I watched Ann Curry’s exit from The Today Show at the end of June with painful fascination. As I noted in “The Case for Reinvention”, I’m not someone who normally watches morning shows. Ann’s patience and poise in finally ascending to the permanent host role was inspiring to me.
It was those reasons that made her downfall so awful. In her farewell video, you could empathize with her. The embarrassment of having failed. And especially her disappointment in herself.
I’m hoping Ann Curry changes her mind about her circumstances. She may not have been the perfect employee, or maybe everything the Today Show was hoping for. Yet I felt for her because I’ve made her mistake again and again. What I’ve come to think of as The Million Dollar Question. Dr. Darren Weissman likes to ask people he counsels, “If you could create things any way you want, would you create it like this?” Invariably the answer is “no”. And then the work begins to shift the internal belief as well as the external circumstances.
Like many people, I’ve been the “if only” girl so many times. We’ve all heard variations of these excuses. “Things will get better when the new VP starts.” “We’re just not connecting…right now.” “I would love this house if the neighbors acted differently towards me.” All of these moments happened to Ann Curry. There were rumors in the press that Matt Lauer openly disliked her and perhaps planted negative stories. She transitioned from working on news stories to puff pieces including dressing like the royals during Prince William’s wedding last year. And in the end, she didn’t necessarily receive the respect or acknowledgement she deserved (Meredith Vieira’s good-bye tribute show was 2 hours; Ann received 5 minutes).
Take a minute to go back to Darren Weissman’s statement, “Would you ever create it like this?” Would you ever choose to be in an environment where co-workers were openly hostile to you? To work for management who didn’t back you up? Or to do work which was not necessarily that interesting? In the past, I’ve always thought, “Well, nothing’s permanent – things will change eventually.” This is true, but think about it the opposite way for the moment. What if things had never changed, or taken years to shift?
I’m sure Ann Curry is still processing what her new life will look like. I have no idea where things will go, but I’m bullish on her. (And as an aside, it’s interesting to note that her successor, Savannah Guthrie, is having migraines less than a month after starting.)
Someone once asked former GE Chairman, Jack Welch, for the best business advice he ever received. Surprisingly it came from his mother, not some famous business titan. It bears a passing resemblance to Darren Weissman’s million dollar question. “Jack – see things for what they are…not as you want them to be.”