Michael Clinton Interview: Modern-Day Renaissance Man
Diana Landau | September 14, 2021
Get ready to be inspired by Carl’s interview with the former President of Hearst Magazines, Michael Clinton. Besides having a huge Publishing career overseeing Esquire, House Beautiful, Food Network Magazine, Oprah, (the list goes on), he’s traveled to 124 countries so far and run marathons on seven continents. Now 68, he’s a special advisor to the CEO of Hearst Corporation, a writer, photographer, global marathon runner and private pilot who has just released his latest book, ROAR: into the second half of your life (Before It’s Too Late.)
Michael has an innate, passionate curiosity about the world and is full of surprises. We sort of assumed Michael had this huge publishing career in NYC because he came from some upper-crust, Ivy League background. It’s been his incredible dedication and focus that led Michael to where he is now. He comes from a poor, working-class family of eight from Pittsburgh, PA. His father was a laborer and his mother was home with the six kids. “There was lots of love,” Michael says. His parents may have been poor but they exposed their children to art, culture and libraries. Discovering the world through books and literature became fundamental to Michael’s life, igniting his love of words.
One of only 20 or so from his high school class to go on to college, he studied economics and political science and then became editor of the college newspaper, stoking his passion for publishing. After graduation, he went to NYC with “$60 in my pocket, no contacts and two months on a couch.” His first big break was to become Publisher of Conde Nast's GQ Magazine, at only 34 years old. He spent his last 23 years with Hearst. But he doesn’t want anyone to say ‘retire’ because it is such a toxic word! It implies passivity.
After Hearst, Michael kept seeing books about slowing down, aging, making your life smaller. “I wanted to do exactly the opposite. I wanted to find other people who felt the same way.” Michael interviewed 40 people about what they’re doing now for his new book. Now he is looking forward to more heights in traveling, photography, outdoor sports and philanthropy, plus a deep dive into becoming an entrepreneur. He plans to continue inspiring people 50+ to “rewire” their lives.
Life Wisdom from Michael Clinton:
“The importance of having a professional mentor should not be dismissed. I will always advise and encourage people to seek out the mentor that can help them evolve and grow in their career.”
“Editing is an important skill in publishing, of course. What it teaches you is to edit out the extraneous things that don’t matter.” (Think wasting social media, unproductive friendships, unsupportive family.) “Find people who will lift you up!”
Michael loathes the term “mid-life crisis.” “It should be mid-life awakening,” he says. Think about whether you need to shift course. If you’re healthy and 60, there’s a good chance you’ll live longer—a three-decade arc of opportunity.
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” weekly blog.