In a matter of hours, I will walk out on the only professional industry I’ve ever known as a working adult. Television broadcasting, the career I dove into in college, that took me to newsrooms across the country and to an active combat zone in Afghanistan, will become an object in the rearview mirror. Along with the steady paycheck that comes with.
I’ve decided it takes a certain kind of crazy to do something like this, to jump off the proverbial cliff and start your own business, full-time. Up to this point, every project I produced under the guise of McLeod Media was done essentially as a side gig while I juggled TV news deadlines during the hours of 8-6 each day.
No more moonlighting. This is my new path, an evolution of my craft: I’ll still be doing everything I did throughout my career in TV, but all of my work will be on behalf of paying clients, meaning I will live with the unforgiving truth that there is no paycheck until the work is done and the client is happy.
Like I said, it takes a certain kind of crazy. But it’s the way it has to be, because I simply could not imagine a life moving forward in broadcasting.
Television news had left me increasingly unhappy and devoid of pride in my work, symptoms felt by many of my colleagues. So many of us, however, simply have no plan B. Broadcasting is the life we have chosen. The explanation of why we’ve become unhappy, frustrated and unfulfilled is a different topic for a different entry, but I’ll skip it because that story of discontent has been thoroughly chronicled by other industry websites. The “why” and “how” is almost irrelevant. All that matters is, it is.
I think it started hitting me after the birth of my daughter, and hit me harder and more convincingly after the arrival of my son. I was getting home often at 6:45 or 7:00 every night after leaving that morning before 8:00, leaving me no more than 30 minutes with the children before bed time. And for what? My salary in TV wasn’t going up, my assignments weren’t getting any better, and my skill set was (I felt) being wasted.
For crying out loud, I’ve produced an Emmy award-winning documentary about the war in Afghanistan, and a 90 minute documentary (more than two years in production) honoring the 175th anniversary of my college in South Carolina. I knew I could do great, memorable work when given the time to work on it, yet here I was, reporting on seemingly meaningless and forgettable TV stories on four and five-hour deadlines. Meaning the work was never great, because there was never enough time to make it so.
No more of that. Especially as I realize people will actually pay me good money to create unique, memorable films on their behalf.
Four years I spent, building my company on mornings, nights and weekends, sandwiched around TV deadlines and scarce family time. Now, I’m about find out just how far I’ve come, as I lean entirely on my company and my craft in supplying a financial foundation for my family.
For all the work I did in trying to build a client base, I came to the conclusion I would never be fully ready to make the jump. Just like many parents think they never really have enough money or stability in their lives to become parents, they do it anyway. And they find a way, they make it work.
This is much the same feeling and motivation I encounter now, in the late evening hours of this September evening. With the summer nearly gone, like my career in broadcasting, it is time for a new season of life. I feel exhilaration, energy, excitement, and … fear. Inescapable, undeniable — fear.
A Navy Seal by the name of Robert O’Neill (he was on the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden) contends that a certain amount of fear is healthy, it makes you think more clearly and focus on the task at hand. It’s panic that is detrimental and contagious, creating wasted energy and doing no one any good.
So, here I go, into a life where I will live with an ebb and flow of fear, enough to keep me focused and moving forward, without feeling panic. I am incredibly blessed that my wonderful wife is fully in my corner, and in fact thinks I could have and perhaps should have made this career move sooner. But it’s happening now, crazy as it seems — TV is a thing of my past.
The future is right here, and it goes by the name of McLeod Media.