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Great Century, by George By Sean North

George Burns’ career could have ended as early as 1958, when his wife Gracie Allen retired from Show business. Burns continued the show after Allen retired, but the show was cancelled after one season. Burns could have let his wife’s retirement from show business stop him from going further in his career, but he ultimately ended up being a huge comic success and lived to be 100 years old.

Many of Burns’ biggest successes came when he was in his eighties and nineties. At the ages when many people have long since retired, Burns was enjoying great success. Getting older does have great advantages: we become smarter; we acquire wisdom; we have acquired more skills.

1. Burns struggled as a vaudeville straight man for years until he met Gracie

There was a chemistry that Burns and Allen had when they created their comic duo. For eight years, Burns played the straight man and Allen played the funny lady. The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show was a tremendous success on CBS. They made a dynamic team.

The same concept could apply to our careers. A lot of us have held many jobs and in those positions, there were probably people whom we loved to work with and those whom we did not. Like Burns when he was struggling in vaudeville, our present job or career may not exactly be what we want to do, but we do get opportunities to meet people who know other people and so forth.

2. For 17 years (1958 to 1975), Burns had very minimal success

Many of us may think of George Burns as a great comic success, which he was. But for about 17 years, Burns had very subpar performances compared to the show that he did with Gracie. Gracie Allen died in 1964 and Burns attempted two television shows, one with Connie Stevens, but both shows were cancelled after the first season. Burns encountered another celebrity death when Jack Benny died in 1975. Burns was offered Benny’s role in the comedy film, The Sunshine Boys, and had great success. After a 17-year drought, Burns was back! The success of The Sunshine Boys led to Burns’ role in Oh God!, which was also a tremendous success.

How many of us get frustrated at struggling for six months to a year? How many of us would have given up after 17 years of subpar success that Burns endured? Burns showed us that getting older is getting better.

3. Burns had over a dozen television specials after 1975

Burns’ revitalized movie success in 1975 spurred resurgence in television success that he had not had since doing shows with Gracie. Burns was now playing the funny person, the role that Grace played when he was playing the straight man. Burns was now a movie and television success.

We never know what may happen when we take our experience from our own careers and apply them to new positions or careers. The skills and education we learn from other jobs may help us to get the career that we are really looking for. Any skill that we can learn should not be discounted.

Burns proved that one is never too old to do a great job. He had revitalization in entertainment in spite of Gracie’s retirement and death. Burns did not let the loss of Gracie deter him from making a name for himself. If any of us catch ourselves giving up or saying things like “I’m too old for…,” think of George Burns.

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