I’m not one for reality shows, but I can’t wait to watch this season’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” the show where (mostly) decent, well-meaning celebs take on running a business and hopefully avoid being on the receiving end of the two most brutal, venomous words in Prime-Time TV: “You’re fired.”
In past years, I watched the show to bum clever marketing ideas and watch contestants pool their resources under pressure. This year, I’m tuning in to watch the one man who, by being uniquely who he is, can probably teach me more about succeeding in business than any other source I many encounter this year. Hint: it’s not Donald Trump.
It’s Rod Blagojevich.
Yep, I’m talking about the former Illinois Governor who was impeached following his arrest for allegedly trying to sell President Obama’s old Senate seat. The man who made news again last week after Esquire Magazine quoted him as saying he’s “blacker than Obama” because he “grew up in a black neighborhood” where he “shined shoes.”
While Blagojevich’s integrity and choice of analogies may be questionable, there is no doubt the man knows how to create conversation (albeit by making ridiculous statements), generate buzz, create attention, and gain publicity–all the things which, when applied correctly, can create an incredibly successful career, life, or business.
Not convinced? Here’s what I’ve learned.
Lesson one: don’t censor yourself
Unless you’re insulting the President, prospective employers, your customers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or anyone else you want to keep in your corner.
But there are times, such as when you’re trying to be creative or looking for ways to grow your business or career, when censoring yourself is akin to suicide. Oh, how many promotions did I fail to go after in corporate America out of fear or unfounded feelings of inadequacy! In my own business, how many more blog posts, sales letters, or great web content could I write were it not for writer’s block, which is often nothing more than my censoring myself for fear that others won’t like what I have to say.
Lesson two: stand your ground
Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges in 2008, but rebuffed calls from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and President Obama to resign, arguing that he did nothing long. He was later impeached.
Takeaway one, of course, is to not break the law. The second is to stand up for what you believe. This applies to nearly everything in life, but it’s especially necessary in business, particularly when it comes to setting fees or estimating projects–common sources of headaches and discomfort for freelancers.
When a customer says, “Wow. You’re way too high,” or “Is that the best you can do?” it takes a strong conviction about who you are and what you’re worth to say, “Yes, that is the best I can do. And here’s why.”
Lesson three: be willing to make a statement. And get ready for the resultant attention
Blagojevich’s assertion that he’s blacker than Obama is offensive. And preposterous. And ridiculous.
Herein lies my problem with most so-called “experts” spewing advice on how to run your business, or career, or life. As much as I’d like to buy each new e-book or download each report promising the latest, best secrets, I won’t, because more often than not, one person’s bright idea is just someone else’s repurposed content. Ditto with most self-help and motivational literature.
They’re the same because standing apart is…well, different. Being different means people pay attention and watch what you’re doing and listen to what you say, even if it’s just to find fault with it. Being different means you have to be original. And many times, being original means you travel alone.
Lesson four: look at challenge as opportunity in disguise
The Donald. Need I say more? Blagojevich’s antics landed him a gig on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Trump himself has been quoted as saying the upcoming season will be the series’ “best ever.”
Can you imagine Blagojevich’s response to Trump’s now-famous pronouncement, “You’re fired”? I imagine the former governor sitting at the table, unflinching, his response a casual, unaffected, “I did nothing wrong. I’m not going anywhere.” And meaning every word of it. He shall not be moved.
And that’s the reason the producers sought out and cast him for the show in the first place. His authenticity–his refusal to censor his ideas for someone else’s comfort, his willingness to stand his ground, make a statement, and stand in the midst of the fallout. All are ingredients for one hell of a good reality show, but they’re also the best mix for a successful, and at the very least, impactful, business, career, or life.
As a freelance copywriter who has a real fear of being ordinary, I’ll be glued to my TV, taking notes.