Lesson #353: Learning to slay with Andy Cohen.

7/8/15.

Does Andy Cohen really need any introduction?

The author, executive producer of The Real Housewives franchise, and host of Watch What Happens Live on Bravo is well known for his sense of humor, his style, and his bold personality. Andy has written three books, was the head of development at Bravo for over ten years, and continues to rock out as the host and executive producer of his own late night talk show.

And did I mention he’s won an Emmy?

Lucky for myself and a group of other interns in Los Angeles and New York, we got to listen to him, speak with him, and ask him questions.

I promised myself when I started taking down all of the great things Andy was saying that I would only choose one to write about.

But seriously, who was I kidding?

We all know I can’t do that by now. Plus—there’s always room for more lessons, right? ;)

Andy is actually just as hilarious in person as he is on camera. But what you may not know or see is just how hardworking, motivated, and dedicated he is behind the scenes.

Here’s 10 incredible things I learned from Andy Cohen.

Is it too early to drop the mic?

1. “Be motivated and aggressive, but in a decent way.” 

Andy Cohen started his career as an intern at CBS news alongside Julie Chen. He said that he would literally get in wherever he could in order to learn whatever he could. Andy laughed as he told us he would snoop around to see where the soaps taped. “I would bust through any door I could just to watch what was happening,” he recalled.  Later on in his career, Andy decided to go out on a limb and directly ask— “What do you think about me being on camera?” It didn’t happen right away, of course. In fact, he did a million other jobs before then. But the moral of the story is: if you want something, ask. You never know who could help. You never know what could happen.

2. “You can’t have the authority to say or do something if you haven’t done it.”

Andy stayed at CBS News for 10 years. He started as a desk assistant and moved around the company. He got experience in the edit room, the control room, on the field, answering phones, etc. He practiced wearing a variety of hats, and when the time came to be a producer, he wouldn’t just be able to say, “I want to be a producer,” he had the ability to say, “I know how to be a producer.” Much like we’ve learned from many other people and speakers and guests this month, if you want to be somethingbe it. And if you can’t “be it” on your own terms, then get experience that directly relates to it.

3. “If you don’t get something, it’s actually for a reason. And it will lead you to somewhere you’re supposed to be.”

Even after all of his experience at CBS, Andy Cohen didn’t get his first dream job he applied for. When he was denied the position to be the network runner of a new channel called Trio, he thought it was the end. But one thing led to another, he was introduced to Bravo through a person he knew—and seriously—just look at where he is now. Might I point you to the first two paragraphs again? Keep dreaming. Seriously!

3. Set yourself apart. 

Yea, you’re cool and all. But are you different? When Andy first became a producer at Bravo, he made it a point to be unique. But how? He thought: “I’m going to be the only producer blogging for a network, and I’m going to do it every single day.” (I am Andy Cohen… surprise) The blog was hilarious, and people loved it. It opened the door for him within the network and later contributed to him landing his own show. He had personality—and it was recognized.

4. Has anyone ever told you about—I don’t know—good communication?

People tell us “having good communication skills” is important, and they tell us constantly. We hear it from the day we start applying to our first internships and jobs, to family members (and non-family members… I don’t know which is worse) lecturing us about relationships at wedding receptions, to the inevitably basic advice we receive during our first class public speaking class. If you’re not as sick of hearing about it as I am, then you should receive an award.

And maybe a little gold star too.

I can’t pretend like I’m good at it, because I’m not. I like to hold conversations with anyone and everyone—from a friend to a stranger on the bus. But that’s not necessarily good communication—that’s just talking. When it comes to asking for what I want or breaking the bad news or talking about a problem or anything up that alley?

Hi. I’ll be in the corner, trying not to barf.

When people say the words “good communication,” I instantly think: “Seriously. What even is this ‘good communication’ you speak of? And what exactly does it entail? What does it actually even mean?”

And I think Andy was the first one to actually answer it for me.

(He’s a good communicator, clearly)

He said this:

“Be able to communicate clearly, concisely, and decisively—about what you want, and why you want it.”

If I could underline this a million times, I would.

Spit it out!

What do you want?

And the real key to being a good communicator…

why do you want it?

5. Speaking of what you want…

We’re not talking about your dream job, or dream significant other, or the $10 bathing suit bottom you just saw on sale.

We’re talking about the task at hand.

Andy said you need two things to do it,

and two things to do it well.

1) A strong sense of vision. What do you want? What do you not want?

2) A strong sense of the brand. What are you like? What fits you? And if it’s for a company—what fits them?

In other words?

Know yourself and know what you’re working with.

6. How do you balance—well—life?

I had the opportunity to ask Andy a question, and you could probably guess what it was.

“You do a lot of things: from writing, to producing, to hosting—to now starting on a new project in the fall. As someone who wants to do a lot of things as well, how do you balance—well—life?”

Andy paused, laughed, and then said: “…I really don’t know.”

After a giggle from myself and the audience, he told me four of the most powerful words—and four words that I needed so badly to hear.

“Work deadline to deadline.”

7. You will receive criticism, whether you like it or not.

It’s inevitable. You’ll receive positive feedback and negative feedback and see bad comments and hear horrible things. That’s just the way it goes. “You have to let it roll off of you,” Andy said. He told us to not let the good stuff go to our heads, and to not let the bad stuff derail us. “Consider who it’s coming from and go from there.”

8. Monitor your breath, always.

When someone asked Andy: “What’s the number one advice you would give an intern, if you could only say one thing?” He replied with this. Seriously.

“Monitor your breath. Always,” he said.

Everyone laughed.

“I’m dead serious.”

He told us it’s the absolute worst first impression you can leave with someone.

The stank may not last, but that memory of you does forever.

9. Do you, boo boo.

“Focus,” Andy said. “Don’t get too political or backstabby or crazy. Just make sure whatever work you’re doing is good.” That’s what really matters.

10. Be #you. 

You are you! You’re your own brand. You’re own person. And that makes you awesome in itself. Andy told us, “I try to be myself and not think about it too hard.” He said people can always tell when you’re not being yourself. One thing he always remembers is what (he thinks) Oprah once said: The key to being great on TV is being the same you on camera as the you off camera. One of the most important things you can do is work somewhere that allows you to be yourself. This applies to every industry and every person—no matter who you are.

Now, I know I said I would tell you ten things.

But I think I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice from Andy as good luck.

11. “Swing as many times as you can before you find where you want to be.”

Like Andy said,

follow your bliss.

And if you keep working towards it,

you’ll be just fine.

Day 353.

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One thought on “Lesson #353: Learning to slay with Andy Cohen.

  1. Pingback: Lesson #363: You can’t make them understand. | A Year of Lessons.

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