Midlife Is About Reinvention, Right? Not Necessarily

05/07/2011 11:25 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

If you think midlife career rejuvenation depends on reinvention, you're not alone. Baby Boomers who are bored or burned-out feel enormous pressure to change what they do for a living.

When I started writing "RIPE" (my new book about rich, rewarding work after 50), I was thinking along the same lines. Everywhere I looked, there were high-profile examples of reinventors such as Sandra Day O'Connor, who stepped down from the U.S. Supreme Court and is now an educator and video game developer (games that help drive social change, of course!). And Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, who now invests his energy in water conservation issues and who also, in 2009, paid for the privilege (to the tune of $35 million) of being the first clown launched into space.

One day, I spotted something different -- some of the newsmakers I was reading about were doing familiar work while stretching in new directions. For instance, each of 80-year-old Clint Eastwood's recent films is different in theme, narrative and visual style -- consider "Gran Torino," "Invictus" and "Hereafter." At 77, Jane Goodall now travels 300 days a year, having realized the most effective way to save her beloved chimps is by connecting with audiences around the world. Even Prince Charles, 62, has found new ways to define his title, becoming the patron saint of organic farming and delivering the keynote address at the 2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

These people represent a distinct kind of Ripe pioneer -- those who discover new passion for their careers and achieve a level of mastery previously unattainable. Former U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy is a perfect example. Here's what The New York Times printed when Kennedy died in 2009, at 77: "He gradually found his place and grew into a role where his own gifts worked perfectly. In late middle age, he built a truly spectacular career."

I call these Ripe pioneers "Masters." They're appearing in every field, each sector and around the world. In the weeks to come, I'll share stories of people like us who have become Masters, and reveal how they made their choice -- how they knew their current path was the right one and why it made sense to keep moving along it.

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"RIPE" is here! This spring, I'm writing about "RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50," a 12-week course on discovering passion, purpose and possibility at midlife. Check out the video (a.k.a. book trailer!):

Be part of the "RIPE" community on HuffPost, Facebook and Twitter. Together, we are going to change this phase of life!