Carol Leifer,
How to Succeed in Business without Really Crying
(Quirk Books, 2014)

In this book -- part memoir, part self-help, always funny and on target -- veteran comedian and TV and movie producer and writer Carol Leifer offers stories from her show business career and advice for young people getting started in whatever profession they've chosen. She sees show business as operating by the same principles as other businesses and insists, correctly, that her advice is transferable.

It is also funny, warm and wise. Leifer comes across as a genuinely nice person -- although she confesses to being driven, a quality she keep in check by daily transcendental meditation. Being driven, however, is hardly a bad thing if you channel it into a motivating force and use it to enhance not just your career but the lives of others. Leifer's advice is always other-driven; she points out that you can succeed by helping the people in a position to hire you to succeed also.

She also counsels preparation and patience. In order to get onto the Johnny Carson show, she did 22 auditions over the course of 11 years, for example. Realizing she would always hear the word "no" many more times than "yes," she did not allow herself to be crushed by rejection. When she heard about a series of short films to be directed by women, she wanted to be aboard but the deadline for the first set of films had passed. So she asked her agent to try to get her into the second series. It turned out, that one was filled already, so she asked if, the next time she was in New York, she could meet with the producers, just to get to know them in case a third series happened. The meeting took place and, a couple of months later, when one of the directors dropped out, guess who got the call to replace her. This is preparation and patience in action. Her advice? You've got a much better chance of getting struck by lightning if you do the groundwork and then wait for a storm.

Some of her advice is basic, but it still needs to be said. Dressing appropriately for an interview, for example, is something that you wouldn't believe people would need to be told, but I've served on many a hiring committee where men have lost out on jobs as professors by showing up for the interview in jeans and a tee-shirt and women have lost out by appearing to think we were hiring cleavage.

And if it needs to be told, it's nice that it is told in such a funny way. Leifer learned most of this stuff that hard way, by making all the mistakes she discusses and she uses her own 40-year journey through show business as a source of examples. She makes the journey not only painless but fun.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

11 October 2014

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