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Stepping into a New Narrative.

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

Most of us experience what we believe, when we change the narrative we are able to change our life.

Developing an alternative narrative expands our mindset and creates multiple possibilities, when we believed we were condemned to just one.

You can create a practice of opening venues for action, and design a more abundant landscape. It is necessary... and it is fun!

Mika Brzezinski once believed that a woman’s value was almost always linked to her youth and appearance. She knows, now, that’s not true. Here’s how she overcame the “age trap” and found more success, power and fulfillment with each passing year of her career.

When I turned 50 four years ago, I looked around and realized I am still on the younger side of what has become a powerful, highly sought after, and most importantly, successful demographic that we don’t often highlight: Women over 50. Many in this group, including those well into their 60s, 70s and 80s are kicking ass, taking names and making absolutely no apology for it. That’s why the Forbes and Know Your Value’s 50 Over 50 list is by far the most impactful project I have ever undertaken.

And what a journey it has been. I cringe at the way so many of us don’t even think about our careers after 50. Ladies, let's wake up!

I spent most of my career expecting to be unemployed in my 40s and 50s. After all, when you work in television, time isn’t exactly on your side—or so I thought.

In other words, I had fallen for the age trap. I believed a woman’s “value” was almost always linked to her youth and appearance. And as I scraped together a career in local news after college, those fears were soon realized. I observed that my success depended more on how I looked on camera rather than what skills I brought to a newsroom. I loved reporting, telling stories, breaking news and helping people by spreading awareness. It was the stuff I had to do before I even showed up at the office that confounded me and always drove home a sense of “your days are numbered.”

I slogged through a 20-year, Cold War in front of my unforgiving makeup mirror, desperately trying to force my hair to perform ergonomically impossible tasks for the TV screen and struggling to squeeze my size 8 body into size 2 dresses. My competitors always seemed to be beauty queens, gliding into my world with their slender figures and moving past me with dizzying speed – straight into the anchor chair.

The “looks” and “age” issue was compounded by a flurry of makeup and hair experts who always had something to say about my fashion sins. They were often reported to management, and their withering assessments often stung more than the stack of bad report cards I received in middle school.

I wrote about this struggle, and a particular “red hair clip” incident in my book Knowing Your Value. It was in 2008, when I got a late-breaking, exclusive interview with Hillary Clinton the night before she won the New Hampshire Democratic primary. The interview was praised by pundits, but critics focused on the red hair clip I was wearing. And, the most stinging affirmation of the notion that my “career ends at 40” was getting fired from CBS on my 39th birthday, in part because some executives thought I looked “weird.”

Fortunately, I found that there is life for women in a newsroom after 40. And as I happily move through my 50s, the career I feared I would lose keeps improving by the day. And now that I look around from an older and wiser vantage point, I see so many successful and amazing women who are now flourishing in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond.

How did I get here? I stayed in the game. Yes, a part of me was haunted by my own “life-is-over-at-40” narrative, but that was ultimately pushed aside by my passion for what I do. I knew my age and experience made me stronger, wiser and better—and I was determined not to be tossed aside.

I eventually learned my value, and I hope you do too. It’s part of the reason I’m partnering with Forbes and NBC News’ Know Your Value to highlight a remarkable group of powerful women over 50 who have flourished in their fields and have paid it forward to other women. Women over 50 are accomplishing phenomenal things: consider House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who stands second in line to the presidency), who started her political career at the age of 47. Or Anne Finucane, who as Vice Chair of Bank of America, is continually considered one of the world’s most powerful women. And she only started her career in finance, again, at the age of 47. Or even Dr. Amy Acton, who as the Ohio Director of the Department of Health in 2019 and 2020, became known for her successful leadership in the fight against Covid-19. And more impressively, to get there she overcame the insurmountable odds of homelessness, hunger, neglect and abuse before even becoming a doctor.

When I was fired at 39, I made mistakes that women often do: I dissolved into tears in front of my boss; I blamed myself; I told my kids it was great news (It wasn’t and they knew it); and I wore the shame of the firing on my face for a year. It made getting a good job impossible. So, like many are having to do right now in the midst of this pandemic, I took a huge step back to stay in the game.

I took a part-time job at MSNBC, reading the news overnight in 30 second cut-ins. I had a day rate, worked freelance and did whatever the company needed, whenever. Yes, it was a big jump back from anchoring CBS’ “Evening News” on Sundays and reporting for “60 Minutes.” But I was determined to keep my foot in the door.

And guess what? Freelance hosting jobs followed; then reporting pieces for NBC’s “Nightly News,” then a chance to audition for “Morning Joe.” And here we are 14 years later, with Joe, Willie and me as the longest running anchor team on TV.

But to get there, I had to silence my internal fears and simply stay in the game. And it paid off.

I implore women who are starting out to understand that you have a lot of time and it is important to pace out your life and career with your 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s in mind. We are here. There are so many of us. And we have created this beautiful, long runway for you.

Article from Forbes Magazine

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