Now and then my alma mater sends me an email asking if I’d like to give some career advice to a senior. Hmmm. Uhhhhh, about that….
I started out as an English major, which makes complete sense to anyone who knows me. After a part-time job in an ad agency during my sophomore year, I switched to business with an emphasis in marketing. That kind of makes sense.
Advertising was the start of my after-college work life, but it wasn’t really for me. Then followed sooooo many different jobs over the years—working for a holding company, editing, marketing, editing, the financial industry (three times!), more editing, talent management, and then more editing.
I’ve even made a couple of documentaries. The filmmaking bug came along when a friend recommended I take a class at a local college. I absolutely fell in love with every aspect of the craft—from reading the light meter, to smacking the slate, to shouting “Action!” to splicing the reels in the editing room….As you can probably tell, this class took place quite a while ago, but it was during the start of the transition to digital and computers. My professor joked, “I’m teaching the history of filmmaking!
Filmmaking was one of the impactful parts of my career(s). For my first movie I went to Viet Nam with a group of vets and filmed them doing humanitarian work and going back to their Areas of Operation. That was one of the honors of my lifetime: watching these men shed twenty years of guilt. One time an entire town came out to meet us and two former enemies hugged.
For the second movie I traveled the world and talked to people from all walks of life about how we can all get along. What another honor that was.
But in my heart I’m a writer. I’m grateful for all the jobs I’ve had and the long list of characters I’ve met over the decades. And all the people I’ve met at every workplace gave me so much, such gifts. One that springs to mind is the type-A “dragon lady” (her nickname from anyone outside of her earshot) who once told me that everyone who’s ever worked for her went on to be very successful. “They had to,” I thought. “You prepared them well for anything.”
My favorite job outside of doing my own writing or filmmaking was being a talent manager in LA. I fell in love with my actors and gained tremendous respect for them as well as appreciation for how tough the movie industry is for them. That was the impetus for my book Life in the Hollywood Lane. Here’s one of my favorite clips (I still talk in movie language a lot) about the many forms success can take:
I once read an article about Condoleezza Rice, which said that when folks would ask her how she got to where she was, she’d say something along the lines of, “Well, first you fail at being a piano major.” How crazy great is that? She loved playing the piano, obviously, but her soul had other plans. Maybe the piano just kept her busy and happy while her being was being sculpted into being a person who could be Secretary of State. (Lots of being in there!)
And that old dude who told me to grow up? He probably gave up his dream too soon and always regretted it. People can turn into pickles when their creative juices are not allowed to flow. We can always tell the ones who’ve soured—they’re the ones who are discouraging us. And me pursuing my dreams might’ve made him sad, but it’s easier to be mad than sad. He actually wasn’t all that old age-wise—just way old before his time. Giving up the dream can do that to people.
I could tell people how to find a job (something I’m very good at!), how to write and publish a book (something I’m even better at!), and a few thousand other things. But the first thing I’d say to anyone who asks is, “You really can’t get it wrong.”
Here are a couple of clips (!) about the non-failure of failure from my book Visioning:
There are no mistakes, no accidents, no failures. Everything is another step on our path and is most likely a necessary ingredient for our growth and evolution. Everything is a consciousness necessity. For example, in her lecture and seminar introductions, master prosperity teacher Edwene Gaines tells the audience about her lean times—“I owed everybody’s frog,” she says. And what better person to teach prosperity than someone who had to go through the lean times of unsuccess, unprosperity—and successfully and prosperously come out the other side?
As we’re galumphing around in our beloved humanness, some moments more graceful than others, we can take our past and gratefully distill the gifts—the gifts of the pain and sadness, the failure, the crisis, the insolvency, the ill health, the warring factions within our souls and between our peoples—and create the vision of a world of peace, a world of love. In our dance with the Mystery and with each other, we can create Heaven right here and right now.
I doubt that’d go over too well with a business-school senior looking for his or her first job in the world……..or maybe it would.