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Jumping the shark is an idiom created by Jon Hein that is used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.
The phrase jump the shark comes from a scene in the fifth season premiere episode of the American TV series Happy Days titled “Hollywood: Part 3”, written by Fred Fox, Jr. and aired on September 20, 1977. In the episode, the central characters visit Los Angeles, where a water-skiing Fonzie(Henry Winkler) answers a challenge to his bravery by wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, and jumping over a confined shark. For a show that in its early seasons depicted universally-relatable adolescent and family experiences against a backdrop of 1950s nostalgia, this incident marked an audacious, cartoonish turn towards attention-seeking gimmickry. Initially a supporting character, the faddish lionization of an increasingly superhuman Fonzie became the focus of Happy Days
I was 8 years old when the above episode aired for the first time. I remember it well. Not for Fonzi’s jumping of the shark, but for it was the first time in my young life that I understood things change. I remember getting very sad during the airing of the show and understanding that life is always going to change whether we want it to or not. Pretty impressive for an 8 year-old kid, most kids don’t learn that until 9.
Every time I get sad about something that is ending, I remember that show. This past Saturday my son ran his last high school cross-country race. I’ve watched him run for 4 years, missing very few races, but this was his last…ever. As he crossed the finish line I remembered lying in front of Mom and Dad’s TV and that feeling I got watching that now infamous show. It’s a feeling that I don’t often get, but when I do, it’s a BFD (big freaking deal).
The term jumping the shark has been well documented by the above definition. However, in my life, jumping the shark means the end of something special. No matter the situation, everything has a season. Some are longer than others, but for the most part, every part of our lives run a certain way for a certain time and then things change.
I try and recognize the seasons I’m living and try to embrace the end of each season knowing that there will be other seasons, but some are very special. Raising my kids has been my greatest season followed by the running of my company. Both seasons are about the same length and they seem to be tracking very well together.
My son is a senior and my daughter a sophomore. I look at our company as being in its high school years. We are probably closer to that of a sophomore than a senior, but as I take a look at this specific season, our company is experiencing some amazing growth, profitability, and stability. Our staff is locked in to our vision and as we finish our sophomore year and get ready for our junior year, our class is poised for greatness.
I think that as we end our senior year, I might start thinking about that damn Happy Days episode. I’m confident the next 3 years are going to be nothing short of amazing, but then things will change. I’m not sure what those changes will be, I think we will have some amazing opportunities and I am confident that it will be a time of celebration, but in my mind, we’ll be jumping the shark.
For now, I’m enjoying this ride, watching my children grow into amazing adults and our company blossom into a culture rich, personal responsibility driven, creative thinking managed organization.
My aunt and uncle used to claim that the 30’s were the best time of their life. My 30’s were good, but my 40’s have been great. The sadness of my son’s last cross country race will be short since my daughter has two more years to run and I expect her to have the same success as her older brother. My son will soon be off to college and that will take a little adjustment as well.
Although the seasons change and the shark is jumped, by keeping aware of the various seasons of your life allow you to have a much more amazing life ride.
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