You’ve heard the expression - “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I saw it again in action on Friday at What’s The Big Idea? pitch event. Everyone who pitched was a graduate of PITCH U 8 Week Intensive which trains entrepreneurs how to pitch to investors and important clients.
This particular group was unlike previous groups in that although they had great products they had almost no experience of how to present their amazing offerings. Every time they got up to pitch as a group they were unsure and halting. Because I feel responsible for people who go through PITCH U “getting it.” I was almost in despair. We rehearsed and rehearsed. I saw some improvement but not enough that investors would actually listen to them.
I was trying to figure out what else I could do and then I decided to just relax and let them do the best they could. I felt I had to change tactics and be supportive of them. Whatever they could do would be good enough. My investors are always very kind and try to support the entrepreneurs who are pitching by pointing out the best course of action for them moving forward and asking the right questions to find the information that needed to be out there.
Well, last Friday night came. I was nervous, of course. But also resigned and told them to just do their best.
The first person got up to present their pitch. And, it was really, really good. Then the next and the next and the next until all six had given their pitch. And all within the six minute limit, I might add. They blew me away with how good they all were. Each of them rose to the occasion and they used what they had learned and brought it all together at just the right time. I was amazed, happy, excited and so proud of them. The feedback from the investors was that this was a very interesting group of entrepreneurs with interesting businesses. As the entrepreneurs follow up I will know more.
The point of all of this is that whenever we need to do something even if it’s something we’ve never done before if we have to do it we find a way. It’s amazing the things we can do. That says to me that inside of us is a force, a power, an ability that can do whatever is required when it is required. Knowing that maybe we can relax more and trust ourselves to do what we need to do.Another way to say it is perhaps we need to have more faith in ourselves and the magnificent beings we are. I remember a poster from long ago that said, “God don’t make no junk!” We each are living proof of that.
What My Dad Taught Me About Work and Rising to the Occasion
Senior Media & Entertainment Correspondent at CNBC
We all have those moments where we just don’t know how we’ll get a project done, make a deadline, or get through a Gordian knot of work, family, and logistics. I certainly do. Whenever I’m find myself in a moment of panic I think about four adages that my father, Paul Boorstin, has repeated to me since I was a teenager.
He repeated them when I was struggling with chemistry homework, frustrated to be studying for college exams during winter vacations, and to keep me going during late nights when I was finishing my senior thesis. He still shares his reassuring, inspiring words when I vent about early mornings and sick kids.
A writer and documentary filmmaker, my father is like a personalized Siri for my and my sons’ random questions: What part of a skunk emits the bad smell? Which Academy Awards did Citizen Kane win? How do you say ‘I’m sorry’ in Brazilian Portugese? What's a black hole? And his knowledge of literature has informed some valuable quotes, which have imparted to me key lessons about how to have a positive attitude, to work hard, and rise to any occasion.
1. "The road is always better than the inn." ENJOY THE PROCESS
From Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote,’ my dad reminds me to focus on “the road” whenever I’m eager to get through something — a high-pressure project at work or my toddler’s teething. His, and Cervantes’ point is that it’s the process that matters. If one is just waiting to get to the final destination — and not finding ways to enjoy the trials and tribulations along the way — you’re missing the real value in life.
I might tell my dad I “can’t wait” to get through the sleeplessness of my son’s molars coming in or the pressure to meet a deadline for a big project or article. My dad will remind me that before I know it, I’ll feel sad about the void left by the end of the work project, which he suspects, rightly, I really enjoy. Teething? Before I know it I'll be bemoaning the fact that my kids are teenagers. It reminds me to stay focused on the moment and enjoy every bump in the road.
2. "The best way out is always through." DON’T LOOK FOR SHORTCUTS
This is a quote from Robert Frost, which I first remember hearing him saying when I was practicing piano in high school. There was no way to fake learning the music, or learning the periodic table. My dad’s theory: if you spend time looking for shortcuts, chances are you’re going to have to go back later and fix your messy rush at the beginning. You’re not going to save any time. So, don’t be lazy, do the work.
This was true when I tried to skip over the footnotes in research papers, with the idea that I'd deal with the most annoying part of the process later. I'd have to double back and then do three times the work.
I find this holds true more than ever in my job as a reporter on CNBC. I need to be prepared to answer any question that comes my way: by my editors after I pitch an idea or by the anchors after I present a segment on air. Most of the scripts I write are 90 seconds long, but the shorter the are, the more thought and thorough research I need before I even pitch an idea. The earlier I can do my reporting and research, the better I can synthesize ideas, and the easier it is to write a clear script or article. Now I never delay; I relish in starting the work and thought process far earlier than I *need* to.
3. "I can't go on, I can't go on, I'll go on." BE PERSISTENT
This quote that my father often repeated to me is from the last line of Samuel Beckett’s novel ‘The Unnamable:’ "You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on." The idea looms large in Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot.’ (Estragon: I can’t go on like this. Vladimir: That’s what you think.) My dad was right. Whenever I think I’ve hit my limit, I probably have more left in me.
My job is exciting and fun, but it can also be physically taxing — waking up in the dark and sprinting to a breaking news live shot in high heels. And there are definitely afternoons when my brain is so fried from listening to a string of earnings calls that I don't think I can come up with a fresh idea to propose for the next morning. That's when I think of this line, a reminder that everyone, at some point, feels themselves hitting a wall. That line prompts me to take a break, clear my head, and then get back to it.
4. “Be kind to yourself.” BEATING YOURSELF UP IS A WASTE OF TIME
This is not a quote of anyone but my father. I have a tendency to be quite hard on myself — agonizing if I missed an opportunity to ask a tough follow-up question in an interview. Left to my own devices, I can dwell on a mistake for days. But my father tells me not to: I know I can do better next time, so I should just move on. “Would I be so hard on a friend of she had messed up as I had?” my father asks. The answer is inevitably no.
Agonizing over an error in the past isn’t going to help me craft a smart idea or draw valuable nuggets out of sources. My Dad says I’m better off giving myself a break, so I can get on with the proverbial show.
I bet he’s right.
Thank you, Dad!