Would you walk away from a job while you are at the top of your game? Would you give up a nightly platform that makes you the highest paid television host in the world plus opens the door for unlimited other revenue streams?
Most wouldn’t. That’s why you aren’t Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show on the Comedy Central network.
Stewart and his departure from Comedy Central are unique for three reasons:
- He doesn’t define himself by past greatness.
- He never forgot about the value of the relationship.
- He earned the right to depart on his own terms.
Most people hang on to the glow of past success to the point that they are no longer effective. Athletes and actors are notorious for seeing their reputation diminished because they over stayed their effectiveness. We’ve all seen musicians who should have stopped recording or performing an album or three ago. Johnny Carson is one of very small list of names who, like Stewart, stepped away from a top performing show while he was still very effective.
Normal people do the same thing. You probably know at least one person where you work who has hung on to past success and is now simply holding on until retirement. Many feel stuck in a situation they hate because they need the money. But others could walk away and be comfortable. They simply don’t because their identity is wrapped up in the legend of who they used to be.
You might be thinking that you could feel no fear about pursuing your future greatness if you had Stewart’s money. Admittedly, it is much easier to walk away and pursue your creative dreams when you have been making $25 to $30 million a year for a few years.
But, it is not about sticking around for the money with Stewart. He continually looks to challenge himself and be better. That forward focus means that he is continually changing and adapting to stay relevant. And most important, his success at continually changing to be better makes this move less fearful.
Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless said that Stewart would always be part of the Comedy Central family in response to his departure announcement. While this is standard language when someone leaves, the lack of a definite time table for the change suggests that Stewart and his network have a strong relationship.
A 30-day notice is considered a luxury for many people who are voluntarily moving on. And, Stewart could have waited until much later in the year to announce his leaving. But the manner in which he is handling this change shows that he is considerate of both the network and the team that has supported him.
You don’t worry about a positive transition if there was a negative relationship. Everyone can now plan their next move confident in knowing that the relationship forged in strength of the past is being honored as the change takes place in the future.
Both Stewart’s commitment to getting better and his honoring of the relationship earn him the right to depart on his own terms. You aren’t allowed to say that you will be leaving “sometime in the future” if you aren’t excellent at what you do. And, you sure don’t get opportunity to plan for your departure if working with you is a pain. It is hard to imagine that Stewart and Comedy Central will engage in any of the intellectual property disagreements that marked the departure of Stewart’s predecessor, Craig Kilborn.
The Daily Show will certainly change as a result of Jon Stewart leaving. And, there is every indication that it will be managed in a manner that makes it positive for everyone. That makes Jon Stewart different than most people. Whether that makes him different than you depends on you.