Jun 02

Is that a smile on your face or are you just happy to be 50-plus?


June 2
A new Gallup survey of more than 340,000 Americans ranging in age from 18 to 85
has found overwhelming evidence that, by almost any measure, people get happier
as they get older
. No one knows exactly why, but people seem to
get happier as they pass the age of 50. Arthur A. Stone, the lead researcher of
the Gallup study thinks there are several reasons why. ‘It could be that there
are environmental changes or it could be psychological changes about the way we
view the world, or it could even be biological – for example brain chemistry or
endocrine changes.’ In other words, Dr. Stone has about as much insight on this
strange phenomenon as, say, BP does in figuring out to cap that damn oil well
in the Gulf of Mexico.

Worry,
says the researchers, stays fairly steady through life and then sharply drops
off after age 50 (hmmmm…). Anger decreases steadily from age 18 on (I know quite
a few Millennials who don’t fit that descriptor). Sadness rises to a peak at
50, declines at age 73 and then rises again at 85 (perhaps coinciding with an
impending sense of one’s own mortality?). Enjoyment and happiness have similar
curves: they both decrease until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next quarter
century and take a final nose dive towards oblivion.

I’m
ambivalent about the 50-plus equals happiness thing.

I’m
certainly happier now than I was as a struggling high school adolescent. And,
while there were some world-class highs in my 20s and 30s, I don’t think I was
as consistently happy as I am now. I think that coincides with a simultaneous
sense of accomplishment and lessening of uncertainty (i.e. I always panicked
about future career choices, about whether to remain single or get married,
about whether to have children, about whether to continue rooting for the
hapless Mets, etc.). Now, lots of those figurative Rubicon’s have been crossed.
And, I can focus on doing more of what makes even happier: rock, ice and
mountain climbing, stand-up comedy, brainstorming innovative, if half-baked,
innovations for Peppercom and bashing NJ Transit, my former CEO at Brouillard
and a certain
Fortune 500 client that put a whipping on us up worse than
what Muhammad Ali did to  Sonny Liston
.

Still,
I wanted to test the 50-plus theory with people I see in the media everyday to
see if it holds true:

1) BP
CEO Tony Hayward is 52 and sure seems unhappy to me. He even lamented yesterday
that he ‘…wanted his life back.’ Poor thing. The oil spill seems to have
disrupted his life. Wonder if it’s had a similar effect on others? Either way,
I’ll bet we’ll see Hayward’s pearly whites again once we start seeing clear
blue seas in the Gulf.

2) Betty
White is positively ecstatic in the midst of her personal renaissance. She’s
living what I’d call the George Burns syndrome. Burns enjoyed a similar late
career rebirth about 20 years ago (think: the ‘Oh God’ movies, Tonight Show
appearances and countless comedy tours). Burns said of his sudden popularity,
‘I’m so old that I’m young.’ That captures the Betty White phenomenon for me.

3) Sally
Field seems quite happy now that she’s shilling for Boniva and taking care of
the one body that’s been given to her.

4) Andy
Rooney never seems happy. I’ll bet he was a grumpy 12-year-old. Maybe it’s
because his eyebrows have always partially obscured his vision.

5) Donald
Trump’s permanently pissed off. I guess the combination of the comb-over and
firing people keeps him angry.

6) Clint
Eastwood just turned 80 and still seems ready to empty the chambers of his 9mm
Glock into some bad guy’s head.

7) Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem any happier now than the rock star who
burst onto the public scene in 1992 as part of the Billary ticket. She seems
more resigned than contented.

8) Mets
Manager Jerry Manuel is always happy, even when his team implodes and loses by
a score of 18-6. He’s either programmed that way or is ingesting some serious
mood-altering drugs.

9) Osama
bin Laden doesn’t seem particularly happy whenever he resurfaces to issue the
latest Jihad warning. Turning 50 a few years back doesn’t seem to have mellowed
this particular terrorist. And, do the Gallup findings apply to terrorists as
well? One would think most never live to see 50, so it’s probably a moot issue.

10)  For
someone who pulls down $18mm a year, Katie Couric doesn’t seem very happy.
Pert, yes. Happy? I’m not so sure.

Do
you buy into the 50-plus makes one happy findings? I remain skeptical. I think
a combination of genetics and the environment do factor into one’s happiness.
In the final analysis, though, we determine our own happiness. I can be
miserable working for a 65-year-old CEO who second-guesses my every move or
reporting into a corporate PR director who says nice things to my face but
backstabs my agency behind my back. Or, I can choose to pursue the things in
life that put a smile on my face. The sooner one learns what those ‘things’
are, the sooner one finds happiness. Sorry, Gallup, but age has nothing to do
with it.

May 18

“Hey, honey, forget that weekend in Cape Cod. Let’s take the kids to Alabama!”

I can’t imagine a better tourist destination right now than the pristine beaches of Alabama.
Oil-spill-beach420-420x0 Sure, downtown Baghdad has some great restaurants. And, there’s always the possibility of catching a glimpse of Osama bin Laden in Karachi, Pakistan, but why hassle with foreign intrigue when the Gulf Coast beckons? 

That’s why I’m supporting the Alabama Tourism Department’s brand new, $1.5MM marketing campaign to assure tourists the state’s beaches are clean and open.

I can just imagine the campaign slogans:

-    ‘That’s not oil, silly. Someone just spilled her bottle of sunscreen in the water’
-    ‘Just because our fish are floating face down doesn’t mean they aren’t happy’
-    ‘Alabama’s oil slick waters: the perfect antidote for your arthritic joints’

And, just imagine the added drama of, say, zig-zagging your jet ski in between large oil patches! I could even see ESPN2 covering it as a new type of extreme sport. “Ed, our next contestant is Bunny from La Grange, Illinois. She’ll be attempting to beat Sam from Bowling Green’s time of 2:23 to, and from, what’s left of that oil rig out there on the horizon. And, keep in mind, there must be thousands of dead fish and birds littering her way. This will be a real test indeed. And, the beach crowd is just loving it. Those who haven’t been overcome by the putrid smells are standing and chanting, ‘Bunny! Bunny! Bunny!’”

As for the overall campaign’s theme song? What else but Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water.’

The late P.T. Barnum was credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” But, I have to believe even the most intellectually challenged vacationer in America will be hard pressed to visit Alabama’s beaches in the next few weeks or so. That is, unless BP pulls a real marketing coup and offers to underwrite everyone’s vacation costs. “Hey, Honey, guess what? Those nice people at BP say they’ll pay us three dollars for every one we spend on vacation in Alabama. So what if we develop black lung disease? Think of what this will do for our retirement account.”