I was chatting on the phone with my friend “G” the other day and the subject of his 20-year network news career came up.
How did you get started with them? I asked.
His story was fascinating.
At the exact same time, I was offered the chance to go into Lebanon and cover what was happening for one of the major American networks.
I was conflicted at first. I mean, a military order is a military order. But on the other hand, I knew that this was a huge break that wouldn’t come around again.
So I opted out of the order and went with the network. And that’s how I started my career with them.
The irony? After the dust cleared and I was back in Tel Aviv, I never, ever heard from the army. It was if they’d never sent out the order. And one of the funniest parts of it all is that while I was in Lebanon working, I SAW my unit. They all called out to me and waved: “Hey G!” Of course, they didn’t know I’d been called up.
I was stunned by my friend’s story. His gamble turned to gold and he has enjoyed a prestigious career that has taken him from Winter Olympics, to war in Somalia to an airlift operation that saved more than 14,000 lives to the fall of Berlin’s Wall and beyond. He has met heads of state, international terrorists, world class artists and athletes and he has worked with the best in the business. He now languishes in retirement on a small Caribbean island.
I was always impressed by Martin’s ability to predict industry trends. But when I read his book Breaking News I discovered he had something in common with my friend ‘G’: Martin took big risks that paid off.
In his book he writes that while he was stationed in South Africa, he advised editors at NY headquarters to send him into a nearby country as conflict erupted. They refused. He was so certain the story was cover-worthy that Fletcher went in anyway without informing his higher ups. A short time after, entry to the country was cut off. His editors phoned to see if there was any way he could get in. He was already there.
I found that, too, to be remarkable. The move could have jeopardized his career and instead it put him ahead of the game.
Internally I laugh. My acquaintances take BIG risks. I debate over which swimming pool membership to get.
I’d say there’s a lesson in there to be learned.