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The Necessity of Failure


 
The drug of success is great but it’s fleeting. You know, the exercise and the nutrition that you have to do to get the drug of success is failure.
Nancy, you’re in the business of making big bets and you’ve made a lot of them over the years. Famous shows you greenlit like Iceroad Truckers, the miniseries Hatfields McCoys – that’s a creative process. How do you do that? How do you think through those things?
We take risks every day and not all of them work but everyone remembers the successes. And, you know, for every Iceroad Truckers, there was an evolution – Jurassic Fight Club – there were other shows that didn’t work.
Was there a moment early in your career when you started to feel like, “I have a gut for this.”?
Yeah, you know, I’ve always loved television. I’ve loved watching television. I look for things I want to watch and I think that’s an interesting balance in our business. Too often companies are making very creative decisions based on financial return, based on data, brand. There’s a lot of things that wouldn’t get through brand filters that are huge hits on our air today. It does, at its core, come back to gut.
I’d love to talk about Abbe Raven, your predecessor at A&E, your mentor for many years. It’s so rare in corporate America for a woman CEO to pass the baton to another woman.
Yeah, it’s pretty lonely being a CEO and there aren’t that many people that you can talk to in confidence with no agenda. You know, Abbe and I understand the symbolism of a woman CEO handing off to a woman CEO but the interesting thing about our relationship is that we never put it in the context of woman-to-woman. She doesn’t tell me what she knows I’m going to discover on my own but she pops up at the right moment to say, “I know what you just discovered. Are you okay?” and that’s invaluable.
Have you had some moments over your career where you felt like you were being treated a certain way just because you were a woman?
I wouldn’t even say it’s deliberate but it does happen where women who are, you know, strong minded, strong willed and opinionated, there’s this likeability factor – there’s lots of studies around that. That you know, attributes are likeable in men, those same attributes are unlikeable in women. I don’t think women alone can change that. I think women and men have to work together to change that. And in a world of social media, where all of the currency is liking something, I worry that that’s going to get even more complicated for this next generation of women.
Now you’re CEO and you’re mentoring other people in your company…
You know, I think mentorship has become a management buzzword but it often boils down to: What’s stopping you from doing what you think should be done? What’s keeping you from taking that swing? You know, when you’re growing in a—from a career standpoint and when you’re really advancing, it’s uncomfortable and you’re going to feel uncomfortable and you have to somehow find some comfort in the discomfort.

Source: nytimes


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