That’s right, after thousands of shows and 33 years behind his iconic desk, David Letterman is bowing out. The often low-key but ever endearing Letterman has become a symbol of a TV genre, and in an address to his audience, he essentially said it was time for him to retire, and that he’d like to spend more time with his family.
He joked that he had decided some time ago to quit ten years after doing his show stopped being fun, but I think there might be some truth in what he said; no matter how fun something is, 33 years is a long time. He could of course have gone on for as long as he wanted, and there was no doubt a huge financial incentive to do so, but he didn’t. Well into his sixties, I’m sure he’d just had enough, and that got me thinking about why we leave our work and go somewhere else or start new careers.
Letterman quit, I feel, because he no longer really enjoyed what he was doing. It was just gravy. Some people like getting into a groove with their job, whilst others need to be challenged. In this society, it isn’t often possible to leave a job you don’t like, let alone one you’re bored with, but doing so doesn’t just take opportunity, but courage.
Ask anyone who’s left a steady job to start their own business and they’ll tell you it wasn’t just dissatisfaction with their job that pushed them, but motivation to do their own thing, or something new and challenging. Letterman has a unique personal brand and has never been afraid to do things his way, so maybe the way he’s chosen to leave things fits in with who is.
Perhaps David Letterman isn’t exactly in need of another job, but there are plenty of people who will always hang on to something, even if they don’t really want it, because they’re scared. So well done David Letterman, you’ve bowed out gracefully.