An Open Letter to the Editor of the New Yorker

I had to Google “Patricia Marx” to find out that she was a humorist; a colleague of Roz Chast, my long-time favorite New Yorker cartoonist with whom she wrote a book; a professor of writing at Princeton; and a former writer for SNL (Saturday Night Live), my long-time favorite TV show. I have been an SNL fan for about 25 years longer than the 25 years I have been a career/life/retirement coach. I was shocked to discover the humor in Patricia Marx’s background, since I found no trace of it (or heart, for that matter) in her derisive, perfunctory article, “Golden Years: How will boomers handle retirement? Hire an expert,” in the October 8, 2012 issue of the New Yorker under the heading, “Up Life’s Ladder.” Essentially, it was a pretty scathing four pages about spoiled, idiotic boomers hiring empty-headed retirement coaches because they don’t know what to do with themselves for the rest of their lives.

So while Patricia Marx has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1989, why she was the designated writer for this particular subject is not at all clear to me. Believe me, I can take a joke, and I’m quite aware that people fairly routinely deride coaching and coaches (except athletic coaches, of course, who remain at the top of the heap of admired professionals year after year). But on this particular subject, she could not have possibly done her homework, or without much effort she would have bumped into a few million people who would have something relevant to add to her shallow (she admits to being shallow, which is why, she says, she is a humorist) assumptions and amateur “findings.”

My direct comment to her is this: career, life, and retirement coaches exist because life is hard, transitions are painful, and smart people seek help when they need it, so they can move on and lead meaningful, purposeful lives no matter their stage of life, rather than twiddling their thumbs while their gifts, talents, experience, knowledge, and intelligence waste away. It is perfectly understandable to most people why athletes seek and benefit from coaching–what athlete would get anywhere without a coach? So, when it comes to “real life” changes and challenges, why should we just bite the bullet and go it alone? Start asking people how they got where they got, and you will find many who got where they got because of or with the help of a coach or two or three.

Ask some of our retired clients right here in the East San Francisco Bay Area: the 72-year-old former salesman who now spends his time creating and selling gorgeous pottery and granting the wishes of dying kids through the Make a Wish Foundation; the 72-year-old professional storyteller, actress, and playwright who is finally doing what she wished she could do when she was supporting her family as a public relations professional; the retired jury clerk who joined the Peace Corps for two years and now works internationally with an organization that monitors democratic elections in emerging nations.  These boomers don’t seem spoiled in the least, and they are still changing the world as they go – including into the retirement years.

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