Sam The Cooking Guy’s Career Blast Off!
As a little boy, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. No dreams of being a doctor, lawyer, policeman—no particular desire to do anything. My uncertainty about a career direction becomes totally obvious if you look at the list of jobs I later racked up between the ages of twenty and forty: welding shop clerk, advertising agency junior account executive, assistant marketing manager of a retail sporting goods chain, pizza delivery driver (not as bad as you’d think), TV studio production assistant (worse than you’d think), frozen yogurt franchisee, real estate agent, cookware store assistant manager, biotech company director of operations, television travel show host, and biotech facilities consultant. And the list doesn’t even include the three hours I spent as a telemarketer—I couldn’t even make it to lunchtime.
With all these job changes, it came as no surprise to anyone that I was once again trying my hand at something new—this time, hosting a cooking show. Was I a great cook? No. In fact, I’d not really done much cooking at all. Did I have years of television experience? No. Was I related to a well-placed television executive who could land me a job? No. Honestly, I didn’t have much. But what I did have would ultimately become much more powerful than anything else I could put on a resume.
Fear of Failure
First, I was really ready to make a career change. I needed to change so badly that I would have done almost anything. Turns out desire is a ridiculously strong motivator. And second, I had Allison Maslan. Allison had coached me a couple of years before about making changes in my work life, but I wasn’t ready back then. It’s the old, “you-can-lead-a-horse-to-water” concept with me as the horse. Now, finally, I was ready to drink.
Starting any business is difficult and certainly full of its own challenges, but my brand new TV career brought one additional challenge that I hadn’t anticipated. This challenge was that pretty much everyone I knew though that I was making a mistake—and a big one at that. I had expected a certain amount of skepticism—I mean I was trying to go from the biotech industry to becoming the host of a TV cooking show! And then there was that pesky little thing about having virtually no experience. For friends and family to question me would have been okay—but everyone thought I was insane. And if they didn’t say this directly to me, they said it to someone I knew. The whole, “You’re-a-fool” thing came to a head the day my two oldest brothers called to ask, “What will happen when it doesn’t work?” Not “if,” but “when!” What? Where was the support? Where were the cautious yet brotherly love, advice, and counsel? After this phone conversation with my brothers, I pulled over to the side of the road and called Allison. I’ve never been in AA, but I imagined that this was what calling your sponsor would be like. I really wanted—no, make that really needed—to talk to her.
Time to Make a Change
From the beginning, Allison’s coaching was always about me finding me. And somehow she recognized a more creative Sam inside. Through her questions and our conversations, Allison started nudging me towards something that she knew I needed and would be good at. And an interesting thing happened. You know how there are bazillions of car ads every day on TV and you barely notice them? But the day you wake up and say, “Today I need to buy a car,” that’s when you start noticing? Well, finally one day I woke up and knew that it was time to make a change. And this was when everything that Allison had coached me about finally started to take root.
But on that day of my brothers’ phone call, while I sat in my car at the side of the road, Allison’s advice took on a whole new form. Her gentle probing and casual conversation, as in our past coaching sessions, was now gone, and like a coach preparing an athlete for a huge race, Allison took charge. Her advice was simple, straightforward and, well, kind of tough. She said, “They’re feeding you negative energy. Just stop talking about it, Sam. Your career changes are triggering their own fears. They can’t be supportive of you taking a risk; it’s too scary for them. Tune them out. Get back in touch with your inner focus and just do it.”
Right from the start, Allison told me to keep my new passion to myself. She said, “People will tell you that you’re not being realistic. They’ll say you’re a dreamer. There will always be people who will think you’ll fail and they’ll tell you that. And then there are those who act somewhat supportive, but also ask the questions that will make you question everything you’re working toward.” In my case, that second kind of feedback went something like this, “That’s so great that you’re going into television. How exciting! But isn’t it really complicated? And doesn’t everyone want to be on TV? And how do you even know where to start?” Five minutes with someone like that and you’ll question everything you’re doing. You’ll start thinking: “They’re right. It is complicated, everyone does want to be in this business, and I don’t know where to start.”
“But it’s not about them,” Allison counseled, “it’s about you.” She paused, then added, “Quit talking about it and quit asking people what they think because it doesn’t matter. None of that will help you, but more likely it will throw you off track. Just put your head down and keep moving forward toward your dream. Do your work, exactly as you know it needs to be done, and you’ll find success.”
Do Your Thing
So I did. I just shut up and did my thing. I created a demo tape and sent it out. I became my own cheerleader because I knew no one would do it as well as me. When I found rejection—I moved around it. I made positive steps towards what I wanted every day. And I ended up on TV. And then on more TV. And then I won a bunch of Emmys. And then ended up with a national TV show. And then the first book deal came through. And so on. All this because I found myself and what I was meant to do. I’m now happy in a way I couldn’t have imagined.
What’s special about Allison is that she saw something in me right from the very beginning. In fact, with her keen awareness, she was able to see what I couldn’t. This reminds me of a study I read about that involved two groups of people. Group A considered themselves lucky, and Group B didn’t. The study organizers had both groups walk a specific route, where $5 bills had been hidden in exactly the same places for each group. The “lucky” group found more of the $5 bills than the unlucky group. But not because they were lucky—they simply were more “aware” of their surroundings.
In her best-selling book, Blast Off, Allison details her own journey, and then clearly explains what it takes for you to find your life of passion and success. Reading it will be like sitting and talking with her. Like me, you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re really ready for a change. Because if you’re not, you won’t find the answers here or anywhere else. At the same time, different readers will be looking for different kinds of changes. For me, it was a search for happiness in a career.
Some of us find our way the minute we start looking for a change, and some of us need a little help getting our direction. I needed help, but however you succeed doesn’t really matter—just as long as you get there. Allison’s Blast Off! to Success Program, if you’re truly ready, will help you get there.
The Cooking Guy, Author, Just a Bunch of Recipes
and Awesome Recipes and Kitchen Shortcuts
Host/Producer, Just Cook This!
Discovery Health Channel
For more information on Allison Maslan’s book, Blast Off! The Surefire Success Plan to Launch Your Dreams Into Reality, click here.
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