Julia Xanthos/New York Daily News
Jane Pauley, the former “Today” show host, in her Manhattan home. She says of the failure of her later talk show: “It was the best year of my life.”
Jane Pauley has been a groundbreaking talk-show host, an award-winning newswoman and an advocate for victims of bipolar disorder.
Now, she’s the guru of reinvention — a baby boomer who rebounds from the busts.
Pauley is back with a new book, “Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life,” that should be a wakeup to her entire generation.
Life spans are 40 years longer than they were a century ago, so midlife makeovers are no longer a matter of vanity, but necessity.
“Midlife keeps on going and going,” says the 63-year-old Pauley, half a life from when TV Guide dubbed her “the fastest rising personality in the history of television” in 1976. “The future may be longer than you think.”
Pauley says she wrote the book to share the lessons she has learned from turning struggles into successes, starting in 1989, when Deborah Norville joined her and Bryant Gumbel on the “Today” sofa.
Pauley had been on the job 13 years and was clearly being pushed out by a younger woman.
“I saw what everyone else saw: My replacement had arrived,” she recalls.
It was time for reinvention number one: She asked NBC to let her leave the show, but stay with the network in prime time. The suits agreed, setting up her stint at “Dateline NBC.”
It was a classic strategic move by an in-control and determined woman. But at the time, Pauley didn’t even recognize that she had such strengths.
“Reinvention can be a matter of being reintroduced to yourself in a new light,” she says.
Still, reinvention is also about being realistic about one’s weaknesses. Pauley admits it took time to realize that her main failure — she isn’t good at winning people over — was hurting “Dateline” in the era of the big “get,” when Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer set the standard for wooing newsmakers of the day.
“I was really good at some things, but at woo, not so much,” says Pauley.
So she stepped away from “Dateline” in 2003.
Jane Pauley’s new book, “Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life.” The award-winning newswoman says, “Midlife keeps on going and going.”
Time for another reinvention. The next year, the intensely private Pauley surprised many when she released a revealing memoir, “Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue,” about her struggle with bipolar disorder.
The same year, she created the syndicated “Jane Pauley Show.” It lasted only a year — but even that failure taught Pauley a valuable lesson.
“It was the best year of my life,” she says, citing the benefit of having her three kids see her struggle for the first time since she replaced Walters on “Today” at the headline-making age of 25.
Pauley is also married to cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who started “Doonesbury” while still in college.
“That set totally unrealistic standards for them,” she says. “Failing was good parenting.”
Reinvention is even better.
“I never expected I would ever write a book and now, I’ve written two,” she laughs, considering her next pivot. “I just tell people that I’m thinking about a third.”
Jane Pauley and Tom Brokaw will appear together at the 92Y on Tues., Jan. 14, at 8:15 p.m.
JANE PAULEY’S RULES FOR REINVENTION
You don’t have to get it right the first time.
There is no most authentic “you” waiting to be revealed.
It doesn’t mean a total makeover.
You don’t need to have a passion.
Trial and error are keys to growth.