A Little Inspiration from Joan Lunden
Saturday morning was cold by most standards but by Austin, Texas standards it was downright freezing. (We had to wear jackets.) But that didn’t stop the nearly 1,000 women from crowding into the Moody Theatre to hear Joan Lunden, the headliner at Prevention Magazine’s R3 Summit, speak.
Here are some facts you may (or may not know) about Ms. Lunden: She co-hosted Good Morning America for nearly 20 years, she is a recent breast cancer survivor and advocate, and she has seven (1-2-3-4-5-6-7) children. With a resume like that you know her speech was going to be good.
Between her keynote address, book signings and panel discussions, she managed to give me some one-on-one time for an interview. We talked about her motivation, career and daredevil stunts. (She climbed and repelled the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, bungee jumped off a 143 foot bridge and even tried stand up comedy once. “It was the scariest and best eight minutes of my life.”)
Here are some of the most thought-provoking stories she told and messages she shared during the course of the day:
- “Turn your mess into a mission.” On June 5, 2014 she went in for a mammogram. Breast cancer didn’t run in her family and so it was no big surprise that the results were normal. But she remembered interviewing a doctor once who told her to get an ultrasound if she had dense breast tissue. That advice saved her live. After she finished her mammogram she went across the hall and the ultrasound discovered she had an aggressive form of breast cancer that had to be dealt with immediately. Surviving cancer, she now speaks across the country about the importance of ultrasounds.
- “Share your stories.“ While she could have just focused on her own recovery process, she went on to write Had I Known in hopes she can help other women. As part of her GMA job, she interviewed presidents, princes and movie stars but often was the ordinary person with an extraordinary story she found most inspiring. “Women are stronger than we give ourselves credit for. You never know how your personal struggle can inspire other people, so share your story.”
- “Do whatever it takes to get the job done.” At the beginning of her career commercials were done live. The camera man said, “30 seconds until air,” and a giant dog was placed on a table for an Alpo commercial. “15 seconds till air.” The dog made a giant poop on the table and all the interns in the room looked at each other in panic and disgust. “6 seconds. 5 seconds.” The executive producer scooped the poop up in his hands and the show went on. During the break the executive producer went to the interns and showed them the pile of s*** in his hands and said, “This is the difference between what I do and what you do. I make sure the show goes on the air.”
- “Be willing to risk not being great to learn how to be great.” When she first started out in the 70’s she was offered a position as a weathergirl. She knew nothing of cumulus vs. stratus clouds but took the job anyway and learned as she went, as a way to get her foot in the door to TV journalism. The film crew served as her mentors and taught her how to make each story shine. From there she worked her way up to a local news anchor. If you are open to learning you become open for opportunities.
- “Keep challenging and reinventing yourself.” She could have stayed a local anchor but decided to become a street reporter. “To get to the top you need to be working in the trenches to have layers of empathy and understanding.” When the opportunity presented itself to co-host GMA she took the risk and her years in the trenches helped her relate better to the guests she interviewed.
- “Always have a positive attitude.” No matter what was going on in her personal life she made a point to be upbeat on the show, knowing that her mood could impact how the viewers started their day.
- “Find the little things to make life less stressful.” Joan was a working mom before it was the norm. She has seven children, ages 34, 31, 28, 12-year-old twins, and 10-year-old twins. As the woman who introduced her said, “I only have two kids and I can’t keep up. I would have lost the other five.” Joan acknowledged that there’s always going to be the sense that you’re not doing enough in one area of your life or another, so just do your best. She also likes to stay organized. She has greeting cards and wrapped gifts labelled in a drawer for the year ahead, she meal preps and freezes the leftovers and has her pantry set up so she can host a dinner party in an instant if she has to.
- “Be an athlete in training.” She doesn’t believe in just going to the gym to exercise. She makes time to take care of herself and part of that involves training for specific challenges, like repelling a glacier in Alaska and white water rafting. She is currently training to walk 39 miles in 2 days. She’s 65 years old.
Her enthusiasm for life is inspiring. She told me, “Even if you’re scared to do something, do it anyway because it is an opportunity and you never know where it will lead you!”
Good advice for anyone.
Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two.
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