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December 10th, 2009
01:14 PM ET

50on50: Nobel Peace Prize winner puzzled by my productivity


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Dr. Eric Chivian shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in the organization of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Dr. Eric Chivian shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in the organization of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

It’s true. A Nobel Peace Prize winner let me know he’s puzzled by my productivity. No, not today’s Nobel Peace Prize winner. As far as I know, President Obama is not following my campaign to destroy my industry’s worship of the 18-49 audience “demo.” But another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has been following the series. He sent me an email this week that gives me fuel for my drive to unseat the demo-orthodoxy.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner who sent me the email is Dr. Eric Chivian.  He shared the prize in 1985 for his leadership in the organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. His current life mission, as a physician, is increasing awareness of the impact that damage to our environment has on human health. His collaborative work has led to the award-winning science book “Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity.” But first, here’s what he wrote me about the diversity of stories at 50on50.

“Don’t know how you keep them coming, on so many different subjects. Have you stored all these ideas away for the right moment?”

I’ll simply let those questions echo as a testament to turning 50, as I enjoy the final week of my 40s.

So now, I have some questions for Dr. Chivian.

The first is a question I’ve been asking a lot of people in the days before I turn 50.

How old are you?

“Sixty-seven-and-a-half” he answered, with tongue-in-cheek precision.

Dr. Chivian is a professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, so I wanted his insights on whether 50 marks some developmental milestone that should knock me out of some prized demo. Am I heading for decline?

After thinking carefully about the 17-and-a-half years since he turned 50, this was Dr. Chivian’s response.

“Fifty may be the beginning of the golden age of life where you have enough of the wealth of experience and associations and your mind is still highly active and creative. And you still have enough energy.”

“In your 30s and 40s you do not have a lot of life experience.”

That’s a heck of a statement coming from a physician who won the Nobel Prize when he was in his early 40s.

But it’s echoed by many highly accomplished men and women I’ve interviewed for this series.

“By the time you get into your 50s and beyond,” says Dr. Chivian, “you have a body of experience that really provides perspective on life that you don’t have earlier.”

What perspective, I asked.

“This is more about turning 60,” he said. At 60, he says, he began “to care less about what other people think. About whether you’re handsome, smart, king of the hill … at least for me.”

And this is key.

“I realized how much energy I was spending trying to impress other people. And how much energy I HAD AVAILABLE when I wasn’t using it all” to impress others.

After listening to Dr. Chivian, I want an little advance on 60 for my 50th birthday.

Wait a second. Could Dr. Chivian be undermining my premise as he articulates the power of aging.

If we in the 50+ crowd are less concerned about impressing others;

If we, as Dr. Chivian and many other highly successful people have told me, are more productive now than in any earlier period of our lives;

If we care less about what others think …

Perhaps we SHOULD be kicked out of the demo because we’re too wise, too shrewd, too experienced, too tough a sell for the programmers and advertisers.

I must entertain that possibility.

OK, I’m finished entertaining.

What Dr. Chivian’s comments add up to may be a road map for high-quality programming sponsored by advertisers spreading the word about high quality products for a high achieving, information-seeking, audience of trusted INFLUENTIALS who are just hitting their stride as they turn 50.

I don’t know whether my 50on50 campaign will ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. I’m confident it will be nominated, if I have anything to say about it.

What would be so compelling to the Nobel committee?

My mission is to develop A NEW DEMO FOR A NEW AGE. And, while I must do more reporting before creating the parameters of that demo, I already know this. It will be more inclusive and less arbitrary than 18-49. It will bring people of all ages together under one roof, rooted in a common foundation of values, for the betterment of mankind. Oh yes. I can taste that nomination.

The 18-49 demo is dying. It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner to figure that out. But it helps to have his insights.

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Follow Michael Schulder's battle against getting kicked out of the 18-49 demo here


Filed under: Michael Schulder
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Terry Horn

    Oprah, Is the real Nobel Prize winner. But you know Ill bet she would never except it. Oprah is a true hero, to thousands of people. Its not an Idea that Oprah had. Its that she put those ideas into practice and achieved her wildest dreams, and gave back more than she gained.
    Oprah is a true American success story. And the world is a little warmer place because of her.

    December 10, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  2. Tim Gibson

    Well done, you are into transition and the force grows strong. You will become the server of the meal instead of the guest, use the recipe file to advance to the next level.

    December 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm |