I’m a firm believer that if you don’t take risks, you will likely not get many rewards. Life is tough. I even think it’s tougher today – for our kids – than it was for me/us when we grew up. I’ve written about the importance of taking risks before, but I have a very personal story to share now.
I also have my own memory of taking a risk that proved unbelievably and unpredictably prescient and literally valuable. That was during my showbiz career when, as was often the case, I was between jobs. I also was a new father. It was a tough time in my business and the job offers were not flowing.
After several months, I got a call from an old colleague – Brandon Tartikoff – who was a legend in the television business. He was taking on a new job and invited me to be his second-in-command. It was a great opportunity. However, he passed off the deal making to “the lawyers” and the point lawyer was a prick, to be kind, and tried to make “too good” a deal (from the company’s point-of-view), I suppose, to prove his negotiating skill.
Here I was, unemployed, and the deal on the table was good, but I knew it wasn’t “right.” Every day I held out for what I believed I should get AND needed (enough time to prove my ability during pilot season), the more I sweated buckets. But, I held firm. The risk that Brandon would get impatient and just go on to another candidate was ever present. Finally, I reached out to him and explained why I was holding out. I knew that was a hard call to make because Brandon didn’t like messing with deals.
But, thankfully, he called “the lawyer” and I got “my deal” shortly.
As it turned out (nearly two years later), the company was sold and everyone was let go. Had I taken the original deal, I would have been unemployed with a severance package that was negligible. By holding out, I got over a year’s pay PLUS extra stock options since the company was sold. It literally was worth the risk and it paid off in unexpected ways.
My son took a similar risk – though not in the financial arena – in his Junior year in high school.
He was “set” to be the lead in his high school plays. He had paid his dues. But, upon going to a musical at the new theater at another high school, he said he wanted to transfer to that school. He expressed that their program was stronger and the talent deeper. Ironically, it was “our” school for where we lived.
I asked him if he was really willing to give up all his established friends and his standing as the “go to” guy for the male leads at his present school. I also expressed my support for any decision he made.
He was resolute that he wanted to make the change. And, he did.
His junior year was difficult. He didn’t get any good roles in his new school’s plays. He was in the ensemble. But, he made great friends. He also didn’t get accepted into the acapella group he tried out for – the school having an award-winning program in that area.
Then, his senior year began. And, “it” all began to happen. He made the acapella group. He got parts in local young adult plays, became a stage manager for one of them (more experience), but still wasn’t getting “the” parts in his high school plays.
However, the acapella group began to get ON FIRE. First, they were featured performers at the LAAF (Los Angeles Acapella Festival) – see this compilation video at the top of this column. Then, from that performance, they were featured on one of our local television news stations. Soon, they were invited to perform at Carnegie Hall and he was accepted – early decision – for a special theatre program at Syracuse University.
Oh, and China invited the group to do a tour in their country – almost ALL expenses paid – so he and his friends are going for 2 ½ weeks as virtual guests and stars throughout China.
Those leading parts he had wanted? Who cares? Life takes us where it’s supposed to and his kahoonas paid off in dividends and experiences he NEVER would have had playing it safe. Proud dad? You bet!