Sunday, December 19, 2010

What Joan Rivers Taught Me About Success

There is a lot about Joan Rivers that I did not know. For one, I learned that Joan is 75 years old and her professional entertainment career spans over 45 years, beginning with a performance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Prior to the movie, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, I never really gave her much thought. I knew she was on the Celebrity Apprentice, a comedian, had one daughter, and talked about fashion on the red carpet. Today, I have a real appreciation for her and her many achievements.

It was during the credits that I started thinking about the lessons we can take from this movie. What did Joan teach me about success?

Never Stop Working
At 75, Joan is far more active than I am at 35. In the movie, we see her traveling from one city to another. She is a guest on a radio show and then at a book signing hours later. Joan will take just about any job offered and make it work for her benefit. It's amazing.

Lesson: Keep Busy
It matters not how old you are, staying active and productive helps keep you young and successful.

Success Is Not A Destination
By now, you should know that success is not a destination, it's a journey. Joan can speak from experience, as she has been to the very top of her industry and then ushered to the bottom. It's humbling, I'm sure, but she keeps getting back up.

There was a line in the movie where Joan's agent describes her career as being struck by lightening. This means that Ms. Rivers has been lucky enough to see her career revive and thrive a number of times. Her agent continues to explain that Joan is consistently outside in the rain trying to find the next lightening bolt. You can't get hit, if you're not getting wet.

Lesson: Get Back Up
Remember, even in the face of adversity and complete failure, we should find the strength to get back up. Success is not defined by a single event, but by the long-term story of personal achievements and fortitude.

Laugh A Lot
While Joan can appear crass and overly critical of others (hey, it is comedy, right?), I found that she laughs a lot. I suppose to be funny, one needs to see the comedy in every situation.

Lesson: Enjoy The Moment
The lesson is to laugh often. Look for the brighter side of everything and just be happy.

Surround Yourself With Good People
Each of us are alloted 24 hours per day. It is what we do with those hours that count.

In the movie, Joan appears to have experts surrounding her 24/7. From her personal assistant to the make-up artist in the dressing room, Ms. Rivers is able to manage her affairs through a trusted group of professionals.

Lesson: Delegate
To be successful, one needs to let go of the soloist mentality and seek to work with good people. Learn how to delegate tasks and follow through on assignments. When you get to Joan's level, doing everything alone is not feasible or wise.

In review, remember the following lessons from Joan Rivers:
  • Never stop working
  • Success is not a destination
  • Laugh a lot
  • Surround yourself with good people 
If you're curious about where to begin, I recommend that you chose one lesson to implement. Once you feel confident in its mastery, come back for another tip. Let me know how it works for you in the comment section below.

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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