I probably don’t need to convince you that Tina Fey is amazing. But lately, with the pieces she has been writing for The New Yorker, I am falling in love all over again with the way she mixes humor, neuroticism and wisdom all into the same breath. This week, Tina wrote a piece called “Lessons From Late Night,” in which she recounts some of the teachings she absorbed from legendary “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels. Tina writes, “During my nine years at ‘Saturday Night Live,’ my relationship with Lorne transitioned from Terrified Pupil and Reluctant Teacher, to Small-Town Girl and Streetwise Madam Showing Her the Ropes, to Annie and Daddy Warbucks (touring company).” Some of the things Tina says she learned: don’t hire anyone you wouldn’t want to run into in the hallway at three in the morning. And never tell a crazy person they are crazy. True dat.Most of us have had many different jobs, not to mention many different bosses, over the years. (I’ve been everything from a popcorn scooper at a local movie theater to a spam email writer—yeah, sorry about that—to a journalist and blogger.) I love the idea of taking a few minutes to think about what you’ve learned from each job. And so, to celebrate my second year anniversary at The Frisky, I thought I’d take a minute and jot down some of the many lessons I’ve learned here.
Follow your first instinct. When I worked in magazines, I had months to write a piece. I could try out lots of different approaches and pick which one worked the best. But here at The Frisky, I write anywhere from 7 to 12 posts a day. The daily churn has taught me not to overthink things. Nine times out of ten, I roll with the very first idea that pops into my mind. And usually, it works.
Not everything you write has to be Shakespeare. Tina says in her New Yorker piece, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s eleven-thirty.” That is so, so true here—there just isn’t time to make every little thing perfect. I’ve made peace with the fact that some posts will be hilarious, some will be insightful, and some will be a few notches below mediocre. I’ve learned not to be so precious about each word.
Co-workers can be friends. At jobs I’ve had in the past, I’ve gone out for after-work drinks with co-workers where we, for the most part, talked about the wide variety of ways in which our boss drives us crazy. Occasionally, a co-worker has become a good friend—the kind who knows that I dreamed of being a professional clogger when I was a kid—but for the most part, I’ve maintained a divide between my work and my personal life. Working at The Frisky has taught me not to be so rigid about that separation—we share the details of our lives with each other and often, with you. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to say to your boss, “I just broke up with someone and have cramps,” rather than try to muscle through it.
Stress isn’t something you have to feel. Most jobs I’ve had have been very stress-based—if this article isn’t in by noon, THE WORLD WILL IMPLODE, if this package doesn’t arrive by tomorrow, IT’S ALL OVER. I don’t know how she does it exactly, but Amelia just does not stress. When things get dicey, she says, “We’ll figure it out.” And you know what? We do. Because we don’t waste our energy freaking and instead can dedicate our mental power to fixing the problem. It’s a strategy I hope to take with me elsewhere.
If criticism hurts, it’s probably something you’ve thought before. One of the strangest elements about working at The Frisky is the fact that we get feedback on each and every post in the form of comments. Sometimes, that can feel really good—like when you tell me you are “LMAO” or have felt exactly the same way. But sometimes, comments can be brutal. Every once in a while, a comment has gotten under my skin—I’ve thought about it for hours, getting progressively more angry about it. I’ve noticed that usually when a comment hits that close to home they are criticisms I’ve have had of myself. I know now to think about these not in an angry way, but with an eye toward self-improvement.
Below, tell me five things you’ve learned from your job.