What Megyn Taught Me

Phot credit to Beebe Brecht

I’m a (recently) reformed political junkie. I don’t know if it was the circus-like campaign of 2016, which seemingly hasn’t ended or my own declaration (if you follow my blogs) to get a ton of goals accomplished this year, but I’ve lost my appetite for 24/7 political barrage.

Just a few weeks ago, I jumped at every new notification from my multiple news apps. I flipped from cable news station to station listening out for the latest tidbit. I followed all of the “insiders” on Twitter so I could catch the breaking stories.

Nowadays? Meh. I don’t care, friends. I’ve moved on. I’ve turned off the notifications and unfollowed the pundits. I’m a happier man. One story that couldn’t be silenced is the drama surrounding Megyn Kelly’s leap from stardom at Fox News into an uncertain and hyper-competitive future with NBC.

Yes, I said I’m reformed so stick with me a minute. This article has little to do with politics, at least not the kind that will get you elected to office. I’m also not interested in political ideology, because it’s besides the point. What I want to cover is what I’ve learned from an incredibly driven, self-assured, and fearless woman.

I believe that all winners share these qualities. If you’re having a career or professional struggle, I believe the following traits exhibited by Kelly will help you tremendously.

Guts: What are you willing to risk?

Kelly was not always a journalist. She practiced law as a corporate litigation attorney for several years before hitting a brick wall. In her own words, she was poised for partnership at the big firm with the brass ring when she realized there was someone inside of her crying out for something greater than the high-paying, but soul-crushing law gig.

The irony is that Kelly had tested high in aptitude for journalism in high school. She applied to the Syracuse School of Journalism, got accepted to the university, but not the journalism program. She majored in political science instead and then went to law school.

When the moment of truth arrived, she cut bait with the law career and started fresh in her mid-thirties in a completely new world. Ask yourself: Would you do that? Would you pull over from your drive in one direction, turn around and head into the complete unknown? It was a gutsy move and one that someone reading this post needs to make this year.

It worked out pretty good for Megyn. I bet the School of Journalism would like to claim her now.

Photo by Fortune.org via Flikr

High Standards: How high do you set your bar?

According to Kelly, one of her favorite mantras is the famous quote by actor and comedian, Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” She also cites Oprah Winfrey as a model of someone who pulled herself up by the bootstraps, without complaining or playing the victim.

This is a theme that you will find in all high achievers. They have little time to obsess over the competition or what other people are saying. They are always playing against the ridiculously high standards they set for themselves. I believe it’s Tony Robbins who said (essentially) that in order to raise your life, you have to raise your standards. Let that one percolate for a little.

Toughness: Can you take a punch?

If you’re a (former) news junkie like me, then you’ve seen some of the on-screen showdowns Kelly’s had with powerful people. There’s been tough interviews with people on both sides of the aisle, but a few are memorable because some of these folks were viewed as untouchable on conservative Fox News where she ascended.

There’s the infamous face-off with Karl Rove over the Obama reelection in 2012, her dust-up with Newt Gingrich over the Donald Trump sexual assault allegations, and grandest of all, when Kelly jumped all over the President Elect during last year’s primaries. She suffered massive blowback from the incident, but handled it like a pro and even met with Trump afterward in their version of a “beer summit.” Off-camera, she’s equally tough, taking a difficult but principled position against her former mentor, Roger Ailes. Many in her camp didn’t have the courage to do the same.

Empathy: Do you care?

Looking at Kelly from a distance, you could guess at her makeup based solely on her ability to thrive in the New York and national media shark tank. One thing that surprised me about her, but in retrospect, makes a lot of sense is her empathy and connection with her audience. You can’t always perceive it on camera, but it animates her internally.

Kelly’s father was a college professor. She was exposed to many high-level, intellectual conversations, but never related to them. She always wanted to talk to the people — to relate to them on their level — not to talk over them in college-speak.

This is not as intuitive or as easy as it sounds. Most of us talk past our customers, our prospects, even our own families. Great communicators connect. That requires empathy. It requires a genuine interest in the other person. When done right, it’s super-nova powerful.

How well do you connect with your customers? Do you speak the same language? Is the relationship transactional or have you met them at their level?

Megyn will have to do this all over again in her new job. It’s a whopping challenge that has every chance of being a spectacular bust. Many have already pooh-poohed the deal. It was a huge risk, but you have to risk to grow. Whether it was leaving the law firm and starting over from scratch or jumping ship with millions of dollars and viewers at stake, it’s all the same.

Believe in yourself. Roll the dice. It’s the only way to grow. You’ve only got one life. That’s what Megyn taught me.

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