“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill
The Power to Choose to Continue
There are small victories to be won every day.
The triumphs are often immeasurable to the outside observer but are critical to our survival, mental and emotional health, and ability to thrive in a world of constant uncertainty.
We win with our choices.
We choose to get out of bed, get in the shower, get dressed, commute and go into our respective workplaces.
We also choose the quantity of our work, the quality of our work, and the length of time we dedicate ourselves to one project or another.
We also choose to plan even in the face of uncertainty. We really do not know what is going to happen next in life, but we chart our course.
There have been times in my life where I have felt on top of the world after scoring a major victory in my life and I wanted that moment to last forever.
There are also times where I have been knocked off my feet by challenges that have rocked me.
I just wanted the moment to end as soon as possible.
However in success and in defeat, it is our ability to continue that counts.
“It was my time to pitch”
In late July 2011, I got my first taste of being on television, appearing on NBC Chicago Nonstop, a secondary local channel in Chicago covering mostly local topics.
I interviewed with Marion Brooks, a local news anchor on her show “The Talk” about the then ongoing NBA lockout which eventually led to a 66-game NBA regular season instead of the normal 82 games.
How I got my opportunity was fortuitous.
One day in March 2011, I received an email soliciting bloggers to submit ideas for hosting a blog on the Tribune-owned site ChicagoNow.
At the time, the only media exposure I had was being interviewed by a neighborhood circular about the legality of stolen jokes.
Months before the email I put on my vision board at the beginning of the year hosting a blog, not knowing exactly how to get started. The email from ChicagoNow was a confirmation to move forward.
My idea was about the intersection of business and law with sports mixed with a dash of politics, and musings of my life’s journey.
ChicagoNow accepted my idea and I started writing for my new blog entitled “Ex Posts Facto” on April 20, 2011, and cranked out regular pieces for several months.
One day I saw a post by National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago Chapter then chair Kyra Kyles on Facebook about an open invite to CBS Chicago’s studios to pitch new ideas for stories.
Turns out, my vision board also included me going on television as a legal analyst.
I arrived at CBS Chicago on the appointed day, unsure of what was to happen, and not knowing what to expect.
When I step into a new arena, I don’t waltz in strutting my stuff. I’m normally a fly on the wall observer. A student. I have to know how the pieces fit.
At that time I didn’t have a clue how news stations worked, so I was there to learn.
Once arriving at the highly secure building, other attendees and I were escorted to a room where refreshments were served and other recognizable CBS Chicago news personalities were present chatting among themselves.
News Director Jeff Kiernan addressed the group and then attendees began rattling off their ideas and pitches one after another.
Most in attendance shared story ideas already seen on local news programs or complained to the station about a variety of issues.
From my perspective, I did not feel as if the news director was being moved by what he was hearing at the time.
I sensed he was ready to close out the meeting and I had heard enough.
It was my time to pitch.
“So what if you have a niche?” I injected.
“What niche?” Kiernan responded.
“I have a blog ‘Ex Posts Facto’ for ChicagoNow where I write about the business and law of sports. For example, I am writing about the ongoing NFL and NBA lockouts now,” I explained.
As fortune would have it, National Football League owners were meeting in Chicago to discuss strategies on how to move forward on the lockout.
The room began buzzing.
All of the local reporters expressed they did not have a “sports law analyst” to break down what was happening and potential next steps.
At the time, the niche of sports business and legal analyst was severely underdeveloped.
Stories off the field were not making national news, but I started my blog having a sense the impact of social media and shift of digital media would cause a paradigm shift.
I guessed right.
Multiple reporters and producers exchanged contact information with me, including then NBC producer Carol Ash.
Ms. Ash, a lovely human being, said she would definitely get me on air.
True to her word, Ms. Ash contacted me four days later requesting my appearance on NBC Chicago Nonstop.
Unfortunately, just a day before I had come down with a nasty flu that left me bedridden. I couldn’t hold down anything I ate, I was dizzy, and I was burning up.
Opportunity waits for no man. It was my time, and no matter how I felt, I was going into that news station.
I had to be at the station in less than an hour.
I showered, threw on my suit, tossed in my pocket square and raced down the stairs.
In my haste and dizziness, I missed a step and went tumbling down the stairs, landing square on my back at the bottom.
I don’t know if I have experienced another time in my life where I felt so many uncomfortable sensations happening all at once in my body.
I couldn’t move.
I felt my labor had been in vain and I would have to submit to what was going on in my body. Maybe I was pushing myself too hard.
A small voice in me said “Get up. It’s your time” and just like that, I summoned the energy to immediately leap to my feet and travel the 12 miles required to reach the station.
I arrived to find smiling, greeting faces, and production people running about and preparing for the broadcast about to take place.
I spotted a news desk I probably saw hundreds of times from home.
Cameras of various sizes and shapes were everywhere.
Still dark studio lights preparing to be turned on loomed above me like birds perched on a telephone wire ready to fly at any moment to their destination.
I had a few minutes to prepare before my scheduled interview. Then, the moment arrived for me to join the next segment.
My stomach bubbled from nerves and my mind searched for talking points.
I walked on set and engaged in small talk with Marion, how to pronounce my name and what points I was looking to raise. Her respect for my expertise put me at ease.
We were given a countdown, and then on air, I went.
It felt natural. The nerves were instantly gone.
I fell in love with it immediately.
After my segment, I walked over to the adjoining news anchor desk I noticed prior and spotted a woman who was set to preview delightful, colorful cupcakes from what is now a very popular cupcake bakery in Chicago.
As we exchanged small talk, I had an epiphany.
The cupcake owner was there for the purpose of promoting her business, and she was not there to be a television personality.
She would not need to come to the news station and be outward facing to the public regularly. Her business was there to do that. In fact, she probably never had to come back again after that appearance.
I too had, and still have, a business to promote.
However, I did not just want to promote my law firm on that appearance. I realized I was there to share my knowledge and present as a marketable television brand.
I caught a bug.
I wanted in.
I did not want to be one of those people who takes a picture of appearing on television and puts it on a mantle at home to show people to accompany a decades-old yarn.
With that, I went to work.
After only 4 television appearances and one radio appearance, I flew to New York to find a media agent.
I was rejected at every turn, but in my meetings, I learned valuable information about how to reposition myself to succeed in media.
I joined the National Association of Black Journalists and I went to their gatherings, meetings, and national convention.
I took professional social media training and television training, I even took business courses at the Chicago Urban League, Loyola University, and the Small Business Administration to properly leverage myself in media.
Eventually, I accumulated over 200+ appearances on-air and become one of the world’s foremost sports business and legal analysts, and 18 months after being rejected by media agents, one of the agents who initially rejected me wound up looking for me.
I actually had to turn down agents.
With each new network I appeared on, each new accomplishment was becoming a high.
By the end of 2014, I was appearing on television, radio, and in digital media constantly and the high began to decrease.
The grind eventually became more of a chore than a way to expand my brand.
I felt a new concern. I did not want to be the person who was hot on television for a period of time and not pivots to a very own show and builds a bigger footprint in the world.
So began the process of pitching my own show, launching 528 Media Group, exavierpope.com, creating my podcasts.
Continuing to Choose
I have met with every major network about having my own show. I’ve heard plenty of no’s, a couple of yeses but wait for forevers, yeses but contracts I did not like so I declined and everywhere in between.
Some day soon I will be hosting my very own show on a larger platform than I do now, or my platform itself with having elevated to a much larger audience.
I will get a high off that.
I will not want to come down, fully soaking in the awards, the multi-million dollar contracts, and the opportunities to build a bigger brand.
However, as it has been with every stop along the way in my life, my journey, my education, my businesses, my media ascension, and more, that success will not be final.
I will have to make a conscious decision, a choice to rev up and evolve, and do that again until I exist no more in my present physical form.
And then it will be up to my children to carry on my legacy and know it is the courage to continue that counts.
And it will also be up to them as it is for me, to not be crushed or toppled by any failure along the way to success.
There are small victories to be won every day.
We win by finding power, strength, determination, and joy in the ability to recognize our ability to continue to choose over and over again.
And in those choices, we find ourselves always prepared to taste life’s colorful, delicious cupcakes.
Exavier B. Pope I, Esq. is an award-winning attorney, on-air legal analyst, media personality, Fortune 500 speaker, content creator, writer, tastemaker, thought leader, and yogi. Mr. Pope is the host of #SuitUP Podcast for his production company 528 Media Group, and a contributing writer and host of the Radical Inspiration Podcast distributed through Wanderlust/Yoganonymous. Mr. Pope has over 200+ appearances on air, including: international television on BBC and Al Jazeera English; national television on Fox News Channel, HLN, NBC Nightly News, Al Jazeera America, WGN Morning News, Fox Business Channel, and Huff Post Live; Top 3 Local Media Markets on Fox, CBS, and NBC; international radio on BBC Radio; national radio on ESPN Radio, Clear Channel Radio, NBC Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio; written and contributed to digital pieces for The Hollywood Reporter, CNBC, Huffington Post, Jet, and Black Enterprise; and has appeared in other media outlets nationally and internationally. Mr. Pope is represented by top media and literary agency RLR Associates.
© 2016, Exavier B. Pope I, Esq., 528 Media Group.
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