I flew to New York on the red-eye last night and am going on The View this morning. Doing a little background reading on Barbara, Joy, Rosie, and Elisabeth, it struck me how much they embody fearlessness. They are my book come to life.
Let's start with Barbara Walters. She epitomizes the idea that fearlessness is all about getting up one more time than we fall down. It's easy to look at her, one of the great icons of TV journalism, and forget her journey was marked by challenge -- and failure. But early in her career, Don Hewitt, the legendary CBS News producer, told her: "You're a marvelous girl, but stay out of television." Ouch.
She also suffered a high-profile smackdown when she left the Today Show in 1976 to co-anchor the ABC Evening News with Harry Reasoner -- the first woman to be given that lofty role. It didn't go well: Reasoner bristled at her presence, critics sniped at her million-dollar contract, viewers reached for the remote, and she was quickly removed from the anchor desk.
But she was undaunted and, 30 years later, is still racking up ratings, Emmys and high profile gets.
View newbie ("Viewbie"?) Rosie O'Donnell has also bounced back from a number of high-profile failures. There was Taboo, the disastrous Boy George Broadway musical she championed -- and the pummeling her image took during her heavily-covered fight with publishing giant Gruner + Jahr over control of Rosie magazine.
It's a fight she took on because of her belief that you "don't ever let fear rule your decisions."
It's one of the reasons she frequently talks about her four kids on The View, and has begun showing their pictures on TV -- something she had refused to do. She changed her mind in the wake of 9/11, concerned that she was sending her kids a fear-driven message about life. "You only have two choices in life: faith or fear," she explains. And she decided she wasn't going to live in fear: "If it was all over tomorrow, what a shame it would have been not to show the great joys of my life."
Elisabeth Hasselbeck's story is a perfect example of the value of pushing through even our most primitive fears. There are few fears that are more primal than the fear of starving in the Australian Outback -- and having the proceedings filmed for the amusement of millions of TV viewers back in America. But her Survivor experience brought great rewards -- taking her from a job as a shoe designer for Puma to a career as a TV host. As someone who outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted her way to the reality show's final four, she certainly understands the value of building up what I call a "fearlessness tribe" -- the friends and family we surround ourselves with who are always there for us.
Joy Behar is another great example of the idea that without embracing our fears of failure there can be no big rewards. A mother and high school English teacher who always secretly dreamed of pursuing a career in comedy, she finally took the leap in her late 30s. "I never really had the guts to do it," she says. "Then I just did it." Of course, taking that leap -- just doing it despite your fears -- does not come with the guarantee that you'll succeed. Indeed, the odds that you'll end up co-hosting The View are even smaller than the likelihood that Denny Hastert was really out of the Foley loop. But it does come with the promise that you'll be changed in profound ways -- first of all, just by being the kind of person who doesn't let fear stop them.
I also love the fact that, with the exception of Elisabeth, the hosts of The View are all over 40 and, as such, represent a great counterforce to our culture's obsession with youth. A "Women of The View" pictorial is more likely to appear in AARP The Magazine than Playboy, but that hasn't made them any less popular or influential. Advertisers take note.
Watching these fearless women doing their thing -- speaking out, kicking ass, and ruling the morning talk show roost -- and thinking about the fears and setbacks they all had to overcome to get there, is a valuable reminder that when it comes to success, the most important statistic isn't TVQ... it's PFRT (post-failure recovery time).
Update: I just finished doing The View. It was a blast -- Rosie said she'll blog on HuffPost. Don't worry if you missed it, we'll post the segment on Fearless Voices as soon as we can.
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