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Anne Merklinger is the chief executive officer of Own the Podium.
Anne Merklinger is the chief executive officer of Own the Podium.

Halftime

40/40 Hindsight: Anne Merklinger reflects on her fifth decade Add to ...

Anne Merklinger, chief executive officer of Own the Podium and a former competitive curler and swimmer, reflects on success, competitiveness and her career path at midlife.

My dad was in the military. We moved on multiple occasions. There was no real place I would call home until my late teens when we moved to Ottawa. I’ve been there ever since.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom. I have two older brothers. She certainly had her work cut out for her, especially with always relocating the family. I think I went to four different high schools.

For the bulk of my 40s I was the CEO of Canoe Kayak Canada. Just as I was approaching the end of that decade I moved to work with Own the Podium as the director of summer sport. It was really a chance for me to challenge myself and do something new.

Success in my 40s was being able to work with an organization such as Canoe Kayak Canada that was very committed to achieving great results at the Olympic Games and being able to shepherd them along that journey. From a family perspective, my husband and I have two children. Our daughter has an unusual genetic disorder. Throughout that period of time, it was a very important part of her life where we were really trying to create an environment where anything was possible.

What made me happy in my 40s? I was in a period of my life where I wanted to make sure I had no regrets. I wanted to make sure that when all was said and done I had capitalized on all opportunities.

You can never stop working at your marriage. My husband and I have been married for 32 years. To be able to have that kind of relationship and partnership with him during that busy period of time was certainly rewarding.

Fitness has always been extremely important to me. I had just finished curling competitively at the start of my 40s. That was a hard decision. But if I couldn’t be great at something, I didn’t just want to go and compete. I wanted to go and compete to be on the podium, so to speak.

When I was a kid I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. I had hip surgery when I was 12 and I had a very nice orthopedic surgeon. An important part of rehab was swimming.

Am I wiser than I was then? I think I have an ability to look at things from a broader perspective, which I think we tend to do as we get older. What are the deal breakers? What are the difference makers? What are the things we should let go? As you get older and wiser you become better at discriminating in terms of what really matters.

If I could go back and give myself advice on my 40th birthday, I would tell myself embrace change. Be courageous in your career.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Halftime aims to fully understand a person’s fifth decade. Reporter Dave McGinn will be talking to a wide range of experts, looking at everything from questions of existential dread to what your finances should look like. He'll also be interviewing people from across Canada who will reflect on their own lives to glean from them their guidance and wisdom. If you have any suggestions for what you'd like to see covered, or want to share stories of your own 40s, please get in touch. Dave McGinn can be reached at dmcginn@globeandmail.com, or share your thoughts online using the hashtag #globehalftime.

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