BOSTON -- In a moment of national anguish, breaking down and crying on live national television, Robin Roberts believed she would surely be fired. But surprisingly, the opposite happened. In a keynote address Sunday afternoon at AFP 2019, the Good Morning America host explained how being temporarily overtaken by her emotions on air ended up being a pivotal moment in her broadcasting career. She suddenly understood her strength—her mess.
Roberts had always been a planner. She practiced tennis with the plan to one day arrive on the floor of Wimbledon, but at 5’10”, she quickly found herself on the basketball team. But just because the plan changed did not mean Roberts stopped planning. Her new goal was to earn a basketball scholarship, which would enable her to eventually earn her degree and go into sports broadcasting. “I was positioning myself; I was dreaming big but focusing small,” Roberts said.
After putting in the dedication, which included working as a DJ at a country music station on the weekends just so she could cover play-by-plays for high school, all her planning and positioning brought Roberts the job she long desired—working as a broadcast journalist for ESPN. She had positioned herself to not only succeed in achieving her career goals, but also to realize her childhood dream of making it to Wimbledon—only as a reporter instead of as a player.
After a 15-year stint at ESPN, Robin Roberts eventually decided to take on a new challenge, and joined Good Morning America. Not long after joining the beloved morning show, she found herself in the Gulf Coast reporting on Hurricane Katrina. She had lost communication with her family, who lived in the area. Fortunately, right before going live on air, she had found out that they were alright. When her co-anchor back in the studio asked about her family, Roberts, overwhelmed by it all, Roberts began crying tears of relief.
Crying on camera brought Roberts her greatest life lesson: the things that weigh on us do not have to be a detriment to your growth. Instead of being fired, Roberts received an overwhelmingly positive response to her authenticity. It was Robert’s ah-ha moment. “Make your mess your message, everybody’s got something,” she said. “The tragedy is not understanding why it was placed in our path.”
That is Roberts’ message for not only your career, but for your life. Position yourself for success, but when that positioning doesn’t quite land you where you want to be, seek to understand why. Every treasury and finance professional has something going on—be it a personal or professional struggle, or both. We should not be so concerned with our differences per se, but with what we find in common. Because regardless of having these different life moments—at different times—at some point we have all come to understand sadness, heartbreak, joy, or love. These are the universal messages that we can relate to, individually grow from, and build on together.
“There are no risks; there are only chances,” said Roberts. “It takes courage to believe the best is yet to come.”
AFP 2019 may have just wrapped up, but AFP 2020 in Las Vegas will be here before you know it. Interested in speaking? Submit a session proposal for the conference today.