How to win in the world by winning in your mind FIRST. (or “life lessons learned by a TV reporter”)

Do you ever doubt yourself? Wait….if you’re reading this, that means you’re human – and THAT means the answer is yes, at least sometimes.

I mentor dozens of young TV reporters and anchors. Any time I start a coaching relationship, the first thing I do is look at someone’s reel, or body of work. Ever hear of a “tell?” In poker, a “tell” is a change in a player’s behavior that gives a clue to how they feel about their cards or hand. It’s kind of the same for news. I can spot little “tells” that clue me in that the reporter is just not comfortable. And, simply put, if they’re not comfortable, the viewer won’t be either.

There are so many “tells.” When you doubt yourself, wish you had more experience, wish you were as successful as that guy or that girl, are stuck in your head hoping you get this standup right, or are nervous about doing a good job, the “tells” come out. They come out in the form of uncomfortable hand movement, like pointing or gesturing like you work on a game show. They come out in measured or careful speech (read: slow) that ends the way you think a reporter should speak. (Pssst, a reporter should speak like a person speaks.) They come out in a walking standup with lots of deliberate hand movement to show the obvious. They come out in phrases like, “as you can see behind me” and “that’s right, Anchor Name.”

How do I know? Because I’ve done every one of those things. There. I admit it. And now – finally – I have enough experience to feel 100% comfortable with who I am and what I bring to the table. But, I totally get it. There is no weirder job than being a TV reporter. Well, I’m sure there are some weird jobs out there – but nothing screws with your sense of self like having little experience while you’re ON TV and you’re supposed to appear like you’re confident and knowledgeable even when you aren’t.

Reporters come to me to ask how they can perfect their craft, do award-winning stories, work on their live shots, write better or quicker, get that next job – but my first question is do you think you’re a good reporter? Do you believe you’re awesome at what you do? Smart? A great speaker? Do you think your viewers are so lucky that you’re on the case, and they’re getting this story from you? If the answer is no, it will show. And that’s the number one thing you have to conquer. The doubts.


How do you feel confident when you’re not? You have to train your brain. Change your thinking. Choose new thoughts. And don’t focus on anyone but yourself. What others think of you is none of your business. What’s great about you? What amazing things have you done? Make a list. Read it often. When I was coming up, I had a note in my iPhone of my accomplishments, and another note of inspiring phrases.

Phrases like:

Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

Your crown is bought and paid for. Put it on and wear it.

When we project a cruel unfair universe, we become it’s victims.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Rush not, be still, it takes the time it takes.

Your thoughts become things. If YOU doubt yourself, how can anyone else have faith in you. People take their cues from you. Play small, so you don’t stand out or you don’t upset others, and you end up being small. Now, you have to be able to write, get the story and everything else a reporter needs to do, but if your thoughts get in your way, it will be much more difficult, and a lot less enjoyable.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Saira says:

    Love this, Debra! I just emailed it out to my newsroom.

    1. dalfarone says:

      Saira! Thank you for doing that! Thank you for spreading the word, I really appreciate it.

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