Imagery of Regent people and campus

Gretchen Carlson Encourages Risk-Taking at ELS

By Amanda Morad | October 7, 2013

Gretchen Carlson addresses Regent's Executive Leadership Series.
Photo by Alex Perry

Before a crowd of 400 local business leaders, national broadcast television personality Gretchen Carlson discussed the role of risk in success at Regent University's Executive Leadership Series luncheon Monday, Oct. 7.

Carlson is perhaps most well-known as the co-anchor of "FOX & Friends," but as of last week, she now hosts her own one-hour show on FOX News Channel's "The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson."

She opened her remarks with stories about her children, getting the crowd laughing at the Carlson-family version of "Kids Say the Darndest Things" before reaching the heart of the matter.

"What makes our family tick has a lot to do with the families we came from and the understanding that faith and family are top priority," she prefaced. Carlson then gave a little of her Midwestern history, including the memory of her grandfather, pastor of the second largest Lutheran church in the nation when she was a child.

"He was a real executive leader," she said. "I learned a lot of life lessons from my grandfather and my parents that I hope I can pass on to my children."

One of those lessons in particular helps tell the story of Carlson's life: "The best way we learn to succeed is to take risks," she said.

"Broadcast news scripts last for 20 or 30 seconds and then they're out," said the veteran newscaster. "But our scripts for life get fuller through every difficult time we face and with every risk we take. It's the way we learn."

Carlson criticized society's current attitude toward risk in the context of winning. "This winning notion has reinforced the idea that it's only cool to win, or in some cases that everyone wins, and that has made us afraid to fail and afraid to even try because we might make a mistake," she explained.

Her personal history, however, tells a different story and proves her a fearless risk-taker. As a child, she wanted to play the piano, but was told that her hands were too small. So she picked up the violin and became so proficient she had a childhood career as a concert violinist. Then at 17, she took the risk of quitting her performance career to go to college. Just a few years later, she left Stanford before her senior year to pursue being Miss America.

When that dream was realized in 1989, Carlson began taking the constant risk of being in the public eye, which would continue into her career in broadcast television.

"In TV, I've learned to continue taking risks," she said. "There's no real set career path to take. It's all about taking risks for the next opportunity."

Shortly after her wedding, Carlson was fired from her local news anchor job to be replaced by a man and took a job in Dallas, states away from her new husband. They commuted for two years. "Talk about going off script," she quipped.

But the lessons she learned through taking that risk equipped her for Manhattan, where she worked her way up through CBS, covering the 2000 presidential election and then 9/11 at Ground Zero.

Today, as she embarks on her latest adventure in "The Real Story," Carlson carries with her the risks and failures that have helped build her success.

"Some things will work, some things won't, but I know that any failures will lead me to doing it better," she said. "The changes in my life script haven't always been easy, but those moments when life goes off script remind us that nothing is sure. They keep us on our toes and are the moments in which we learn the most."

Carlson has covered nearly every major news event in the last two decades. Prior to joining FOX, Carlson served as co-anchor of the "CBS Saturday Early Show." She was the recipient of the American Women in Radio and Television "Best Series" award for her series on domestic violence and has won two National Emmy awards for her work at CBS News.

Held each month, ELS brings together businessmen and women in Hampton Roads to hear from business and leadership experts. Learn more about ELS and register for next month's luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 12.


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