SECOND ACT OF THE MONTH AWARD
Each month, we give the 50PlusToday SECOND ACT Award to an individual who made an intentional decision to change gears in this phase of life. It’s our goal to recognize and support people who reinvented themselves at age 50Plus and we choose recipients who are creative, innovative and inspiring to others. Their pivot might involve a new career, business, community effort or lifestyle. A successful, happy and meaningful life means different things to different people; reading what others did might start you thinking about your next journey! The bottom line is that your second half of your life can be as good as, if not better than, the first! We hope to inspire our readers with success stories from others. (Is there someone you know that created a wonderful second act that you would like to nominate? Complete this form to submit their name for consideration!)
The recipient for October 2022 is Turner Osler, M.D.
Dr. Turner Osler, at age 72, is well into his second act. Almost a decade ago he became interested in the medical and postural problems caused by passively sitting for eight or ten hours each day in supposedly “ergonomic” chairs. These issues are so serious and so common they were dubbed “sitting disease’ by researchers. He set out to help people sit better, and ultimately live better. Five years ago, Turner became an entrepreneur focused on building furniture to help solve this problem, though he had no experience in furniture design, manufacturing or marketing. His deep understanding of how the human body functions born of a long career as a surgeon, however, allowed him to approach the problem of “sitting disease” as a physician, not as a furniture maker. This year, Turner expects to sell his 10,000th chair!
We asked Dr. Osler about his journey; here’s what he told us:
50PlusToday: What are your unique skills that contribute to your success?
I learned curiosity from my parents, anatomy in medical school, and how to create a cohesive team over a long career as the attending surgeon in the operating room. I also learned a good deal of epidemiology as the oldest master’s student ever to graduate from the University of Vermont’s biostatistics program.
50PlusToday: What did you do before starting your entrepreneurial journey?
My first career was as a work-a-day academic trauma surgeon, a 24/7 mix of high-risk surgery, research, and teaching. I cared for patients with a variety of problems: car wrecks, gunshot wounds, burns, and infections. Every patient came to the ER with a unique set of problems, so I was constantly learning as well as teaching. Not every patient survived, but we took some comfort in knowing that every day we came to work with the single-minded agenda of doing the best job we could for every patient.
50PlusToday: Tell us about what you are doing now.
I am currently the head of a small startup (QOR360.com) that designs, manufactures, and sells active chairs over the web, which grew from my concern about the myriad of problems caused by sitting for many people. I work with a small cadre of six gig workers that keeps the business running and profitable. After 5 years our little company expects to sell its 10,000th chair this year (in every state and in in 41 countries). Although I’m our company’s sole investor, I don’t take any monetary compensation. Rather, my compensation is the enthusiasm of our customers for our chairs and the delight our team takes in making chairs that we think will change the way the world sits.
50PlusToday: What passion led you to start this new endeavor?
I became a doctor to help people be as healthy as possible for as long as they can manage it. Unfortunately, as a surgeon you can only personally operate on a limited number of patients. But as an epidemiologist, and now an entrepreneur, if you can identify and solve a problem, you can change millions of lives.
50PlusToday: How does your age and experience help in your success?
I often find that I’m the oldest person in the room. Having had two successful careers and many other projects (some successful, some less so) I find I don’t have the urge to prove anything. So, my focus is on helping others discover their abilities and experience their successes.
Oddly, my highly specialized career in surgery seems to have uniquely prepared me for a problem I’d never even thought about. It’s almost as though I had spent my life preparing for my “second act”
50PlusToday: What skills did you have from your previous job/business/lifestyle that help you in this new position?
Inventing a new way of sitting required many skills sets that I did not learn as a surgeon or epidemiologist such as design, bodywork, manufacturing, marketing, etc. However, my long experience with assembling teams and encouraging them to solve unique problems proved to be the real “secret sauce” that got our startup started.
|“Look for a problem that interests you and that you’re passionate about. It helps if you have at least some of the skills that will be required for your new enterprise, but experience is overrated: you can learn anything that you find interesting, especially if your paycheck depends upon it.”
50PlusToday: What advice would you give someone in this age group searching for their meaningful second act?
Look for a problem that interests you and that you’re passionate about. It helps if you have at least some of the skills that will be required for your new enterprise, but experience is overrated: you can learn anything that you find interesting, especially if your paycheck depends upon it.
50PlusToday: Finally, please give us three random facts about yourself.
- I’ve bicycled across North America (twice) and was an enthusiastic mountaineer for many years.
- I may be the oldest person ever to earn the rank of Shodan (black belt) in the martial art of Aikido
- I wrote a book about sitting (Sit Better).
- Oh, and dogs like me.
50PlusToday: Your favorite quote:
“A leader is worst when the people despise him, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, but best when people barely know that he exists, and, when his aims are fulfilled, the people will say, “We did this ourselves.”” Lao-tse
About Turner Osler, M.D.
Dr. Turner Osler has the usual academic trauma surgeon back story: BA Neurobiology (Princeton), MD (Medical College of Virginia), surgical residency (Columbia, Harvard), fellowship (University of New Mexico) and then 20 years an academic trauma surgeon (University of Vermont) with over 300 peer reviewed papers and book chapters. But then Turner went off script, got a masters in Biostatistics and an NIH grant and abandoned the operating room to study trauma epidemiology. Somewhere in the last decade he became obsessed with the problems that come from sitting too much, and especially sitting badly. Because no one else was doing it, Turner and some friends created a company to make active sitting chairs affordable enough for everyone.
Turner lives in Colchester, Vermont with his wife, son and dog who have been surprisingly tolerant of his mania and are being gradually drawn into the madness. Except the dog.
Learn more about QOR360.com on Dr. Osler’s website.