If I Knew Then What I Know Now

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on September 29, 2020

I  recently had the pleasure of tuning in to the latest “Women in Radio” Live Instagram interview with 97.1 AMP Radio’s Yesi Ortiz, hosted by Jessica Rose. A topic that is fairly common right now with a lot of the people who I work with in the business is “If I knew then what I know now.” It’s a question I often ask in interviews for my weekly column “Women to Watch.” Ironically right before the Live Instagram event, I came across a post from a fellow radio colleague with the caption “The things I know now I wish I knew at 17, that way I could’ve avoided a lot of bad decisions, pursued my dreams with no distractions and been full speed ahead. What would you tell your 17-year-old self?”

It is a good question to ask yourself, and the feelings she revealed in the caption are ones that most of us can relate to. My guess is like most of us this person doesn’t realize that she has already been in situations where she was “full speed ahead.” But life isn’t ALWAYS like that. Even Yesi acknowledged in her interview that sometimes life takes you on a different path, and things slow down, or take you in a different direction. It’s not something we can control, and that’s probably the first thing we need to teach our younger selves. You can’t control what you can’t control, so don’t try to. It will mostly lead to anxiety and despair.

In a very candid and funny interview, Yesi acknowledged that there was a certain point in her career where her success may have gone to her head, to the point where sh got called out about it and had to take a step back and say to herself, “Maybe I was trippin’,” out of fear of losing her job. At least that’s the impression she got when she received the inevitable message which started with “Per my last e-mail.” It was a critical point in her career when she realized that in a professional environment, ego cannot cloud your judgement. That’s an important lesson to learn early in a radio career.

She also made some good points about things she wished she had known all along. Like how important self-care and mental health are to success. Therapy is a good thing, she added. A few more tips from her: It’s important to know what you bring to the table financially and how you can help to do so, and we’re not saving lives with what we do. All things I strongly agree with.

Often when it comes to difficult situations that make us feel like we have failed, we try to find the lesson learned in the experience. Jessica Rose shared a very emotional experience with the audience during the interview about working with someone who was extremely difficult (narcissistic) and how as hard as she tried, it still fell apart. She’s still trying to figure out the lesson. I think we all have those situations where we can relate. You know it’s not the right situation to be in, you are set up to fail, but you are so passionate and so hard headed that you try TOO HARD to make it work and it ends up blowing up in your face.

Twice in my life I have experienced those kinds of situations, and even in my older years, it took me a while to figure out what the lesson was from them. I over analyzed and made myself crazy trying to figure out why things didn’t work out, or what the lesson was, until it finally hit me. The lesson I learned was “this is the type of manager or leader I never want to become.” The examples set by my managers in these situations were traits I never wanted to adopt in my management style. Insecurity, Unethical, Judgmental, Dishonest, I could go on and on. But my point is, sometimes the lessons aren’t obvious and as frustrating as this lesson was, I realize now why it’s one of the most important ones I have learned over my 20 plus years of experience in the radio business. It is perfect for the role I currently have. Now, when I talk to young talent, I can tell if they are being unreasonable about their managers, or if their managers are really bad at leadership. That gives me the opportunity to step in and help guide talent who need it or explain to them the business side of things which impact the way certain managers lead or make decisions. I have an impact, and for the first time in a long time I feel fulfilled in a business that is a roller coaster every day.

Let’s face it, we can’t go through life without learning lessons and having setbacks, but take it from someone who’s been in the business for a while, when you do figure out what the lessons are, a whole new world opens up for you and you start to see things in a different way. It will help you make better decisions for yourself and your career. So, here’s a little cheat sheet from an old pro and Yesi, via Instagram Live:

If I knew then what I know now:

    • A little bit of Ego is good in a competitive landscape, but an Obnoxious Ego has no place in a professional environment. Everyone is replaceable. (Especially Now!)
    • The job does not love you back so take care of yourself physically and mentally.
    • Therapy is a good thing
    • Learn from challenging situations by determining the kind of person/leader you want to be vs. learning bad habits from bad managers.
    • It starts at the top, so if you want to succeed, be an example.
    • Learn every role you possibly can in the business. The days of being a one trick pony are over. The more you learn, the faster you excel and the more valuable you are.
    • Do not be afraid to network. Surround yourself with the kind if success you want to achieve.
    • Filter everything you post on social media. Ask yourself “Is this the kind of image I want to present to the world?”
    • People who set you up to fail are insecure or underqualified. Do not give them power or engage in their drama. Know when to read the room and when to get the hell out.