The man on the right side of this picture, the one sitting in the chair with the camera….he gave me my first break.
I was 19 years old and ready to take the television world by storm. I thought getting my first job would be easy. After all, I had two years of college under my belt. I’d graduated with honours, one of the top students in my class. I was a shoe-in, right? Wrong. Nobody wanted to hire me because I had no “real world” experience. And I couldn’t get any “real world” experience, because nobody would hire me. I was extremely frustrated.
Then one day I walked into the local cable TV station. I signed up as a volunteer. I started doing some work as a camera operator, production assistant, etc. It was fun, but not what I really wanted to be doing. I really wanted to edit and direct and produce.
One day, about two weeks into my volunteer run, I was stopped in the hall by the man in the picture. At that time, he was a staff producer at the station. He asked if I wanted to grab a cup of coffee and chat. We sat down in the green room and he proceeded to ask me a ton of questions. “What school did you go to?”, “What kinds of stuff did you learn?”, “What are you interested in learning here?”, and so on. He discovered that not only was I really eager to do some editing, but that I had learned on most of the same equipment that they had there at the cable station. In fact, they’d just gotten some new gear that the staff was still learning about, and I already knew how to use it!
It turned out that my new friend was in desperate need of someone to help with editing some segments for his news magazine show. He asked if I’d be interested in that. I jumped at the chance, of course. And from that point on I spent my days for the next little while (I didn’t have a paying job yet, remember) at the cable station, editing stories. I was having the time of my life, and learning a TON. Plus, my work was actually ending up on real TV, which was cool. My parents were proud – so proud, that they recorded all the shows I worked on onto a VHS tape (I wonder if they still have that tape?)
About 2 months later I was driving my producer friend home after a show one night. He was doing his usual thing…asking me questions. “How’s the job hunt?”, “What’s your next step?”, “Did you hear about this new paid internship program?” – wait – internship? paid? “I can help you get in,” he said, “I’ll recommend you to my boss.”
That was the first day of the rest of my life. It was 20 years ago. Now, I run my own production company.
Until last night, I hadn’t seen my friend in about 10 years. We’ve kept in touch off and on, but last night was the first time we really saw each other. We had a small chat, and he’s at it again. He wants to recommend me for something else now, a really interesting opportunity, and a smart next move for me as an entrepreneur.
I owe a tremendous amount to my friend. He gave me my start. He’s given lots of other people their starts, too. One person in particular has gone on to become very famous.
When defining success, don’t always look at yourself and how you’re going to make it to the top of the heap. Look around you. What my friend has taught me over the years is it’s not always about becoming number one or becoming rich and/or famous yourself. Being a success can also mean raising others up. Noticing those around you, learning about what drives them, what their passion is, what they are really good at, and then giving them a chance to excel. My friend has had a very successful career. He’s very talented, one of the most talented and creative people I know. But a big part of his success is gained by his ability to spot talent in people (by observing), figure out what they want (by asking questions), and then give those people a lift (by believing in them).
Thank you Ray. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you believing in me 20 years ago, and for you continuing to believe in me today.
And now, dear readers, I leave you with a question….
Who are you going to lift up?