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Intelligence for Your Career: Lessons From John Tesh

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2013-05-16-johntesh.jpgThe entertainer John Tesh was once quoted as saying he's really not that busy.

If the host of the syndicated radio program Intelligence for Your Life didn't feel squeezed for time, I figured the rest of us could learn something. He joined us on our own syndicated radio program, The Career Clinic, a while back -- and this is how I'd summarize his recipe for a successful career.

1. Find work you love.

"Ask five people who aren't in your immediate family what they see you doing," John suggests. "Ask your gym teacher, your creative writing teacher, your pastor."

He says when he did that exercise nobody responded with, "I see you reading celebrity birthdays on TV," a reference to his ten-year stint on Entertainment Tonight.

"They all told me they saw me behind a grand piano," John says, "playing with an orchestra."

Which is how he saw himself, too. Which is why leaving ET to pursue music full-time wasn't that difficult for him.

2. Do work you love, and pass on the rest.

John knows what's important to him -- his family, his music, his radio show -- and says no to most everything else. Like Celebrity Apprentice, for example -- and Dancing With the Stars. He's flattered by the requests, but usually leaves them at that.

3. Angst is a leavening agent.

I was struck by how willing John was to admit he has doubts. "I worry a lot about what people think," he says. "I worry people think I'm not helping them enough, that they don't like my music, that I'm playing a song too fast or talking too fast. I worry my wife isn't happy with our relationship..."

There's more. "I'm afraid somebody's going to take my career away from me," he says. "That it's going to go away, or I'm going to get fired."

Can you imagine?

I can.

And it makes me think angst -- in small doses, at least -- is just part of the deal. You may not believe how many successful people worry about being impostors. The Pulitzer-prize winning Dave Barry comes to mind, in an interview he did for The Career Clinic: Eight Simple Rules for Finding Work You Love. "I periodically announce that I can't do it anymore," Dave told me, "because I suck at it."

4. You can be wildly successful...and nice.

When I told a girlfriend I'd interviewed John she couldn't wait to respond with her opinion of him. "Nicest guy ever!" she wrote. She'd been to one of his concerts, and John had teased her boyfriend about proposing to her. By the end of the evening he'd suggested the three of them "hug it out" -- and sure enough, the photograph she sent me is evidence they did.

5. Surround yourself with people who are really, really good at what they do.

John credits the success of his radio show to the many professionals on his team. To the extent I'm getting anywhere with my own show, it's because of the people I interview. The better the guest, the more enthusiastic and the more helpful, the better I sound. It's almost as if they lift me up. Kind of like how you're supposed to feel in church.

Which is the feeling John left me with: inspired. He doesn't want to be remembered as the guy who read celebrity birthdays on TV. I don't want to be remembered as the gal who took in all this inspiration and didn't do her best to share it with you.