Be honest. Has someone else’s action or opinion of you ever stolen your joy? Has it weighed you down and caused you to doubt yourself…keeping you from moving forward… impacting your life purpose and goals?
I was blessed to share thousands of people’s stories, and interview countless experts about some of the issues that matter most in our lives, as a television news anchor/journalist for more than 30 years.
But that did not inoculate me from experiencing my own ups and downs, the pains and sorrows of life, including rejection from others or criticism that gave me doubts about my own purpose, personally and professionally.
So, as part of my new chapter as an entrepreneur, I blog about “what matters most” in life – topics such as our passion and purpose. That includes lessons I’ve learned, inspirational stories from everyday people like you, and expert advice.
Today, I want to start sharing some of the struggles that I overcame in life and career with hopes that they will resonate with and empower you.
And I begin with this, something I hope you repeat every day, especially when others try to hold you back. Breathe in these words. Write them down. Believe them:[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]There is no one else in the world just like you. You are amazing. Embrace your brilliance. Let no one steal your joy or interfere with your life purpose.[/tweet_box]
HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR PURPOSE IN THE FACE OF RESISTANCE
I didn’t know that part of my purpose would lead me to spend most of my life in front of the camera in broadcast news, with hundreds of thousands of viewers watching on any given day. It was a surprise, a definite shift in my plans, and a career initially rocked by racism from a work colleague who never wanted me to be hired.
So, how do you overcome obstacles to your success in life when people try to build barriers to prevent it?
First, you prepare yourself to succeed, so their resistance won’t matter.
Let me tell you how I prepared for my surprising career in news.
It was the mid 80’s and it was my first job out of college.
I was both excited… and scared to death. I had completed a college internship in the newsroom of a television station and, at the end of the internship, the news director called me in and offered me a job as a reporter.
It shocked me because that type of opportunity didn’t come around every day. And it also stunned me because I had no interest in being on camera.
I wanted a ‘behind-the-scenes’ job in the Promotions or Production departments of the tv station. But at some point, the news director asked me to be an intern in the newsroom.
In those days, there weren’t as many minority news reporters or anchors on-air, so I believe that he was seeking more opportunities to hire qualified minorities. I am an African-American.
But I also had performance experience as a former theatre major which made me more comfortable on camera and a bachelor’s degree in communications. And, I had a love of writing which is crucial to journalism. I wrote poetry, a few plays, and songs, among other things.
So when destiny came calling, I was perplexed but prepared. And, I want to remind you that you, too, are more prepared for success in life than you may even realize.
You put in the hard work. You have your own unique gifts. And you have a purpose, often fueled by passion. Don’t let anyone discourage you.
So when I sought a college degree, and an internship, doors started opening. And during that internship, I made an impression on news management that prompted something unusual to happen.
I appeared on tv, reporting, as an intern. Interns usually just shadowed reporters and learned. We didn’t report, and we definitely didn’t appear on-air.
It happened because I was lucky enough to work with an inspiring and supportive woman photographer who I will call Bridget. We stumbled into an unexpected story one day.
HOW A MENTOR AND A TALENT FOR STORYTELLING HELPED SHAPE MY PURPOSE
Bridget took me under her wing as an intern and, one day when we were riding to an assignment, we got lost out in the country.
While finding our way again, she just happened to drive by a little country church, standing tall with a beautiful steeple, and surrounded by dozens of people on ladders and on the ground, painting its exterior.
Bridget had a nose for news which I had not yet acquired, and she knew there was a story there. So, she asked me to “be a reporter” and I jumped… nervously… into action.
She gave me the microphone and I started interviewing some of the people to see why they were all banding together to paint this church. I discovered that it was a community of volunteers – not all church attendees – who pitched in out of the kindness of their hearts to bring this older church, in need of a little TLC, ‘back to life.’
It was a heartwarming story to write and I closed it with my first-ever “Reporter Standup” on the scene. Basically, that’s when you see a reporter on-camera in a story, reciting a few lines to show that “we were there.”
When I went back to the station and wrote the news story as an intern, thinking I would at least put it on a resume reel, the news director and producer surprised me.
They were impressed enough with my storytelling that they actually aired the report on the newscast. Again, that was something not often, or ever done, at most news stations back then… or today.
So, the news anchors introduced my reporter package as, “Intern Angela Cain reporting.”
What a cool moment!
And I will never forget the kindness of my mentor, the photographer who believed in me and opened doors for me to have my report aired on tv, as an intern.
I urge you to find a mentor, someone who can help guide you through the rollercoaster of life and career toward your purpose.
But I also believe that I was prepared for this reporting opportunity because God gave me a natural talent for writing and performing (even though the performing part scared me so much that I dropped out of theatre and changed my major. That’s another blog😊.)[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]When we have talents, we shouldn’t hide them. Embrace your gifts and skills. Use them to pursue your dreams.[/tweet_box]
HOW BELIEF IN YOURSELF CAN OVERCOME OBSTACLES TO YOUR PURPOSE
Now I fast-forward to the part that almost dashed those dreams and impacted my purpose. In the first six months after the news director hired me, at the end of my internship, I worked regularly with another woman photographer who did everything in her power… to make me fail.
I had done nothing to her. I couldn’t even understand what was happening, still young, hopeful, idealistic but nervous about this new career opportunity.
She may have perceived my naivete and inexperience as a prime target for her racism and insults, determining that I was not in the position to tell anyone.
What was I going to do about it? Who was I? Who would believe a cub reporter over a veteran photographer?
She immediately poured on the emotional and verbal abuse. She knew that I had some anxieties about being a reporter since I had not considered this as a career track, so she played upon my insecurities, my doubts.
The photographer started with insults, revealing blatant racism later, seemingly testing the waters to see how much she could get away with.
Right before I would do a “stand-up,” she would say things such as, “You look like shit! Where did you get those clothes? At a thrift store? You don’t even know how to dress.” “You look terrible today.”
The goal was to sabotage my belief in myself, shake my confidence so that when I appeared on camera in the “stand up” portion of my report, I would look anxious and uncomfortable. She did this quite often, more times than I want to admit today.
It probably hit a little too close to home, too, because I didn’t have fancy clothes or much money. I worked more than 30 hours a week while attending college full-time, and sang in a band on the weekends, just to pay my way through college.
I didn’t come from riches but my Mom raised us with a lot of love and faith.
She was a divorced, hard-working, single mother of six children and we were poor, living below the poverty level.
That made it possible for me to start working in the summers, at age fourteen, to help pay for some of my childhood needs, relieving some of Mom’s burden.
Although we didn’t have much, my siblings and I had a great work ethic and instincts to thrive.
I had earned my degree, graduated magna cum laude, and worked hard for the opportunity to get the internship and the job. And an entry-level reporting job didn’t pay much in those days. The “opportunity” was your pay.
But the photographer didn’t want to know my story and I didn’t think it was necessary to try to validate my existence to her.
Even though I felt that I had no one to turn to, I had a belief in myself and my purpose, and I always had my faith. And that faith prevented her words from seeping deeply into my soul.
So, I did as I was taught so often in church – “rise above.” Or, another way of saying it? When they go low, you go high.
I kept on doing my job to the best of my ability, and my acting background was instrumental in helping me tune out her negative words.
Again, I was more prepared than I realized.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Don’t forget. We are strong enough to survive all obstacles even when some people try to break our spirit. They can’t succeed unless we allow it.[/tweet_box]
But the photographer’s vitriol started turning more flagrantly racist and disturbing.
She started asking me things such as, “Why is it that all black people are uneducated and on welfare? Why do all black people live in the projects?”
Her words were designed to make me feel inferior while she exerted power over me as a long-term station employee.
Who would believe me over her?
Of course, I didn’t just back down. I would push back, firmly, and inform her that she was wrong, that her accusations were false, that there were many accomplished and successful African-Americans and that with true equality someday, more people of all races would have opportunities to rise out of poverty.
She didn’t respond to my reasoning, seemingly unable or unwilling to comprehend my protests.
And I trudged through many days of working with her – in my first several months on the job – still rising above. She found other ways to attack me, even insulting my reporting.
But I stayed self-confident and refused to let her triumph.[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Believe in yourself. Don’t let the words or actions of others define you.[/tweet_box]
However, I did wonder, how was this going to end? It was draining to continually deal with her. I started dreading the times when news managers assigned her as my photographer.
HOW I RESOLVED THREATS TO MY CAREER AND PURPOSE
One day, it all came to a head. It was a weekend. There was a new, pretty, white intern who the woman photographer liked immediately. The photographer went out of her way to praise her in my presence.
I had no problem with this intern. She seemed nice and talented and was eventually hired, too, as I recall.
But one weekend afternoon, when she was still an intern and came into the newsroom, the photographer looked at me and said, “Why doesn’t this station hire a good, white woman like her instead of a (“n-“ word) like you.”
At that point, my patience collapsed. I remember tears welling up in my eyes as thoughts of “taking this outside and settling it” raced through my mind.
I am a lover, not a fighter and I knew that wasn’t a Christian reaction, but I wasn’t sure how to handle all of this overt racism, and my faith wasn’t giving me the answer in that moment.
Thank God for a lifeline. When I was on the precipice of “losing my Christianity,” and later facing the shame of falling prey to the trap she had set to make me lose my cool and lose my job, an African-American male reporter walked into the newsroom.
He immediately knew that I was upset, on the verge of tears, so he hurried over to see what happened.
For the first time in six months, I broke down. I told him about the racist and degrading things the photographer had been saying to me for months. I spoke of my fears of speaking out because I worried I was too new, that no one would believe me.
And, he supported me by urging me to talk with the news director the very next morning. He said he would go with me to the meeting. And he did.
But, it was a different time then. The news director listened and wrote down some of my concerns. He devised a quick and unsatisfying solution. He would put a note in the photographer’s file and make sure that I never had to work with her again.
So, she continued with her job, and I didn’t work with her for the last year and a half of my time there.
DON’T GIVE ANYONE POWER OVER YOU AND YOUR LIFE PURPOSE
But here is the funny thing.[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]I never stopped believing in my talents or skills. I didn’t bow down. Quit. Leave my career behind, broken by her words and actions.[/tweet_box]
Yes, the words stung. Sure, she hurt my feelings. And, yes, she preyed on my insecurities.
But in the end, she had no power over me.
She was, after all, just a person, a woman filled with hate and insecurities that truthfully had nothing to do with me.
Those were her issues. I decided not to make them mine.
And I urge you to do the same. Don’t ever give any person that kind of power. Not a boss, a work colleague, an acquaintance, friend, or family.
What gives them the right to belittle you and make you feel bad about yourself? They have no dominion over you.
If anything, I felt sorry for her. What was it like to live in that angry, toxic, and prejudiced state?
What shaped her and made her lash out and feel superior to people who were different than her? Our differences are part of what makes us unique and beautiful, in my mind. I pray that her heart has softened with time and wisdom over the years.
But during that time, if I had believed her words, if I had let her define me, my career in television news would have likely ended in its’ infancy. And that would have given her a sense of satisfaction that she didn’t deserve.
Today, of course, I urge you to report behavior like that immediately if you face blatant discrimination and/or racism on the job. I was naive, raised in a small town, trusting and more gullible. But I also wasn’t as confident in the support systems in workplaces to address those issues at the time.
When you know better, you do better. I learned and grew so much through that experience. I wouldn’t tolerate it today.
But in spite of those obstacles, I continued to climb. I never gave up. And my purpose unfolded…
HOW MY PURPOSE BLOOMED AND GREW
Ironically, as consultants came to the television station to review some of our reporting during that period of my life, they complimented my work in front of my peers.
One consultant even used some of my stories as examples of “what to do” in reporting to make emotional connections with audiences. That’s something I still specialize in today as the President of Angela Cain Communications.
And, I learned the ropes of reporting so quickly that a news director at a competing station in that town called to tell me he thought I was an excellent reporter… so good that he wanted me out of town.
Then, he told me that he took the unusual step of recording me on-air and sending my reporting reel to a news director out-of-state.
It’s a rare maneuver but it’s a compliment because he considered me a serious competitor. He had sent my resume tape to a much bigger television news market with hopes this news director would hire me.
And, that news director did.
So, within two years I left my first news job to advance into a bigger station that more than doubled my salary, a great opportunity for a new journalist. I had to take it.
And, ironically, history repeated itself there.
Within six years at that new tv station, in Indianapolis Indiana, a news director from a competitive station in town recorded me on-air and sent a resume tape to a Top-Ten News Market – one of the biggest television news markets in the country.
He, too, wanted to “get me out of town”😊 and confirmed that, many years later, face-to-face.
So, I took the job as an early evening news anchor and health reporter in Dallas, Texas and considered it a blessing, for the second time, from a competitive news director.
It is a major career achievement when broadcast journalists get hired in a “Top Ten” news market.
My 30-year journalism career also blessed me with four regional Emmys, some national reporting awards, and countless regional and state awards with many in community service.
I mention some of my career successes without conceit, but because I feel deeply that it was my purpose and passion. And I believe that no man could prevent me from fulfilling it.
I have always believed that my talents are not about me. God gave me gifts to serve, to help educate, to inspire people through the life stories that we all share.
And I want you to realize that the same applies to you.[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]You have gifts, unique talents, and a purpose and destiny that you are meant to fulfill in your life.[/tweet_box]
Don’t ever let anyone prevent you from realizing your dreams and using those gifts.
Why give any man or woman the power to impact the way you feel about yourself and impact your purpose?
Love yourself. Believe in yourself. And, live a life filled with your passion and purpose.
If you’re still working on how to determine your purpose, here is one guide. Or just need some motivation? I am a fan of bloggers Marc and Angel. Here are their 40 quotes on how to start following your passion.
BEST ADVICE ABOUT WHAT MATTERS MOST
I leave you with something that may make you chuckle. It’s advice from my humorous grandmother, Nanny, who planted so many words of wisdom with my family before she passed.
When I first got the job on television, I was visiting her and told her how nervous I was to be working with so many news anchors I had grown up watching on tv.
Her response? “Oh, baby. Don’t be intimidated. Just imagine them sitting on the toilet and taking a poop. They are people just like you.” …LOL.
I loved my Nanny and she gave me some great and memorable advice. And she absolutely taught me that I should never be intimidated or give that much control to anyone in my life.
We’re all just people, most of us simply trying to live our best life focusing on What Matters Most.
So, what matters most to you? Have you let people and their criticism prevent you from reaching your purpose and your destiny?
Put things in perspective. Give them no power.
I end where I started. Breathe in these words. Write them down. Believe them.[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]There is no one else in the world just like you. You are amazing. Embrace your brilliance. Let no one steal your joy or interfere with your life purpose.[/tweet_box]
So, what are you waiting for? We get this one beautiful life, at least on this earth. Start making your plans today.
Please share this story if you think it will encourage someone you know.
And feel free to share your thoughts. What obstacles did you overcome on the path to your purpose?
Angela Cain is a certified professional coach and an Emmy award-winning former television news anchor/reporter, community and public affairs director. Angela’s blog shares compelling content about “what matters most,” in our lives and careers. Angela Cain Communications is a PR, media relations, and brand storytelling agency that produces content which builds a business’s brand, customers, and revenue. Services include videos, blogs, podcasts, copywriting, social media messaging, storytelling workshops, media training, and corporate social responsibility initiatives.