to be in that mode rather than just pushing ahead?
I would say that reimagining should be a way of living, as things are always changing around us and we should be proactive about how we want to adapt to that change whether we are 50 or 80. One of the questions that I like to ask of all people is: “What is your favorite future?”  

“One of the questions that I like to ask of all people is: ‘What is your favorite future?’ “

The idea of owning who they are, and the numbers associated with that can be scary to people. How do you help them with that?
The two core sets of numbers are health and wealth and it is true that many people find it scary to face the reality of those numbers. But we really have no choice if we want to move forward in our lives. A good way to start is to assess where you are right now versus where you want to be. Getting a handle on that reality gives you the baseline to make the changes or decisions that will move you forward. 

As an athlete, you have a certain understanding of the power of physicality and how our outer image gets reflected by the world back to us. How do you advise people on this?
As we live longer, we should all become the role models that reflect what is possible at 50, 60, 70 and beyond. I ran a marathon on Antarctica to celebrate my 60th birthday and watched the first 100-year-old man cross the finish line at the Toronto Marathon. When our peers and younger people see new physical images of what age can look like, it creates a whole new set of aspirational images. 

Michael running a marathon at the end of the Earth

The idea of finding one’s purpose is a heavy load that can cause some people to freeze and duck the question. Is there a shortcut here you could help us with?
Start by asking, what are you most proud of in your life so far? Is that your purpose? If not, focus on one of your most ambitious dreams. Does it have purpose as a part of it? If not, you have some work to do and make it your yearlong project. 

I love this idea of living a meaningfully engaged life to the best that we can. How do you practice that?
Everyone has a different definition of meaning. It is so personal and individualistic. One of mine is generosity in all of its definitions…  Some friends and I even started a nonprofit called Circle of Generosity that grants random acts of kindness to individuals and families in need. Pick a word that you think will bring meaning to your life and then build it out in all of its manifestations and you will find meaning.

Why is helping others so important?
In traveling to over 100 countries, I’ve learned that all humans inherently want to help each other. It’s a fundamental human condition. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that by helping others you too will be helped. It just seems like a universal truth.

Spotted in his natural habitat

“ROAR is a practical guide to helping you write your new future”

What do you want people to gain from the book?
The realization that if you are 50 and healthy, you may very well live to be 90 or older. The second half of life is being completely redefined and those who are in it can do things that are beyond what they were told they were supposed to do. There is a new script being written. ROAR is a practical guide to helping you write your new future. 

What is your next adventure, your next challenge?
To run the Hillary-Tenzing Everest marathon… an opportunity to continue to challenge myself physically and mentally.

Water station at the Mongolia marathon.

We all need some down time. What are your favorite guilty-pleasure streaming shows?
I’m a Jack Reacher political-intrigue kind of guy. Homeland. Borgen.

What are the 3 non-negotiables in your life today?
Staying fit and healthy. Only spending time with people I care about…and editing out the rest. Practicing what I preach in the pages of ROAR.

How do you envision yourself at 95?
As a role model for what the new 95 will look like… engaged, active, lifelong learner, adding layers to my life experience so that those who come after me can say: if he lived that way, I can too.

ROAR by Michael Clinton.

Join the free ROAR Community today and ignite passion and fulfillment into the second half of your life.


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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.


David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


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