Ep 286: How To Break Through The Noise with Lindsay Czarniak

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You never know how your current job could be preparing you for your next opportunity, which is why it’s so important to learn everything you can from your present position.

Today on the show we get together with Lindsay Czarniak, an Emmy and Gracie Award-Winning Broadcaster, to talk about her career, breaking through the noise, and what she’s learned from competing in such a male-dominated field.

Tuning in you’ll hear about the pivotal moments and relationships that shaped Lindsay’s career, why there’s no such thing as an overnight success and her thoughts on why there are moments in her career that make much more sense looking back than they did when she was in the thick of it.

Lindsay also shares how taking a risk led her to achieve her big break, how she learned to trust her gut, and why it’s so important to have a student’s heart. It was such a delight having Lindsay on the show, not only is she an accomplished broadcaster with a multitude of talents, but she is also an incredibly humble and down-to-earth person. For a ton of profound insights, valuable advice, and a peek behind the scenes of Lindsay’s life, make sure you tune in today!

KEY POINTS FROM THIS EPISODE

  • Introducing today’s guest Lindsay Czarniak.
  • How Lindsay has found ways to stand out in a male-dominated field.
  • The role that Lindsay’s dad played in her career choice.
  • Lindsay shares the relationships and pivotal moments that shaped her career.
  • Why there is no such thing as overnight success.
  • The moments that led to what Lindsay considers to be her ‘big break’.
  • How Lindsay’s career has affected her romantic relationships.
  • Why naivety can sometimes be a strength in your career.
  • Lindsay’s decision to go back on a career choice she made.
  • How that decision affected her professional relationships.
  • How to build a strong reputation that can withstand making a tough decision.
  • How the level of competition grew when Lindsay joined ESPN.
  • Best practices for how to be yourself on camera.
  • Why you shouldn’t memorize everything you want to say.
  • How to build a strategy for being conversational.
  • Why being conversational helps you to be more authentic on camera.
  • The incredible story of how Lindsay won her Gracie award.
  • Why being authentic is so effective for creating compelling content that resonates.
  • Lindsay answers our rapid-fire questions: discover her favorite music video, her love for fishing, and the show she’d love to host.

TWEETABLE MOMENT

“We are sort of coming up in the traditional old school era of this. But some of the younger professionals who are coming up as entry-level, or they may be a step above that, I do find that they’re not afraid to talk a lot more about what they need in terms of mental health.” — @lindsayczarniak [0:28:23]

“I had already made up my mind that I’m going to push for this. And I just have to be ready for what comes and then go. ” — @lindsayczarniak [0:33:15]


“You are never memorizing the words that you’ve written out in sentences, but what you’re memorizing are the passion points of what you wanna talk about because people really just wanna see people who are real.” — @lindsayczarniak [0:42:55]

About Lindsay Czarniak

Emmy Award and Gracie Award-winning broadcaster Lindsay Czarniak is a FOX NFL reporter and FOX NASCAR contributor. Since 2021, she handles NFL game reporting duties alongside play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert and analyst Jonathan Vilma.

Prior to joining FOX Sports, Czarniak worked at ESPN, anchoring “SportsCenter,” “SportsNation” and “NASCAR Now.” During this time, she became the first woman to host the network’s coverage of the Indianapolis 500 on ABC.

Czarniak hosts a weekly podcast titled “The Artist and the Athlete with Lindsay Czarniak,” in which she explores the intersection of sports and music and pairs an iconic sports figure alongside a renowned musician for an intimate, wide-ranging conversation.

LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

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Rory Vaden

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Take the Stairs

Brand Builders Group

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The Influential Personal Brand Podcast on Stitcher

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RV (00:07): Hey brand builder, Rory Vaden here. Thank you so much for taking the time to check out this interview as always, it’s our honor to provide it to you for free and wanted to let you know there’s no big sales pitch or anything coming at the end. However, if you are someone who is looking to build and monetize your personal brand, we would love to talk to you and get to know you a little bit and hear about some of your dreams and visions and share with you a little bit about what we’re up to to see if we might be a fit. So if you’re interested in a free strategy call with someone from our team, we would love to hear from you. You can do that at brand builders, group.com/pod call brand builders, group.com/pod call. We hope to talk to you soon. AJV (00:54): Hey, y’all and welcome to another episode on the influential personal brand. This is AJ Vaden. One of your co-hosts and I am so excited to have our guests on the show today. Lindsay is a newer friend of mine, but we have a really good friend in common Stephanie show stack. And as Stephanie was so kind to introduce us a couple of months ago, and ever since then we’ve had emails and conversations and honestly, Linda, like one of those people that as soon as you have a conversation, it kind of feels like we’ve been friends for a really long time, even though we just met a couple of months ago. And I love that about you. I agree. I think that’s so awesome. All right, so everybody, I’m gonna give you a super high kinda background on who is Lindsay Sarnia, and then I’m gonna let her introduce herself, but here are some of the professional accolades that you should know is that she is both an Emmy award and a Gracie award-winning broadcaster. AJV (01:56): She has been on NFL reporter with Fox, a NASCAR contributor, which means so awesome being from the south, you know, there’s always good NASCAR. I love around here. But she was also with ESPN for the best part of half of a decade. She was anchoring sports and sports nation NASCAR. Now she was the first woman to host the network’s coverage of Indianapolis 500 on E NBC. I mean, I could go on and on and on. She was, had this awesome podcast. She’s an artist, a future children’s book illustrator, which you said, just talking about. But also I think this is really cool. It’s like you didn’t just kind of fall into the world of sports broadcasting and journalism. You kind of grew up in that, right? Cuz your dad was a sports editor and a reporter. You’re also an athlete yourself. AJV (02:52): You played college lacrosse and field hockey. I mean I could go on and on and on. It’s like a two page highlight reel of all things Lindsay Sarnia but that’s just a high level and those are really just the professional things, not the personal things about who you are. And I’ll just tell everyone listeners, if you were just tuning in, stick around for this interview Lindsay is so down to earth. She’s so humble. She’s so cool. And she’s also done things in a very male dominated world, but somehow find found a way to break through the noise and really stand out in a pretty, I would say busy and noisy space and a really competitive one. So if you wanna figure out how to stand out, you need to stick around and listen to this episode. So Lindsay love show, oh my gosh. LC (03:42): I don’t even know how to follow that up, AJ. That was so nice. so, so appreciated. Thank you. No, I, and I feel the same way. I, first of all, when my friends, Stephanie first mentioned you, I, anyone Stephanie like tries to put me in, you know, in connection with I’m like, yes, listen, because she’s just so down to earth, you know, and just so great, but it really has been great to get to know you a bit. And and I’m, I love what you do. I think you’re, you know, I love I’m this stage, especially right now where it’s just like empowerment is everything. And I think also like elevating women specifically is just so important and all of it. And I think we’re in a day and age now where I see this so much as like just how your brand really matters, you know, and in all sorts of different ways. So thanks for what you do. And I’m really excited to be here with you. AJV (04:32): Oh, well the feeling is mutual. This has been so fun. Alright, so I’m gonna start with this same question I ask every single guest and this is really your chance to help our audience get to know you, but also kind of give us a highlight reel of how did you get to where you are in such a fiercely competitive industry. One that’s not saturated with lots of women. I imagine there’s been lots of peaks and valleys through this journey, but you have ended into this really amazing place and created a really amazing reputation for yourself that you are now going to be able to take and leverage through these all, all these amazing things. So I just wanna like give us a background story. AJV (05:22): Like where did you start and how did you get to where you are? LC (05:25): Thank you so much. I I mean on when I think about that and that question, I think about one specific moment in my career journey, because it was the moment that for me really was the pivot point that I didn’t, I never saw coming. I didn’t expect it. And it was so random because I simply joined some folks from my TV station I was working at to go take in a NASCAR race. Okay. So that’s where this whole thing took place and I’ll, I’ll get to that in a second, but I really do, as I look back the things that I think have helped me get to this place where I am now is it’s really all about the relationships. I mean, I, I really, and I don’t mean relationships of who, you know, to get to where you are. LC (06:16): I mean, the way you treat people, I really do believe that. And I think that that is so important and every step I’ve taken along the way at every different job I have had, I’ve, I’ve seen some example of that. I feel like from someone who has been either a mentor or someone just that I looked up to and I really, really believe in that I started out you know, I graduated from James Madison university. I wanted so badly to move to New York because I wanted to be on MTV . And that was what, that was my, there was something so strong that connected me to that little TV set in the back of my grandparents’ house when I would watch MTV, cuz we did not have cable yet in Virginia and I would watch it at my grandma’s house. And I swear like music videos just spoke to my heart, like something in that sort of triggered this desire to like be just creative and to wanna, you know, be in front of a camera I think, and also to be a storyteller. LC (07:15): I think, you know, how you look back at different parts of what you’ve done and you’re like, oh wow, well that was what was getting me ready for this. Or that’s the first place that I experienced this. So I didn’t get a job in New York and out of college, I was trying to figure out where I, where I wanted to go. I had whittled it down to, I either wanted to work in like film. I was really interested in writing and I thought, well, maybe I could learn how to be a writer. And then eventually like create screenplays or I definitely, I have a passion for art and I thought, well, maybe I wanna go the direction to be, you know, an animation somehow and all that. But somewhere along the line, my senior year of college we had an opportunity to do a TV show. LC (07:56): And within that class, basically it was a practicum. We had to learn every single part of putting on a TV show of a broadcast. And when it was my week to do the hosting with a co-host, that was it like that’s all I needed. I was so hooked. I loved every second of it. I would’ve stayed in class for five hours if you could’ve let me, like, I was just so into what we were doing. It like lit something up inside of me and I was, and, and honestly I wanted to be like the music review person on our show. I just I’ve always had this interest and connection in like music and the way music makes people feel and the power it has. And it’s funny cuz now I see that also in sports, but to get to my pivot point. So I left JMU, I got a job at CNN in Atlanta and it was a behind the scenes job. LC (08:46): They have a program where you can start out and you’re called a video journalist and you start out, it’s all for kids that have come in recently graduated and you’re doing these entry level roles. Right. So I was really lucky to like to land one of those spots. But that also when I think back I’m like, man, I sat there on my computer. We barely had internet. I was like, just looking up these jobs. I don’t even know how I did it. And, but like somehow I found that job. So I moved to Atlanta and then being there at CNN, you know, I realized, yes, this is the industry that I wanna like definitely continue in, but I’m obviously not going to be on air and really earn like hone those reporter chops being at CNN. So I put together a tape. I helped like really by leaning on people that I was working with and being like, Hey, can I come in on a Saturday or can I come in on my day off and just rewrite this story that someone did and you can critique me or maybe I can pay my camera crew that really works at CNN, but I would pay them with six packs of beer in my grandma’s cookie and I’d be like, can you go shoot a stand up for me outside in Atlanta? LC (09:52): You know? And like I can, and then I would, I would pay an editor basically to put it together for me. And that’s how I put my tape together. And I ended up working in Jacksonville, Florida. That was my first on air job. And I really thought I wanted to do news at that point because I, I never saw sports on my radar. I loved sports. My dad was a sports journalist, but that wasn’t my, like not what, what really fueled me. Right. I was like, I wanna be a news reporter anchor, or I wanna do entertainment, something within that. Anyway. So I got a job news reporter in Jacksonville and around a year into that job, which was great, but it was great because it was the morning show. I could mess up a ton, which I did. And not that many people saw me. LC (10:39): like, it was a great way to cut your teeth. You know, and my photographer I was with every morning was this really gruff, former NFL, like defensive lineman, who would, he was just great. His name was Mike Ru. And he was like teaching me. And they gave him all the new people, but he also scared me to death because we would be on, on stories. And sometimes there would be police tape and he would just kind of walk right through it. And I was like, oh my God, like we’re gonna get in so much trouble. But it was really a great experience. And along that same time, I went with a friend of mine to Daytona because we lived not that far from Daytona in Jacksonville. And one night we were at a restaurant and we happened to meet a, a group of people. LC (11:26): It was men and women. We were hanging out with, it was a concert. We were where they were playing. And these guys happened to be with speed channel and speed channel was a channel that put on racing. And from that one interaction, they knew I was reporter. And in February, a few months later, Dale Earnhardt senior died the legendary race car driver. And they called me because I had met them and they said, we need reporters to talk to fans about what he meant to them. And we know you’re in Jacksonville, are you available? Could you come work for us? And my station, let me do it. And so that became this random thing where that snowballed into, Hey, we have an opening for a pit reporter in our really entry level racing series called ACA, are you available? And at the time in Jacksonville, they were like, well, yeah, if it’s on your weekends and you wanna go do it, go do it. LC (12:17): So I worked 13 weekends out of the year going and leaving my news job to go be this pit reporter. And I knew nothing about racing. I mean, I was walking into the garage being like, I mean, I can’t even tell you how green I was. And like what an idiot. I probably looked like asking the questions I was asking, but anyway, really to wrap this up, cuz now I’m so sorry. This answer’s like seven minutes. I. AJV (12:41): That’s awesome though. LC (12:42): Well, the station that I was working at where I was a news reporter that probably my last year there, they were going to cover the sports department. The guys were going to cover one of the races at Daytona and they were like, Hey, we know that you’re into racing. If you wanna come with us and just help us out. I was like, I would love to, I would love to go to Daytona. LC (13:03): I don’t have anything that day. Let me come do, I’ll just carry your equipment and bring you water, whatever. So we’re in victory lane waiting for the driver who won the race to interview him. And this camera crew from Miami, we we’re just talking, cuz we’re waiting. And we strike up this conversation and we were waiting for like an hour and near the end of the conversation, they were like, you know, we actually have an opening in our sports department in Miami. And the main part of that job would be to cover the dolphins. But we think that maybe you’d be really a good fit with us and would love for you to put your tape in. And I was like, what? That’s ridiculous. It’s sports. It’s not like that’s. They were like, well you’d be our third sports anchor. And anyway, so that was it. LC (13:46): Like I had I not gone to Daytona, had I not gotten that elevated interest in racing because of that meeting by happenstance in Daytona when I was just there on a weekend with one of my girlfriends none of that would’ve happened. And so I do think when I think back to my path, a lot of it is saying yes and just going for it, but also listening to that little nudge of, yeah, try this. Like don’t, you know, like, I guess in a way it’s like finding your gut and I used to be really, really, really horrible at that, but now I figured out how to identify it. Which is a whole different story in itself anyway. Wow. I know, I think there’s a lot of insight into that and you know, it’s like I literally pulled out my notebook and started taking notes because I think these are the great stories that are so often never told. AJV (14:42): And that’s what I love so much about getting to do conversations. Like this is a great reminder for both me, but also every single person listening that there is no such thing as an overnight success, you know, it’s like, I think the biggest challenge that we face in this world of instant gratification is we compare our step one to your step 1000. Yeah. Somehow think right. You know, we see Lindsay on ESPN or covering the Olympics or doing all these amazing things. And it’s like, oh, I wanna do that. But what we forget is, oh no, no, you started behind the scenes doing nothing on TV and working double time on the weekends, keep people in six packs of beer and saying yes to your weekends, giving up, you know, a third of your free time to go. What’s next? What’s next? Just saying yes. AJV (15:35): And it’s like, I was trying to count like how many moves you made before you got to be doing what you’re doing? Like that’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of commitment over a lot of years. And we it’s a lot. LC (15:49): That became like a in, in our industry. I think a lot of people have a similar background with that. And I, but I I’m always intrigued to hear people’s path and when they stopped because you do really, you know, the traditional path is that you’re hopping and you’re, you know, and I think also with that something you said made me think about expectations. That’s a really big lesson that I have learned and that I think for young people or folks coming up really in any industry, other people’s expectations, you know, it took me a long time before I realized like, oh, that wasn’t, that’s really what they thought. LC (16:33): I thought I should be doing that because that’s what everyone was saying. Or I can identify when people have said something that I got really excited about because I felt like maybe they were giving me an expectation or like they were giving me confidence by saying, oh no doubt. You’ll be here in 10 years. No doubt you’ll be there. And then what happens when you get to that point and your path has been different? Like there are so many ways that I think you can let expectations that other people have just kind of soak in there. Like we don’t even do it intentionally. You just, so I think that’s a practice that I have tried to figure out ways to squash is what are my expectations? What are like now that that life bulb went off for me. What, how do you in a healthy way, live with what my expectations really are for myself. AJV (17:23): And I think if I had learned that earlier, maybe I wouldn’t have been so neurotic and paranoid over stuff because also part of it is like those steps, most of them early on in my career, it’s like this drug, you’re like, oh yes, I got an offer from this place and you’re moving up and that’s the traditional measure of success. But there are definitely moves in there where it was like, this, this didn’t feel like a move up. This actually felt like a failure, but it’s gotta set you up for the thing that you don’t know because you’re not in charge. , you know? Ah, so I really do think there’s a lot of, you know, just stuff that goes along with it that that gets cloudy, that can impact people in weird ways. AJV (18:07): Totally agree with that. And it’s like, the moment that we start just, it’s just that the, the challenge of comparison. AJV (18:13): Right. And it’s like even comparing our expectations to what other people have for us and somehow going well, that’s what everyone else has done. Right. And it’s like this internal battle. And so I’m curious, like throughout your journey, do you think that there was ever like a time in your kind of career path and even maybe it’s still today, it’s like, like, was there a moment when you were like, this is my big break? Like, is there like a moment where you’re like, okay, like this is what I’ve been waiting for. So I wanna know one, have you had that? What is it? And then what do you think led you to it? LC (18:50): That’s a great question. I think I along the way, well, so I should probably give context on, I was in Miami working, you know, following the Miami dolphins. And the other thing with that job is I, it was part-time when I took it. LC (19:08): So it actually felt like a bigger risk because I was leaving a TV station. That was the first station that I was a reporter at, but it was there was just something about it. Like I knew the plus side, if I could make it work, if I could really like work my hardest and turn it into the kind of role I would want it to be as much as I could, that I felt like the upside really outweighed the risk. And so I also had, I have like a circle, you know, of people that I’ll I’ll bounce off of. Right. And it seemed like, okay, this is pretty much a no brainer at this point, but I will say also the expense of that was relationships. There’s no question like it was, I was a disaster at dating, like because well, I, I actually had a really great long term relationship and, but I, I made the decision to follow the career and that impacted things in a horrible way. LC (20:03): And how could it not? Right. But like, that was just a lesson that I learned early on and it was like, so it’s funny cuz there, it also sometimes feels like there are so many different lives that I’ve lived I’m like, wait, what was I doing? But so to get back on track with your question, I got a job opportunity when I was in Miami. I got a call from a station from a man who was the sports director of a TV station in Washington, DC, which was basically my hometown sometimes like getting a call when you’re not expecting it is like, oh my God, that’s so amazing. And I feel like some of those things I think about as like big breaks and I think that was definitely the first, really big break. Like I think getting your on air job first is a big break. LC (20:52): But for me, that Washington move because of the man that I went to work for, his name was George, Michael, and not the singer, but the, the sports broadcaster. And he had a show called the George Michael sports machine and in the nineties it was in the late eighties, it was legendary. It was honestly on before sports center and it definitely played a role in the way that ESPN came on the map and did things because he was showing people highlights before they could do ’em. Anyway, he was a legend in DC and he called me out of nowhere and he called me, I found out years later because he saw me when his son-in-law was watching racing coverage at his house with his daughter. Okay. And they, and I came on TV as a pit reporter and they needed to fill a role, the woman that they had had left. LC (21:43): And he liked my work, I guess, and, and was like, so he called me out of nowhere and it was awesome. It was an awesome, like compliment and a great opportunity. And you add to that, that it was an opportunity for me to go home. But I got so terrified because that was the first place that I had been in my career where all of a sudden things were going really well in Miami. And they were saying, Hey, stay here. This is what we’ll offer you to stay here. And it was this weird, like I found myself in this sort of like conflict of negotiation for the first time and I turned it down. I turned the job down and I think I know in my heart, part of the reason I turned it down is because at that time I looked at going home as a quasi. LC (22:26): I don’t wanna say failure, but like I, to me, I was on this role in this drug of like hopping every two years, where can I go? I’m thinking like, oh my God, could I ever make it to New York? Or could it be LA or could it be Chicago wherever? And I never saw the amazing opportunity to go home cuz it was a huge market, but there was something in my psyche that was like kind of worked with that thinking. And so I turned it down cuz I was like, I’m gonna, I wanna stay in Miami. I, I would like to do some morning TV. They were offering me a role to do that. And the second I turned that job down, the second I made the call saying, no, I knew I had made this horrible mistake. Like I knew there was. And that was for me the biggest eyeopening moment period in my career that helped me identify like something about myself. LC (23:15): Because up until then everyone would be like, well, what does your gut say? What does your gut say? And I’m like, I don’t know. That’s the problem. And my problem is I realized what I do is I will pull people until the person that I want, like until the person gives me the answer I want to hear. And that’s what I was doing. I was like going around and around and trying to get someone to say, go to DC. Like this is such a great opportunity. Go, go, go, don’t look back. But I feel like people, even in my circle like agents and whatever, they were like, mm, I don’t know. I’m not sure. So anyway, I’ve kind of gone off on a tangent, but that was a absolute big break for me because he brought me into that market and really just did it in such a way. LC (23:58): I had to go back on my decision to not go and call him and, and find out if the opportunity still existed. And I don’t re recommend that for anybody like my own dad told me not to do it. My dad was like, do not do that. That’s ridiculous. And I was like, and, and actually someone I worked with at the time in Miami was like this, you will, you will kill your career. If you do this, if you call him back and I couldn’t not try it, I could not not try it because I just knew. I was like, this is, that is where I need to be. And if there’s any way to be there, then I need to do it. So I sat at a car wash and I wrote down my conversation points on this napkin. And I called George and I think I got his voicemail and I left him this, what I thought was succinct, but probably like really long message and was like, I have made a mistake. LC (24:48): And if there is any chance that that opportunity is not filled, I would like to talk to you about it. And that was it. He called me back and he was really gruff. But at the end of the day, he was like, we’re gonna bring you up. so that job changed my life because it really taught me the, the like really good standard basic stuff. Cause learning from him was like, awesome. And the way he, like I said, introduced me to the market, which was really important at that time for like the, you know, just when you’re covering teams in a market like that, it matters how you present yourself. It matters the relationships, how you treat people. It matters that you’re not asking them 25 questions. If they’re giving you five minutes for an interview, it’s it’s about like being respectful. And so when I was talking about learning from people along the way George’s face is one that immediately popped in my mind because I remember going into arenas where I would be ready to go live for my six o’clock show, from, you know, a hockey or basketball game. LC (25:47): And the security guards there, like loved George because George would, he knew everything about them. Like he knew about their families. He treated every single person, the exact same. And, and he also did things behind the scenes that nobody ever knew. He did like just being a good person. So really long tangent, AJV (26:04): That may be the favorite part of my story. Like your story that I have heard is the fact that you said, I don’t care what it costs. I know I’ve made a mistake. I have to call this person back. And he went against everyone else advice and said, no, I feel it in my heart. Like I have to call him back. LC (26:24): It was so bad that, I mean, I literally remember that person, you know, a friend of mine looking at me and saying, this is, this is career suicide. And I knew that when my father was like, don’t do it. LC (26:39): Like I really put stock in what my parents say. And especially my dad cause he is in this industry, but I woke up the next morning after making a decision to stay there and listen, I love Miami. It’s my top three places to vacation. It was such a dream to live there. I love the people I worked with truly and the bosses and the crew I was with every day. But I was like, I just, I know with every fiber of my being that this is not what I’m supposed to be doing, but I knew also that if the ship had sailed and if I couldn’t get it back then I okay. But like I just really needed to try. And I had one person at the station who was feeling familiar with George, who actually I leaned on. And he was like, I think if you really want to open that door again, I think he will listen, but you have to know that he might not. LC (27:30): And you also might have to know that this is going to be very bad here, like meaning. And I do take that very seriously. Like that was not a professional move to go back. And to like, that was a painful conversation to have to go back to the news director and the general manager that really believed in me and say, I have made a mistake and I, you know, want to investigate, AJV (27:53): Oh my gosh, like, this is like, I think this is revolutionary for every single person who is listening, who makes choices for their own life out of fear of offending someone else. Yeah. I think this is hugely how many people are in the country right now in the United States, in a job, in a situation where they know they shouldn’t be there, but they don’t have the courage to do something that’s uncomfortable. AJV (28:21): Like that’s, that is the, that’s the era that we’re living in. It’s like, instead of having a difficult conversation, we’d rather make ourselves miserable or live and regret instead of going for what could be a life changing experience. LC (28:37): Yeah. You know, and to that point, I think it’s interesting because I do think some of the younger professionals are catching on quicker to that because, and I, I don’t know. Maybe you can lend your thoughts to this, but like my husband and I will talk about this sometimes because we are sort of, you know, coming up in the traditional old school era of, of this. Right. But some of the younger professionals who are like coming up as entry level, or they’re maybe a step above that, I do find that they’re not afraid to talk a lot more about what they need in terms of mental health. LC (29:15): Right. In mental health, in that aspect. I think that’s hugely important. But I also, I do give kudos to them because things, some things that I see people doing now I would never do. Cause I would’ve never had the guts to say, wait, I they’re, they’re asking for a day off because X, Y, Z you know, I think to a fault I would not have done that. Right. But yeah, you know, that, that decision, I think if it didn’t have the home factor of it also, it would’ve probably been a, a, I don’t know how it would’ve turned out. I think that definitely was a big piece of it. Because it ended up that that was just such a wonderful experience, you know, but it was definitely a growth, like a growth decision point because it didn’t, to your point, it didn’t feel all happy gum drops and roses. LC (30:05): I was people off, like to get to the place where I, I, like, I basically had to decide for myself, is it gonna feel better at the end? What I’m weighing this PO like potential on, is that possibly better than what I know I’m about to do by making a slew of people really mad and also about your business, about the reputation. I mean, that, that matters. And so I just think that that is really important to listen to, like, and I guess for people that are in a similar state, it’s like, is there something gnawing at you that you do realize is it’s a gut feeling or it’s just a feeling of taking a chance. Like sometimes also, I don’t know if you ever felt this way, Jay, but it’s like, I’m so grateful for my, for being so naive in certain circumstances early on and now, but like there are rooms I walked into sometimes and I’m like, just thank God that I didn’t take an extra moment to like, think about what I was about to do or who I was about to be in front of. LC (31:10): And like, I just feel like there’s so many ways that I sort of protected myself by just not realizing the gravity of something. I don’t know it’s at all. AJV (31:21): I think that, I think there’s a lot of weight in that. I remember we started our first business in a 2005. And for even listening at the peak of 2005 was really like, this is the heart of the recession. And here we are, these, you know, four naive, specifically three of us. I was 22 when we started our first venture, it was fresh outta college and was like, they can do it. I can do it type of mentality. And our ignorance, our naive to you was the number one thing that helped us move forward because we did not know what a good market looked like. This was just the market. This is just how you did business. AJV (32:00): It wasn’t until years later that we realized, oh, wow, that was like serious. But we were so dumb, young and naive that the gravity of the situation was so far over our head that we didn’t even understand it to our benefit, to our benefit. So OK. You brought up two things and I know I’m watching the clock be sensitive to your time, but you brought up two things that I wanna touch on. And you mentioned reputation mm-hmm and you mentioned how several people said, like this could be career suicide and I, as you know, like, and not just your industry, but all industries, your reputation means a great deal. Right? It’s it’s a big frigging deal, more so than we realized. And so I’m curious it’s what, what did you do to build such a strong reputation before, during, and after a decision like this? AJV (32:52): I’m just like, I wanna know, like, what do you think are keys to building, you know, this, you know, rock solid reputation where even in the midst of decisions like this, and you’re people off your reputation stands because people know that, you know, you do what you say you’re gonna do, and you do it with kindness, but you do it with confidence and clarity. LC (33:13): Thank you. I think that you know, using that, that decision as an example, I didn’t have much other than being apologetic and explaining myself truth and honesty for the people that I was saying, Hey, there’s been a change. Here’s what I’m going to do. Right. I had to take it. I just had to suck it up and take what they said. And, you know, I knew that there was a great chance that they meant it when they actually said we would never hire you again. LC (33:45): I mean, that was true. Right. That’s what, what, and I, I understood, but I had sort of braced myself and I felt that like, I felt very badly about it. It wasn’t at all. Like, I felt like, well, here I go. I’m okay. It’s it like, that really kind of sucked. But like I said, I had already made up my mind that I’m going to, I’m going to push for this and I just have to be ready for what comes and then go. I think once I took that step and went to the station in Washington, it was all about me just feeling like I really had to start from the ground up in terms of everything that I was soaking in, everything I was being taught, the role I was gonna do, you know, I had confidence that I knew at that point then, like I was getting better at being on air because that’s a whole different thing. LC (34:29): Like when you’re in your first on air jobs, the first time I went live on TV, they turned on the red light and I like, nothing came out. You know what I mean? Like I was in a Christmas tree farm and I’m like, oh, this is, this is when I talk . And for some reason you don’t know why that happens. It’s like, sounds like such a TV moment, like a movie that you would watch, but it does it, like, there’s just, it’s weird. Like everyone has to get over this hump. And then I, there are also things like for a long time, I think it sounded like I was just reading a book when I was reading, you know, you’re reading news or you’re doing delivery, your delivery. But anyway, so going to Washington, part of what intrigued me most about that job was he had sold it to me as like, this is gonna be a bootcamp. LC (35:11): Like I am going to teach you basically like my ways. You’re going to understand why, what we do, where we work is super successful. And like, and so, and I loved that and I was ready to soak that up. So I kind of went into that and was like, just, I wanna be a student. I wanna learn, you know, not like, I didn’t know anything, but I definitely had that kind of approach. So I think being open to those new experiences and again, just being a good person, but also, you know, in the nature of what my business is, a lot of businesses is it’s, you almost become like a family with the people that you’re working with. And that’s really important and truly like caring about those people matter. So that was something I definitely had mistakes. I mean, there was one time I remember I had voiced a story that I did on a baseball player, one of the Washington nationals players. LC (36:08): And I tracked my voice, which means that I laid my voice down over the story that people are gonna watch on TV. And I did it. And George was probably out doing like the five o’clock news while I was recording or something, five o’clock sports. And he heard what I had put down on tape. And I was halfway home to my parents’ house going to have dinner. Cause they had invited me to dinner this one night and he called and he was like, Zac, this is garbage. Get back here. So I had to turn my little Honda civic around and go back and track it. Like, I don’t think I ever made it to my parents’ house for dinner that night. But the reputation that was, that was how I had, I sort of had a new opportunity right away to build it, but it mattered how I performed. LC (36:50): And also it mattered because of the caliber of people that George Michael was like his group of people in the market and the people that were his sources, they were the coaches of the teams, the general managers. And so I had to really listen and learn how to carry myself and the way that was sort of to his professional standards, which is, was a great standard. Right. Wow. But so that, that was the immediate and I think long term after that is when I went to ESPN and from then on, it’s sort of like a different set of just different experiences and lessons that I’ve learned, but they all circle around that same thing. It all comes back to the way you treat people. I do think the competition grows. I had never seen competition. Like I saw at ESPN when I got there and for a large part of it was because also I wasn’t used to working in sports with other women so much, like you’re, you’re always working around other women who are at other stations and that’s awesome cuz you’re like, you become this like group of women that you see each other at a basketball game. LC (37:55): And you’re like, oh, Hey, you know, channel four, channel nine, channel seven. But at ESPN it was the first time that everyone has a role. And there are like so many people left over that also want those roles. And it’s like, EV you know, it was a great experience in terms of like the people I worked with and I loved the work. I loved the work. But like everyone found out what their schedule was through the same computer system. And you had to go at the same time and look, so there’s a level of competition that doesn’t exist other places because it’s this constant, okay. What, what am I on? What am I doing? LC (38:33): What is you know, so it was just a different beast. So I don’t know, but that, but definitely something that shaped. Yeah. AJV (38:42): Well, I’d say the thing that I wrote down, the thing that I captured that I think is really applicable universally is really coming with a student’s heart. AJV (38:52): Right. I think that learning mindset of, yeah. Yeah. I, it’s not that you don’t know anything, but you also realize you don’t know everything. I think that’s a really big deal of staying humble and going, like, no matter where I go, there’s more to learn. And I just, you know, I just think about like, even when, where, you know, recruiting new team members, it’s like, you know, it’s not only is it a core value, but it’s like personal growth is a requirement here. And it’s like for the person who thinks there’s nothing left to learn, it’s like, well then there’s just nothing left for you to learn here. So, but it’s like the moment that we have that mindset of I’ve got it all figured out is the moment where it’s like, that’s a slippery slope. So just even staying in this, like what can I learn from this situation? AJV (39:36): What can I learn from this person? What can I learn from this job? I think is really important for us all to go. There’s always going to be something else to learn no matter what it is, like every stage of life. And so, okay. So here’s the other question I have for you. And I wrote this down because I think this is a huge thing that everyone struggles with. And we live in this world of video. Like video is everywhere. It’s in emails, it’s on social it’s it’s, every algorithm is waited to video. And there’s simultaneously this huge fear of being on video. And, you know, it’s like to what you said, it’s like that red light goes on and all of a sudden, all of your personality goes out the door. It’s like, who are you? And where did you go? AJV (40:20): Right. I am, what are some best practices? Like what should people learn to do to be better on video? Like what should people be doing other than clearly doing it, but how do you, how do you actually get better? How do you be yourself on camera? LC (40:37): Well, okay. I’ve got one piece of advice that I, I learned when I was at CNN. I think it was the anchor, Darren Kagan. I remember where I was sitting when she told me this trick of the trade and I wasn’t even on camera then, but I was just picking her brain, like, what are you? You know, what, what are things to learn? And and I really do think that this applies to anybody who’s, you don’t have to be a reporter. You can be doing videos or whatever it is, but her thing, this did apply to a live shot. AJV (41:05): Okay. So in news, if I was doing a report taking you back to like the Christmas tree farm, right? Never memorize everything you wanna say like that. So here here’s what, and I still do this. Right? Cause it just made so much sense. She said, take what you’re trying to say. Okay. So we can say for our purposes, AJ, that it’s like a report that I’m trying to give, or maybe I’m trying to just shoot a video at my house of like how I cook orzo pasta salad with my kids. Right. Or think about what the three and just because rule of threes is pretty great for everything, but like think of three things that you’re trying to say, three things that are like the nuggets. I also just had a conversation with a girlfriend of mine where we were talking about simple something similar, cuz she’s launching a book and she was saying, I’m having a hard time talking or I wanna know better ways to talk when people are asking me about like the real nuggets, I’ve got so many I wanna pull from, but I get lost with the traffic of just trying to talk straight. LC (42:03): And I said, think of them like peppermint pets. That’s my favorite candy. Okay. So think of it. Like the things that you’re most excited to share are the little minty center. Okay. And you’re putting this chocolate coating on the outside of them. So what you’re doing is you’re picking three things like today, I’m doing a video about why goldfish cheddar are my favorite things on the planet. Okay. So the first thing I wanna talk about is the bag, because it’s so easy to open. The second thing I wanna talk about is the art on the front because I love art and anyone that is an artist should want these. And the third thing is the fact that it’s like a cheddar burst, right? Like in your mouth. So those are the three things that I would have in my mind. Highlighted. Maybe you take a post-it and you just write those three words on your post-it and the words only are bag to open, you know artwork and then cheddar pop. LC (42:54): Okay. So you are never memorizing the words that you’ve written out in sentences, but what you’re memorizing are the, like the points it’s like the passion points of what you wanna talk about because all like this day and age too, people really just wanna see people who are real and whether you’re doing a news report or you’re talking about a sports, you know, some competition that’s a little different because you’ve gotta follow, you’ve gotta get certain things out like the Xs and O’s or the, the details of whatever event you’re covering. But if you’re giving just a video or you’re talking to people or you’re doing a seminar, that is a really great way, I think, to build a strategy for just being conversational. And even if you struggle with being conversational, once a light goes on, you’re going to be 10 times more conversational, truly just sharing with me why you’re excited about opening this bag versus the bag on the top is very easy to open because there’s no way you’re gonna remember all those words. LC (43:49): So I, and I learned that too, the hard way after that my friend shared that advice. There were times I would go on the field and I would like write out my whole script of what I wanted to say, but I’ve had it happen definitely more than like 10 times where if you misspeak or you like skip a word, then you forget all the rest of it. So it’s sort of like a protection for that too. And I think the more conversational, the better, that was a really well, I love that. I love that of just like you should be able to fit your entire video script on a post-it note. Right. Because you should know the content so well that you’re just, and that also that exercise helps you speak it from what you know, and that in itself is being your most authentic about what you’re talking about. LC (44:36): And some stuff don’t get me wrong. Like if you’re doing a news report and you’re talking about an oil spill accident, right. You can’t, you’re not gonna go. Yeah. Right. But you can still do that. And then, I mean, to get like in the weeds with the newsy side of it, those facts that you do have written down are things that if you’re looking down on your paper, that’s okay. Just like any videos you’re doing. If there are times where you look down, because you’re trying to get stats out about someone you’re interviewing, that’s fine. Like you don’t have to memorize all the other stuff. You know, AJV (45:06): I love that. It’s like the more conversational, the more authentic, the more relatable it’s gonna be, but honestly the less pressure that you put on yourself. Yeah. And the more like I do think one of the things that I did when you mentioned at the beginning of this, how I made a note of this, because when you mentioned the Gracie award, that that to me was like such, just like an awesome unexpected honor, because first of all, that was like Gracie. LC (45:37): The awards are for it’s women who do things that are like influential news or otherwise, whatever. And I remember when a colleague of mine, when I was at ESPN won one of those awards and I was like, oh my God, that is the coolest thing. And I don’t even know, like, I forget what hers was for, but this was, that was for a conversation I had with my mother-in-law on Instagram. Okay. So it was when George Floyd happened and I felt really helpless and my husband’s African American, I felt like I, I didn’t know what I could do to like, just anything to make an impact. And I just wanted to be able to do something. And my mother-in-law has so many great stories and so many really important lessons and things to learn from. And so we were talking and I said, Hey, would you, how would you feel about doing a conversation about race with me? LC (46:31): And she was really open to it and we did it and it was shocking. I didn’t like, I never expected that that would happen, but it was so shocking the engagement of it, because I think people that were watching were like, whoa, I’m asking like really dumb questions. So I felt like I should really know the answer to, and I should have paid attention to a long time ago, but her answers were just, some of them were jaw dropping. So anyway, that led to them asking us to do a radio hour on that conversation. And I, she joined me, my mom joined me. I had a psychiatrist join us. And another friend of mine, who’s an author. Who’s anyway, who’s biracial. It was, but that, so that meant so much to me because that was something that was completely just super out of response to something that had happened. LC (47:16): And we weren’t trying to get engagement. I was just like, how can I have a conversation? So I think there’s a lot of that to be had now. And so I think like what we’re just talking about with practices of on video, anyone can do that kind of thing, you know? Right. That proved that to me because I was like, wait a minute, if we’re sitting here, someone’s saying that that was impactful to do that. Like, wow, look at the power of social media, you know? AJV (47:42): Wow. And let’s look at the power of real life conversation. Yeah, yeah. Is scripted. This is not planned out. There’s not high video production. We don’t have a film crew with graphics and bumpers and overlays and all this fluff that people get overly consumed with. And it’s like, no, have a real conversation about real questions and real struggles that real people are going through. AJV (48:11): And it’s amazing that that’s, that is what would take off and get so much engagement and get you to the place that people recognizing this. And it’s like, I mean, don’t, you sometimes think it’s like, think about how much you’ve done in a really planned formal professional setting versus the things that you do that are just from a place of deep desire of like, I just wanna do something. I just, I wanna help. I don’t, I don’t wanna sit in the background. I feel called to this and do that is what goes, quote, unquote viral. That’s what people want. It’s you said the word it’s like, I truly, the word relatable, I think is everything I really do. I mean, I’ve, I feel that way in sports. I think it’s what, it’s what creates fans around a team or a player, because there’s something that jogs, you know, that makes them feel like, oh, that person has something that’s speaking to me, but I think you’re exactly right. LC (49:12): It’s like the the calling feeling a calling to do it and then just taking the step to do it. And, and you know, what else, I guess, in a way it’s like using your, all you had to do to do it is using your God given ability. Right. Or like the ability that you’ve honed a bit or whatever. But I just, yeah, like, so that was really, that was a very eye opening thing for me, because I was like, here I am like, I, 10 years ago I saw that happen. I, and I actually was like, oh, I wish I could do that someday. And like earn one of those award. Like that was so weird that that would be what it is. So there, there is a definite lesson in that I think there’s immense power and you know, for us and anyone who’s listening of going like at the end of the day. AJV (50:01): And it’s like, we can hear it a hundred different ways. And I love hearing this perspective and this angle from you today. And at the same time, it’s like, we hear it all the time. It’s like be you right. The more relatable, the more personal will, the more authentic you are, the more people will love you or not, but that’s okay. That’s not your audience. Yeah. But like when we try to be somebody else or try to be what somebody else tells us to be, it is never gonna work in our favor. It’s like, cuz you’re not, you’re not being you like that to me is like, we just can’t hear that enough because there’s such a fear of, wow, I don’t wanna offend anybody or don’t wanna ruffle any feathers or what if I look dumb? What if I sound dumb? You know? And we don’t do it. LC (50:51): Yeah. A hundred percent, a hundred percent. I agree. AJV (50:56): I think that’s so, so good. Okay. All right. I have two quick, rapid fire questions for you. Yeah. This is such a great interview. Thank you so much. Like I love as we talk for another hour and I would be like, I know I have five more questions. I have five more questions, but I really, I’m only gonna give you two. I wrote this down in the very beginning. And this is just to help our audience get to know you. And one of my main things is I care much more about who you are than what you’ve done. And so I’m just so curious when you were this little kid sitting in front of MTV going, this is the dream. Like what was your favorite music video? So what’s your favorite music video of all time? LC (51:32): Oh my gosh. Okay. Well, so all time I would have this, this is like a measurement of a swath of time. It was the cars you might think foolish, you know, that song. Yeah. The cars because that was that symbolized. What MTV could do. They were flying the fly. Remember the Rick, what, what’s his last name? The lead singer of the cars. His face was on the fly. Do you remember that video? It was sort of video. Yeah, it was kind of like animated. There was that one and then there was the 99 red balloons, but this song that it was like, every time it came on, I was like, yes, it was sister Christian. Do you remember that song? I can’t remember that song, Christian. Oh, the time has come. And then also white snake here I go again on my own. That’s awesome. So yeah, so good. Like that’s what hooked me, but I mean, you know, as the decades went on and I continued to watch videos, I had plenty of other examples, but those were like my beginning ones that I was like, this, this is awesome. I love that. That’s so funny. AJV (52:42): Last question. What do you want people to know about you that no one ever asks you? Oh, that’s a really hard one. That is a hard one. Other than you love goldfish. What’d you say the gold that you love goldfish. LC (53:01): Maybe that I think everything in life relates back to fishing and I love fishing. Fishing is one of my favorite things to do. And it’s I think it’s because growing up, especially when I was a kid, we would always go surf fishing at the beach when my family would go to the beach in the summer. And it was something that I would get up and do with my dad. He would wake me up and I’d always be like, oh, because it was like 5 45, cuz it’d go really early. But I loved it so much and that I definitely am like a morning person and I love that time when no one’s awake. And if you’re out in nature, like if you are at the beach and you’re fishing, that’s great. I also feel the same kind of way when I’m in a race track and it’s early morning, there’s just something really special about the way that a garage or even like a barn, if it’s horse racing, like the seeing things come to life. LC (54:01): So I think that’s something I really just love that I love fishing and I love the act of when you feel like you have something on the line, there’s not much more, you know, in life like that. I think that’s a really relatable thing. Like you’re feeling the tug of catching something. And maybe that’s why I was a reporter and I got adrenaline junkie by like the boob every two years. You’re like catching a new fish. I don’t know. But but I really, really, really love that. I love it. Well, this is like the beginning of like this future life of you being like the spokesperson for like bass pro shop or something. Well, you know, I have thought like there have been a lot of fishing shows out there, but I have thought maybe there’s a type of fishing show that people haven’t seen that you know, maybe that’s in my future. I don’t know. That’s never, never, that’s probably not like the pro angler, but I do really enjoy just especially when you’ve got a good old fashioned Bober and you watch that thing go under the water. That’s pretty satisfying. That’s awesome. AJV (55:07): These, this is so much fun. Thank you. So for coming on and if people wanna learn more about you and if they wanna connect with you or follow you on social media, like where should they go? LC (55:17): I think the best place is my Instagram is Lindsay CZI, so I don’t, it’s not Zac full it’s Lindsay CZI. And that’s probably a great place to start. And so I just, I do I do a joke of the day that I started during quarantine with my kids. So if anybody has any jokes, suggestions, I’m all at ears also because we’re still keeping that going. AJV (55:38): So, oh, we got silly dad jokes for days over here. I’m gonna yay. Y’all, I’ll put all of these details in the show notes. I’ll put all of Lindsay’s handles in there. Go follow her, give her some good jokes. And Lindsay, thank you so much for being here. Love this so much. Wait again, me too. You’re the best. Thank you. So stay tuned for the episode and we’ll next time on the influential personal brand.

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25 of the World's Most Recognizable Influencers Share Their Tips on How to Build and Monetize a Personal Brand

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