Some people look for career advice from co-workers and friends. Others are guided by great philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. When I need advice, I always turn to the great comedian/actor Steve Martin.
An inspiring young actor once asked Martin for career advice and Martin replied, “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.” These eight words are eight words to live by.
Right now, at every TV news station in America someone is complaining. They’re saying things like, “They don’t give me enough time.” “This story sucks.” And, my personal favorite complaint — “You can’t do that here.” If you’ve worked in TV news for more than 24 hours you’ve probably heard these statements. But, don’t listen to any of them because they’re not true. These types of statements are just negative energy getting in the way of what you want to do.
While many co-workers are complaining about what they can’t do, I’ve always asked myself, “How I can do it?” What I’ve learned is that persistence pays off. Step one is to simply ask your boss if you can do something. It’s shocking to learn how many people never ask and just stand on the sideline and complain about never being put into the game. Don’t be afraid to ask the news director if you can try something new. And, if they say, “No” simply go to step two. Step two, three, four and five are all the same — ask your news director again and again and again until they say “Yes.” Passion is like a raging river — it can’t be stopped. If you want something bad enough — it’ll happen.
I once worked with this very talented reporter, we’ll call John, who wanted nothing more than to get a job in Houston. But, John had one little problem. He had a face for radio. Now, when he applied for a job in Houston he didn’t get it. But, he didn’t take being rejected lightly and asked the news director for advice on what he needed to work on. Now, the news director’s not going to tell John the truth. The news director’s not going to say, “John, your face looks like the cross between a baby manatee and a baboon’s ass.” Nope, the news director’s not going to say that. Instead he told John that he needed to work on his stand-ups. So, John went off and worked on his stand-ups. Day after day, week after week, month after month, John kept sending resume tapes to Houston. Finally, the news director realized just how good John was and gave him a job. In the end, John’s butt ugly ass face didn’t stand a chance at holding him back. His passion, his raging river, was too great to be ignored. For the past 20 years, John has been working in Houston and the viewers love him.
In my career, I’ve also taken on my share of obstacles. I became a one-man-band decades before it was considered even possible. In Flint, Michigan I had to join two unions just to be a reporter and a photographer. The phrase, “We can’t do that here” is a phrase I’ve never listened to. Keep in mind, every time we try something new or do something different we might stumble around a bit. At first, it’s not only OK to suck at something new but it’s expected. But, if you work hard it’ll all pay off. Steve Martin said, “Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.”
If you want to learn how to be a photographer — start shooting something, if you want to learn to edit — start editing something and If you want to learn to write — just start writing. Steve Martin said, “I think I did pretty well, considering I started with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” But, if you don’t want to write that’s OK too. Martin also said, “Some people have a way with words, and other people . . . oh, uh, not have way.”