Armed with an idea and a dream, Marc Middleton left the comforts of secure job to build his Growing Bolder empire.
In 2006, after 18 years as a sports and news anchor in Orlando television, I announced my resignation and left behind my high-profile job to risk it all on a dream. It was the typical “jump off a building without a safety net” move of a young entrepreneur. Except that I was 55 years old and had never been run a business or even thought about being an entrepreneur. What I had was belief in my dream, a strong work ethic and the undeniable feeling that the universe would catch me on the way down.
The End of the Road
Leaving the security of a great job at WESH-TV was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made because I wasn’t unhappy. I loved the management and my co-workers. I was, however, frustrated with the growing trend in local news toward more crime reporting.
I always thought that news should be as much about what goes right in a community as it is about what goes wrong. But listing the crimes of the day while showing mug shots is much easier and far less expensive than producing thoughtful features. And, disturbingly, it seemed to appeal to a majority of the viewers. When the internet became an instant news source and a major competitor, newsroom staffs began to shrink or were repositioned, and true enterprise storytelling became a luxury that few stations could or would justify.
At the same time, there was a definite demographic disconnect that I didn’t fully understand. Traditional media, in a desperate effort to capture or keep the coveted 24-49-year-old viewer, began to dramatically undervalue the 50-and-older audience, an audience that is larger and has more money than any cohort in history. And, contrary to popular belief, they spend it on houses, cars, clothes, travel, grandkids, restaurants and technology. They spend it on everything, and they will be spending for many years because we are in the beginning of a longevity revolution.
In 30 years, there will be as many people over 80 as there are under five. A quarter of American women, age 65, are expected to celebrate their 100th birthday. The fastest growing demographic in America now consists of supercentenarians – those 110 and older.
I realized that I was supposed to be dreading aging, but it seemed obvious to me that is the greatest time in the history of mankind to be over 50, 60, 80 or even 100. Let’s be honest – what’s the alternative? Age is a fate that only the unfortunate escape. I decided that I wanted to celebrate the endless opportunities of aging and build the world’s first active lifestyle brand targeting the 50+ demographic.
Building a Bold Idea
The emerging digital revolution provided the pathway. Suddenly, the media gatekeepers were gone. Broadcasting was becoming narrowcasting and the need for content was greater than ever. It was now possible for anyone to start his or her own online media network.
I registered the name Growing Bolder®, built the first version of GrowingBolder.com and negotiated a release from my WESH contract. Two weeks later I launched the Growing Bolder radio program on WFLA.
I had discussed the Growing Bolder project at length with several of my friends and colleagues at WESH and it wasn’t long before 28-year WESH veteran Bill Shafer joined me, one of the greatest storytellers I’ve ever known. We carefully assembled an incredible staff consisting of the most talented, creative and prolific people we ever worked with including Jackie Carlin, Katy Widrick, Jill Middleton, Jason Morrow, Michael Nanus, Pat Narciso and Joshua Doolittle.
We put together a team of Growing Bolder contributors that includes former WESH anchor Wendy Chioji, former WKMG anchor and reporter Secily Wilson, three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Roger McGuinn. All are Central Florida residents and all are most definitely Growing Bolder.
In addition to a website and a radio show, we now produce two television programs (Growing Bolder and Surviving & Thriving), publish the Growing Bolder magazine, build custom-branded internet-delivered networks for the healthcare and retirement living industries, and we recently debuted the Growing Bolder Awards, a unique initiative we plan on taking nationwide in 2017.
Growing Bolder’s Mission
We believe that our business mission is critical to the future of millions of men and women because we live in a youth obsessed, ageist culture whose disdain for aging has been reinforced and magnified by traditional media for decades and more recently by social media. We have all been brainwashed about both the process and the possibility of aging and the damage is very real.
Multiple studies have proven that the biggest lifestyle determinant of how we age is neither diet nor exercise. It’s our belief system about aging. Negative aging stereotypes are now a bona-fide public health issue because what the mind believes, the body embraces. We age according to our beliefs. We so strongly anticipate the negative benchmarks of aging perpetuated by our culture that we actually create them. A study by epidemiologists at Yale University determined that individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging, measured up to 23 years earlier, lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive perceptions.
Thanks to advancements in medicine, health care, technology and improved personal lifestyle choices, we all now have the very real possibility of two, three or even four decades of active life beyond what is considered normal retirement age. This is an entirely new life stage that has never before existed in the history of humankind. This new life stage offers nearly limitless opportunities to reinvent yourself, pursue your passions, go back to school, start new businesses, repair old relationships, build new relationships, give back to your community, leave a meaningful legacy and much more.
That’s why Growing Bolder exists. We’re rebranding aging®. We’re deprogramming the world from the insidious cult of youth. We’re working every day to change the aging narrative from limitation to liberation, from challenge to opportunity, from weakness to power, from fear and regret to purpose and passion.
Aging is not a disease; it’s an opportunity that we should all be grateful for, proud to achieve and anxious to celebrate. Stop growing older and start Growing Bolder!