After seeing Joan Rivers perform
in Las Vegas, I was disappointed at how raunchy she was.
She was so talented and smart that
I think she could
have still been edgy and funny without getting in the gutter.
Nonetheless, her climb to fame
illustrated ten timeless principles of success that can be emulated
by anyone in any field.
1. Clarity of
One of her earliest gigs was
writing for a puppet mouse that appeared on the Ed Sullivan
Show. When asked if this was beneath her, she responded “When
you're starving and have a car payment due, you go through any
door that opens”.
2. An Unstoppable Determination
Most fans remember her as a frequent guest host
of The Tonight Show. What most don’t know is that she auditioned
for the show seven times and was rejected by seven different
people before she got on.
Tragedy into Triumph
She had more than a few trials and
tribulations in her personal life, including a husband who
committed suicide and left her as a single mom in debt. Instead
of becoming a whiny victim as many people do, she found humor in
these situations and turned them into comedy gold.
4. Defying the
As a woman in a male dominated
industry, she defied conventional norms. When she did her
standup routine on The Tonight Show while pregnant with daughter
Melissa, people weren't even allowed to use the word "pregnant"
on TV. It’s hard to imagine that today when every four letter
word imaginable is used on prime time shows.
Instead of hiding the fact that
she had multiple plastic surgeries – as most people in show
business do – she brought in camera crews to document them and
used them for material in her act. She once told Barbara
Walters, “I’ve had so many plastic surgeries that when I cross
my legs, my mouth snaps open”.
6. Don't Burn
Johnny Carson single handedly
launched her career and was her mentor. Yet he was so angry when
she told him she got her own show that he hung up on her
and never spoke to her again. Carson valued loyalty and never
forgave her for keeping it a secret that she was negotiating
with a competing network. While she may or may not have been
wrong, she was careful not to burn bridges after that.
7. She Never
After launching a successful
career as a comic, she launched her own makeup line, a line of
jewelry for QVC, a daytime talk show that was far more
successful than her late night show, won Celebrity Apprentice,
became a commentator for the Oscars, and wrote 12 books.
Understood the Importance of Marketing
Less than two months before her
death, she walked off the set of an interview on CNN. The
reporter was baffled that a comedian who
offended nearly everyone would herself be so offended by a
reporter. My guess is that it was a publicity stunt, and it
worked like a charm by getting her in the news while she was
promoting her latest book.
9. She Found What She Loved
As Apple's Steve Jobs said, “The only way to be
truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the
only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Rivers
clearly did that.
10. Work Ethic
Principles 1 – 9 would be pointless without an incredible work
ethic. At age 81 and with more money than she could ever spend,
she still worked harder than most people half her age. She once
said, “If I was obscenely pushy, that is what drive is. If I
ever become somebody who stops fighting for my place in the
spotlight, I will be finished. This is what reaching the top and
staying there means.”
I’m currently reading the
biography of Benjamin Franklin, who was born over 200 years
before Rivers. It’s amazing how many of the success principles that made
him a household name were identical to those that made
Joan Rivers a household name (although I’m sure she would have
killed to have her face on the $100 bill).
Times may change, but the
principles of success never do.
To Your Success,
P.S. Dolly Parton, whom I dearly love, also adopted Rivers’
principle of transparency with plastic surgery. She says “If I
see something sagging, bagging, or dragging, I'm going to have
it nipped, tucked, or sucked”.
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