02/05/2013 01:32 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2013

When 50 Is the New 50

Borrowing the title from Suzanne Braun Levine's 2010 book, "Fifty is the New Fifty," little did I know that when I turned 50 that same year, it would become the beginning of an entirely new journey built upon a culmination of life experiences that never could have occurred in my 20s, 30s or even 40s. And by taking another line from one of the chapters' titles, 'Do Unto Yourself as You Have Been Doing Unto Others,' I have since discovered that I am not the only post-50-year-old woman who recently began to embark on a new level of professional success once I focused primarily on my own needs, rather than the needs of others.

It was, in fact, during a post-New Year's Day conversation with Jennifer Gelfer, a New York-based director and actor who, now also in her 50s, feels that she is at a point where "something is about to click," that we jointly acknowledged this critical time in our lives. "I know I am about to achieve a larger level of success than ever before," she said, even though the success she has already achieved is more than many in her field.

As the Director of "In Between Men," an original online-only series from creator Quincy Morris that attracts over two million viewers throughout the world, Jennifer says that this success is only the beginning for her. A self-proclaimed "slow-starter," she tells how she stood on the sidelines for far too long, even to a point where she managed the career of her closest friend who has become an international star and who, Jennifer admits, she "hid behind." "I suddenly realized that I could only have what I always wanted by truly embracing myself," she says, "and that I can't be anyone's shadow."

For Jennifer, embracing herself meant discovering an ability she never knew she had... as an acting teacher. "Teaching opened up everything for me... it was a calling," she says, Through teaching, Jennifer is not only helping to develop some of today's finest actors, but also learning more about how to better articulate the human expression through her own acting and directing... an experience which she hopes will take her to her next career goal: to direct on Broadway.

For me, the road was quite different, yet has led me to a similar place at a similar time. Longing to attain success as a professional writer since I discovered my love for writing in high school, I now feel that my writing career is just beginning. I published my first book one year ago at the age of 51, long after I thought that "my time" had passed. And who can blame me? Too often, once women pass certain birthdays, we become resigned to the fact that the window for superstar success or for writing the Great American Novel has shut, with the focus instead on trying to "not look our age."

Simply conduct an internet search of "women's success stories at age 50"; most search results lead you to sites that show you "How to look younger when you're 50+," or "Weight loss success stories for women over 50."

But by digging deeper, we can actually uncover some of the most outstanding success stories of women over 50. Did you know, for example, that Julia Childs collaborated on her first French cookbook just months before her 50th birthday, that Dr. Ruth Westheimer became an icon for frank sexual education in her 50s, or that Grandma Moses began her painting career in her 70s?

Some would call this luck, but not Jennifer. "Luck is where talent and opportunity meet," she says. "You just have to be ready when it happens, whatever your age...and here I am."

Lori Sokol, Ph.D., is the Founder/Publisher of Work Life Matters magazine and co-author of the book, The Agile Workplace and Workforce: The Future of Work (2011)