Ask the Mompreneur:
As a successful journalist and on-air personality, you're an inspiration to many. Can you share some of the obstacles that you've overcome to get where you are today?
It almost seems inappropriate for me to talk about obstacles. I grew up with a wonderful family, a mom and dad who guided me, took care of me, paid for my education and, most of all, encouraged me. My dad used to say, “I gave you kids every advantage… except disadvantage,” meaning, disadvantage can be a real driver. It teaches people how to fight.
However, I guess you could say that being born with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) was a disadvantage but my dad (who was a surgeon) diagnosed it early and said, “Ignore it. Don’t let it define ANYTHING you do.” That was the last I remember discussing it beyond going to pediatric experts who all told me, “You’ll be fine, you’ll just never be athletic.”
Luckily, I tuned that out and this Sunday I’ll compete in my 4th triathlon. I’ve also completed the New York City Marathon and I chase my two kids all over the place.
Professionally, I was rejected by the first 15 stations to which I applied as a reporter. I kept thinking, “This isn’t working, not because I’m not worthy, but because my tactics are off.” I immediately set about trying to figure out different paths to take.
I had been sending my resume tape and a paper resume with a letter. That stopped after the 15th rejection. Instead, I picked one city (Columbus, Ohio because it was first alphabetically on my list), studied it until I knew it inside and out. Imagine trying to “Olentangy River” without checking the pronunciation first! I researched all the issues facing the city and then targeted the #3 station, figuring the management there would take a chance on me. I bought my own plane ticket instead of asking them to fly me out, and it worked like a charm. I landed the job and never looked back.
Ask the Mompreneur:
What advice do you have for others for overcoming their biggest obstacles?
The number one thing is don’t blame other people for your problems. YOU are the author of your own life story. It’s up to you to write it. If you have a boss who’s standing in your way of a promotion, it’s up to you to convince that person otherwise, or figure out a different path around that obstacle. That may entail leaving, which is scary, and heading to another company that appreciates your talent. But if you stay, then it’s your fault if you’re unhappy.
There’s a great line from “Matilda: The Musical” where little Matilda has horribly mean parents and a terrible Head Master at her school and she sings a line, “Nobody but me is going to change my story.” Brilliant! It’s entirely up to you.
Ask the Mompreneur:
As a working mom, what tips do you have for work life balance, and how do you define that for yourself?
I like to say “Life/Work Balance” vs. “Work/Life Balance” because work is very important, but ‘life’ as defined by family is way more important so I like to flip the two.
Listen, it’s tough. I've got a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old and right now I’m having trouble sleeping at night because I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to handle the Fall school/ dance/ violin/ guitar/ Hebrew school schedule. I’m not a Tiger-Mom who over-schedules the kids but, minus Hebrew School, these are all activities the kids asked to do. Both my husband and I work full-time and I’m stressing about how each kid is going to be picked up at each event, and it’s not even September yet!
So the answer is, have a plan. Plan well in advance how you’ll manage things. Ask for help from other parents. I’m lucky because a lot of the families at the kids’ school lean on each other when they can’t be in two places at once. We all pick up each others’ kids and hold onto them if the parents can’t be there.
Balance is really hard for us because we also both travel so we do have a rule we try to stick to: Whoever gets their work trip on the Google Calendar first gets to go. And we live by that calendar! We also use Saturday night as “family night.”
Ask the Mompreneur:
We all get caught up with our busy lives but one thing I learned recently was that you can do well by doing ‘good.’ Meaning, doing good things for others less fortunate than us.
I had a major life epiphany July 4th of 2010. I woke up and saw an article on the front page of the New York Times about Brendan Marrocco, the first U.S. soldier to lose all four limbs in combat and survive. It happened in Iraq. They profiled him, how he’d endured 19 surgeries already and could still only barely move.
Deep into the article, the writer mentioned that a small charity on Long Island called “Building Homes for Heroes” was building him a mortgage-free, custom home that would help him live a slightly more comfortable life. I thought, “I have to help.” I found the group and have been working with them ever since to help raise money and strike partnerships so they can scale up the homes they build for the most severely disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s changed my life to work toward something like this. These veterans’ lives are inexorably changed because they raised their hand to say, “I’ll go.” They did it for all of us so this is the least I can do.
This Sunday, I’ll be doing the New York City Triathlon to help raise money for Building Homes for Heroes. A group of us at Fox Business put together a relay team and the network jumped in to help sponsor the entire race. We’re going to tackle this to make a difference. The heroes keep thanking me, but really, I’m the one thanking them. You’ve got to reach beyond your own schedule, your own problems, and your own life to help someone else. In the end, it’ll help YOU.
Jennie Wong, Ph.D. is an executive coach, author of “Ask the Mompreneur,” and founder of the social shopping startup CartCentric.com. Follow her on Twitter @DrJennieWong.