Mid-life Kicker

Wednesday, April 12, 2006
(For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "mid-life kicker" refers to a marketing effort designed to boost sales of a product in the midst of its lifecycle before a new version of it is released.)

Much ado has been made of over the concept of the "mid-life crisis". The very term conjures images of sudden urges to purchase sports cars and engage in messy divorces. While neither of these are necessarily positive results, I think the overall concept is worthy of consideration.

Unfortunately, the "crisis" aspect of it has overshadowed the underlying principle behind these life events. I use the word "events" in the plural, because it seems to me that most people only think of it happening once or twice when the indivudual in questions reaches what is considered "middle age" (usually somewhere between the 40th and 50th birthday milestones). In reality, it is really about evaluating one's life and deciding whether it is still a good fit for the person they are on that day.

I was thinking about it, and I think most people do this about every ten years (give or take a year or two) anyway. It's only when there are rippling negative (or perceived as negative) side effects that it gets termed a "crisis".

Consider the following: At 20, many of us are finally determining what our final major in college will be. At 30, our careers are finally starting become established and there are probably the pitter-patter of one or more pairs of feet around the house. At 40, career paths tend to be more established and our children are on their way to becoming more self-sufficient. At 50, children are leaving (or have left) the nest, leaving us, once again, with only ourselves and our partner.

It is not surprisingly that at these milestones in one's life, we take a hard look at where we are, where we are going, and where we wanted to be. Life has a way of happening to us when we're not looking. For myself, I had always hoped to be a film director, screenwriter, or novelist (pick up to three!). When my son was born, most of that went to the wayside as I focused on his care, feeding, and education. Was it a fair trade? No question. No regrets there.

A few years ago, though, I had the realization that—aside the frequent project plan and occasional professional paper—my fiction output (if you don't include project plans!) had dropped close enough to zero that it didn't matter. One of my first reactions was "Oh, but I'm getting to be too old start again now." Uh huh. Dear Abby has a relatively frequent response in her column to people who ask about whether they should go to medical school (or a similar long-term endeavor) and are concerned about how old they will be when they're done. She always tells them--and correctly so--that they'll still be that age whether they choose to tackle that challenge or not.

Two things happened. The first one was an unpleasant work-related situation that arose and I finally decided with deal with it by forming the incident into a scene for a story. The second one was that a very good friend of mine (the infamous Elemental Mom) handed me The Artist's Way and said, "Here. Do it. No arguments." (Okay, it wasn't quite like that, but close.) I resisted at first, but over the course of a year I did make my way through the entire book. Since then, I have mostly managed to adhere to the "a page a day" regimen.

In the end, what I really got was a (much-needed) mid-life kick in the backside. Everyone should be so lucky!
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  1. Dana

    I like your post, Steve. But I think it's time to change the term midlife crisis to something more positive. Midlife Redirect or something.

    And divorce can be a positive outcome of this period of time, at least it was for me. At 40 I decided I couldn't continue my life in the vein of the first half of my life. I had to make changes, and I am ever so grateful that I did. It was damn scary, but oh so rewarding.

    Life can begin a new in this critical time in all kinds of ways. Dana