It was fitting that my interview with Al Roker was initially canceled on account of the weather (Hurricane Joaquin was stealing the thunder). Luckily, though, the tropical cyclone slowed down enough for America’s favorite weatherman to sit down to discuss his storied career with success.
People love Al Roker. He joined NBC’s Today Show in 1996 and has remained a staple there ever since, helping 32 million people prepare for their days every week. But that’s not his only hosting gig. His media credits span wide, including NBC Nightly News, the Macy’s Day Parade, and The Weather Channel’s Wake Up With Al and, now, its mobile-only series The Lift. He is the CEO of multimedia company Al Roker Entertainment, Inc. and founder of creative group Roker Labs. He is also the best-selling author of eight acclaimed books, including his latest release, The Storm of the Century.
Here is what we can learn from Al Roker about success—whether it’s reporting the weather, entertaining America or something else in your neck of the woods:
1. Don’t quit your day job.
The best advice Roker has ever gotten? Never give up your day job, his mentor, veteran weatherman who preceded him at NBC, Willard Scott.
“I do a lot of different things, but the weather is my base,” Roker says.
Having a base makes it easier to cope with the ups and downs of the extremely competitive, unpredictable industry of broadcasting—an industry which, he says, has a degree of serendipity.
“You try to be prepared, but for every successful [person], there are another thousand probably as talented people who just didn’t get that break.”
2. Be ready to work hard—at whatever you do.
Roker initially had no interest in weather; it was just the opportunity that presented itself early in his career. He kept walking through the doors that opened to him—and that walk became a sprint. Until recently, he rarely took a vacation.
So what does he think about work-life balance—especially for the hardest workers?
“It’s more like work-life average,” he says. “Sometimes you’ve got a lot of time with your family, other times because of their schedule, your schedule, it just doesn’t work out…. It comes in spurts, [where] you’re just going, going, going.”
That’s the case in any career, he says, remembering his dad working a lot of overtime as a bus driver. But by averaging it all out, by making sure the time is put in on the professional and personal sides of your life, the time is there for both.
Roker also credits his wife, ABC anchor Deborah Roberts for understanding the demands of the career.
3. Stay curious.
Find a niche and stick to it, become an expert, they say. Well, Roker disagrees. Yes, you need a base, but you also need a wide net of interests.
“Try to be as curious as possible about everything,” he says. Research and read a lot. Be knowledgeable about a lot of different topics—because you never know when you might need that safety net.
When Wake Up With Al was canceled last month after six years on the air, he didn’t throw up his hands—he got curious. His newest adventures? Live streaming technologies, including The Lift, The Weather Channel’s digital initiative, and Roker Labs, his tech company that works with cutting-edge media platforms to create content.
“It’s like television was in the 50s,” he says. “Who knows what the next big thing is, but it’s fun to play with.”
4. Stay grateful.
When I asked him about the sacrifices he’s had to make for his career, he scoffed. “What have I got to complain about?”
“There are some sacrifices, certain amounts of privacy, sometimes my kids will complain, and I understand and it’s valid,” he says. “But I also say, ‘Look, guys, we also get to do some pretty amazing things and get to see some pretty amazing things and go to some pretty amazing places.”
You won’t hear him complain about trolls or haters either. Though some could argue haters are worse for someone like him, he believes people face haters at any job, no matter the industry. His policy? Ignore them. Or occasionally have fun mocking them back.
Part of Roker’s likeability is due to his genuine appreciation for his career, most of which he says was completely unexpected.
“It’s all gravy; it’s all a bonus,” he says. “What a blessing to be able to do this.”
5. Be true to yourself.
His best advice? Be patient—and stay true to yourself.
“Eventually something’s going to happen. It might not be what you want to happen, it might not be the job you think you want, but what’s supposed is going to happen,” he says.
“At the end of the day, that’s all you got. When they take everything else, they cannot take that away.”