I recently finished a book called “The Start up of You” by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn. It was a phenomenal read and it really got me thinking about things in a way I hadn’t been previously.
It’s Time to Take a Risk
Working in TV, especially in today’s media environment can be a cold and dark journey if you decide to go it alone. As a “freelancer,” we are all entrepreneurs in our own ways. We take the talents we have developed on camera and figure out how to weave those into areas and jobs in which we can be paid for them. This requires a bit of creativity, but it also requires a bit of risk taking.
We are all risk takers. But we’re not all equally smart about how we do it. Many people think you get career stability by minimizing risk. For instance, early in my career, I took a job in TV news to get a “steady” paycheck and some on-air experience. But ironically, in a changing world, that’s one of the riskiest things you can do. Other people think acknowledging downside possibilities are a sign of weakness: “Failure is not an option!” may be a great movie line, but it’s not good when formulating a strategy. Rather than avoiding risk, if you take intelligent risks, it will give you a competitive edge.
So for those of you who are pursuing a TV hosting “Career,” understand that every day this business is changing and those of you who are willing to step out and take a risk are going to succeed. Yes you may fall flat on your face a few times, but you’ll eventually find the one thing that does work for you.
The Risks of Netflix and Dell
Reed Hastings of Netflix is a great risk taker. As we’ve seen, some of his risks have not panned out in his favor, but I love how he approaches it. He says, “If you are not genuinely pained by the risk involved in your strategic choices, it’s not much of a strategy.”
Michael Dell is another risk taker. He dropped out of the University of Texas to start Dell Computer. But it wasn’t a sure thing at the time, so he managed the risk by hedging his bets. Instead of dropping out for good, he applied for a formal leave of absence so that if the company tanked, he could return to school with no problems.
Now there are some “cowboy” entrepreneurs that are irrational risk takers: people who are willing to bet the farm in pursuit of some crazy dream. But what sets the great entrepreneurs apart from the pack is not necessarily a high tolerance for risk, but their ability to manage it well. They strategically pursue only those opportunities with enough upside to justify the possible downside.
Don’t avoid risk, embrace it!
When it’s not clear how something will play out, many people avoid it altogether. But the biggest and best opportunities frequently are the ones with the most question marks. Don’t let uncertainty con you into overestimating the risk.
As an example, I left TV news in 2006 to pursue my TV hosting career. It has been hell at times and frankly, pretty scary. But in the last 7 years, I have learned more about myself and about so many other areas of TV, marketing, sales, production that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t take that risk. Honestly, I’ve probably got 3 times the education in that time than I did in college and high school.
Warren Buffet has a mantra: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” It’s a competitive edge for him. During the 2008 financial crisis, Buffet bought U.S. stocks cheap when most Americans were scared and selling. You make money in the stock market when you believe something others do not. You buy a stock because you believe its price will be higher in the future than it is today.
To be right about risk taking means you don’t just jump at the obvious high-risk, high-reward opportunities. Rather you pursue opportunities that have a lower risk than you peers think, but which are still high regard.
This is strictly my opinion, but my big belief right now is that TV as we know it will die, and the power brokers of Hollywood are holding on to a model and system that is dying fast and frankly, they aren’t prepared for it. By 2015, you’re going to see an entirely different way of the media world, that includes how you and I get ourselves in front of an audience as TV hosts.
Don’t get “lucky,” get “risky”
My advice to you is this: Don’t be afraid to try and learn new things. In fact you’ better be trying and learning new things or you’ll be left high and dry wondering what happened. Now is the time to change your thinking about TV and hosting. You still can do it, it’s just a matter of HOW you will do it.
The best ways to ensure that “lucky” things happen is to make sure lots of things happen.” Make things happen, and in the long run, you’ll design your own dream, and make your own opportunities.