Read an Excerpt
Got What It Takes?
Successful People Reveal How They Made It to the Top
Find Your Path
James Blake Craig Newmark Frank Rich Jim Cramer Bill O'Reilly Joseph Abboud Joy Behar Mario Cuomo Anna Quindlen Frédéric Fekkai Bobbi Brown Bob Pittman Clive Davis Donald Trump Preston Bailey Bill Bratton Bobby Flay Cathie Black
Lao Tzu once said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." But how exactly do we know which way to go when we're first starting out?
I consider myself one of the lucky people who knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life. When I was about five years old, my parents gave me a tiny white Bendix radio. I would lie in bed at night under the covers—my parents of course thinking I was asleep—listening to this radio. I was fortunate to be able to hear the last few years of the golden age of radio: captivating shows like The Lone Ranger, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, Bob Hope's, and Jack Benny's. I was particularly fascinated by the men on the radio who were interviewing people—Arthur Godfrey, Don McNeil, and my all-time favorite, Art Linkletter. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
So I set out to become a talk show host. After thirty years in the business, I've interviewed thousands of people—movie stars, presidents, great writers, sports heroes, business leaders, and cultural icons. I'm continually grateful that I had a passion I could build my life around.
The number one rule I would pass on to anyone about having a successful career and life is to follow the path of your passion. Many of the people I interviewed identified their passion early in life. They were blessed with a talent, gift, or a fascination that ignited something within them and pointed to an obvious path. Of course, they still needed to dedicate a great deal of hard work, hours, and strong will in order to parlay their talent into a successful career, but the entry point was identifying their unique talent. For tennis star James Blake, it was extraordinary athletic skill. A gift for computer programming came naturally to Craig Newmark, founder of the landmark website Craigslist.com. For Frank Rich, columnist and former lead drama critic for the New York Times, it was an early love affair with the theater and the written word. An amazing memory and a gift for numbers helped Jim Cramer, the dynamic host of CNBC's Mad Money, realize when he was in college that he had a genius for picking stocks.
Conversely, some people begin their careers without a clear sense of purpose. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the kind of identifiable skill or talent that serves as a natural career foundation. Vince Lombardi once said that it is our obligation to develop the God-given talent within us—but what if we have no idea what it is?
Other people I interviewed were not consciously aware of the abilities that would lead them to wealth and renown. As their stories will reveal, one needn't necessarily possess an obvious gift in order to achieve success.
Either way—whether they innately knew the path they were meant to walk or discovered it through circumstances—the choice to follow a path that ignited genuine interest and passion allowed these people to live lives of achievement and prosperity. Here are some of their stories:
Bill O'Reilly's reputation is that of someone who pulls no punches. Best known as the forceful host of The O'Reilly Factor, currently the most-watched television show on cable, he stirs up controversy with his outspoken opinions and anti-spin frankness. His official website features shirts, tote bags, and other items bearing his motto, "The Spin Stops Here," a perfect representation of his approach to life.
On the day I went to meet with him, I was walking down Avenue of the Americas toward the Fox News headquarters, when I hear a voice boom on my left, "Going to see me?" There's Bill O'Reilly alongside me, in lockstep. The first thing I noticed is that he's very tall and walks very fast. We went up to his office, which is filled with framed photographs of his family and the original front pages of newspapers featuring historic headlines from another era, including the one from the New York World Telegram and Sun the day Kennedy was shot. There are piles everywhere. The phone starts ringing almost immediately. Bill's a busy person.
We got right down to it. I asked him what turned him on to journalism, after a brief stint teaching high school English and history in Miami:
"I always had a talent," he said with his signature bluntness. "Identify what you're good at, and then try to make a living doing it. It's as simple as that. I could always write. I never took a writing class; I just had the gift. Everybody on earth—this is why I believe in God—every human being has a gift. Something unique to them, that they can do better than other people. I could write. And I had the Irish blarney. I could just talk. So I said, "Ooh, okay. I can write. What do you do with writing?' You go into journalism. Or straight novelist, or something like that, but that didn't even occur to me.
So I went to J-school after I taught high school, because I knew I didn't want to be a teacher. So I said, 'Let's go back to school, let's get the J-degree, and let's see where it leads.' "
"That was always the primary deal: Do something fun. Do something interesting. Rather than sit in an office and just get a paycheck."
That decision to develop what he knew to be his God-given talent and develop it led to a reporting job at the Boston Phoenix, then back to Miami as an entertainment writer and movie reviewer for the Miami Herald. He moved into broadcast journalism to capitalize on the second half of his gift—his "Irish blarney"—reporting at stations in Scranton, Dallas, Denver, Portland, Boston, and ultimately, New York. You'll hear more of Bill's story a little later when he talks about his number one rule for how to succeed. But on the subject of finding one's path, Bill O'Reilly's advice is clear: he believes we're all good at something. Find what you're good at and do it.Got What It Takes?
Successful People Reveal How They Made It to the Top. Copyright © by Bill Boggs. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.