On Thursday, I visited my old university, The University of Central Florida in Orlando, to talk at the j-school (The Nicholson School of Communication) to some students at the invite of one of my favorite instructors of all time, Rick Brunson.
It was a mobile journalism class, so after I told my little story of getting from UCF to NPR and all the adventures in between, I talked about what some folks at NPR are doing to file and report from mobile locations as well as some of the things NPR is doing to put our work in front of more eyes and on more devices.
But the part I enjoyed the most was the third act; the big hoorah. The theme of my little presentation (which I’d whipped up in a frenzy the night before when I found out I was to fill the entire 1 hour and 15 minutes of class time) was “Make It Count.” That’s not an original name of course, it’s actually a Nike campaign, but the inspirational sentiment was the same.
In light of recent negative advice to young journalists, and then some positive, I figured I’d try and give the fresh young minds some hope in these mixed messages. Using a bit of genius from the late David Carr and channeling my inner Gary Vaynerchuk, I basically communicated that there is no formula for success in journalism (or in life in general). The only person that has that complicated recipe is you; you get to decide what success means to you and set your own goalposts.
The other part of that message was that to get ahead in journalism (or again, in life really), you need to be bold, take risks and be willing to fail. Granted, I can’t speak with the utmost authority, but by my definition I feel I’ve been pretty successful and these are things and ideas that have worked for me. But even as I was speaking, I realized I need to heed my own advice and “make it count” a bit more every day.
I ended it with the video where I cribbed that idea from, filmmaker Casey Neistat’s Nike video of the same name (one of my favorite of his):
I really enjoy doing these little talks. A few weeks ago I Skyped another class to talk about the role of curiosity in journalism and why it is important. For me, these types of talks with students are actually as inspirational for me personally as I hope it is for them. Saying what I feel in my heart and bones about journalism, writing, creating and telling stories reminds me why I enjoy doing what I’m doing and working for the company that I work for. It helps slough off the complacency and makes me return to work with renewed vigor and a fire in my belly ready to do new things.
I hope it lasts.
Make it count.