No one expects David Letterman to disappear out of the spotlight. That's just too damn hard. Maybe it's downright impossible to become invisible after a big-time career.
After leaving the U.S. Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor found myriad ways to stay on the radar. Those include writing the book "Out of Order," which received a horrific review by Adam Liptak in The New York Times.
Former corporate leader Jack Welch won't let go. His brandname is the price of entry to lots of attention for his opinions. But those opinions are more and more often being labeled as either unsound or out of touch.
Sure, others can move seamlessly from the long good-bye to other triumphs. Among them are Jerry Seinfeld, Mary Tyler Moore and Bill Clinton. They really did or some still do have second, third and fourth acts in them.
Business scholar, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, chronicled this inability to leave the stage in his breakthrough book "The Hero's Farewell." One day you have total access to the most important currency in America: attention. The next day you don't. The other goodies such as wealth almost seem irrelevant.
No surprise, the microcosm of that is played out in so many retirement communities. When I visited Saddle Brooke in Oro Valley, Arizona, the conversations primarily focused on the positions they used to hold. They ran this and that in the auto industry. They were assistant dean at that academic institution. They launched a breakthrough initiative. Because I was still working at what I love and which brings attention, I didn't talk about my own work.
Perhaps there should be executive coaches providing tutorials in "Post-Fame, How To Still Get Lots of Attention So You Won't Be a Pest." For example, they could start a provocative blog, launch a safe-drinking-water project in a developing country or travel across the U.S. covering how supposed justice is administered in diverse kinds of courtrooms. When I retire, I plan to get an R.V. and do the latter.