Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Success defined: A year ago it was the job you desperately wanted; now you can't wait to get the hell out

If you look up the word "success" in the dictionary, one of the definitions goes something like this: the attainment of goals.

If you ask someone in the television news business if he or she is successful, the answer you get might depend on the day.

I've seen this scenario dozens of times: Person begs for a job, wants it desperately. A few months later that same person has turned into a newsroom grouch, sending out tapes by the bushel, desperate to get out. You get the mental picture of the guy hitchhiking by the side of the road, holding a sign that reads, "Anywhere but here."

So what changed? That person's definition of success.

When you're just out of college, getting that first job makes you feel successful. A year later, when you're watching others in the newsroom move on, you feel like a failure. Same person, same job, but your mindset has pulled a 180.

Or does this sound familiar? Reporter working in small market wins all sorts of awards, does a kick-ass job. But because those awards and good work are done in Palookaville, the success is the proverbial tree falling in the forest. The reporter feels like a failure, even though she's doing wonderful work. The stars haven't aligned for her, and they no doubt will, but at this moment in time success feels like it's a million miles away.

How about this one: Reporter has good job in a decent market. Likes the station, the ND likes him. Lives in a nice place. Feels good about himself. Hits 25th birthday and all of a sudden he feels like a failure because he hasn't reached a certain rung in the ladder by this landmark birthday while others have moved up. Yesterday a success, today a failure.

And then there's one of my best clients. Due to a quirky contract situation, this incredibly talented individual is between jobs. This reporter's work is stellar, off the charts great, and his tape has resulted in many interviews at big stations. I have absolutely no doubt he will have a wonderful career and some ND will snap him up shortly, because this guy is everything you want in a reporter. But because the timing hasn't been quite right this reporter is doubting his abilities. A month ago he was knocking out world class packages. Today he's waiting for the phone to ring. A month ago, feeling successful; today not. Same person, same talent. The phone will ring shortly, he'll be back on the street and feeling like he has the world by the tail. But right now I want to reach through the phone and tell him he's the same guy I talked to a month ago, a very successful reporter with an incredibly bright future.

Everyone has a different definition of success, and it often changes as we get older. And along the way we all hit bumps in the road. It doesn't change who we are. If your talent is still there, so is your future. Just because destiny's timeline doesn't coincide with your own doesn't mean you're not a success.

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