Friday, December 10, 2010

Second Acts

At TEDWomen, one of the overarching concept was second acts. At my lifestage, I am particularly interested in second acts, as I feel like I am in one myself. Post corporate world, post marriage, post childrearing, I see this time in my life as a time to live differently than before. While my introspective self-journey pales in comparison to some of those I heard about, I was excited and motivated by the examples around me, both in the speakers and in the attendees.

Again and again there were people who chose to do something different, who acted to change the world they were in. Sometimes the changes were from adversity, sometimes from horrendous circumstances, sometimes because of the ability to make a difference and the overwhelming desire to do so.

Take 18 year old Sejal Hathi, a young woman who, out of her battle with anorexia, went on to found the non profit organization Girls Helping Girls, already mentoring 30,000 girls globally. At age 18, she is well into her second act, and I imagine the world will be treated to acts 3, 4, 5 and more from this remarkable young woman.

Or Tony Porter, who recognized that his own socialization, and that of so many men, was such a profound reason for violence against women, that he founded A Call to Men, an organization dedicated to putting together high-profile male dominated organizations such as the NBA with programs dealing with domestic violence to try to change socialization practices, to try to change the components of what he calls "the Man Box".

And then there is wonderful Deborah Rhodes. Deborah is an internist who was frustrated that she could not provide a better answer to a patient about the accuracy of her mammogram. After a chance meeting with a scientist in a field she knew little about, Deborah went on to co-develop a new gamma Ray screening technology which is 3x more effective in screening women with dense breast tissue than mammograms, 100's of times cheaper than an MRI, and pain free. Getting the funding and approval has been another story, though, and it is shocking to know this is out there and cannot be implemented - yet!

The designers Donna Karan and Eileen Fisher, both pioneers as clothing designers with eponymous companies that truly recognized and satisfied the needs of working women, are now heading philanthropic programs, anxious to,as Donna says, "address the needs of women, not just dress them". As I engaged in brief individual conversations with each of them, it was obvious that this second act of their professional lives had lit a fire within them and that equally and in personal styles as different as their clothing styles, they were changing the world.

We all get into routines and ruts, and sometimes it takes a cataclysmic change or catastrophe to force us to behave differently, chart a new course, take action, and enter our own second acts.

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