Al Roker in new book: Em­brace the power of ‘ yes’

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Mor­gan Hines

Long­time “To­day” host shares some in­spir­ing ca­reer and life lessons.

“Life is about some­thing much big­ger than a plan,” Al Roker writes in the in­tro­duc­tion of his lat­est book, “You Look So Much Bet­ter in Per­son,” which hit shelves Tues­day. h And no one knows that bet­ter than Roker him­self. The weather and fea­ture an­chor of “To­day” and co- host of the 3rd Hour of the “To­day” show op­er­ates with­out a strict plan, leav­ing him­self open to op­por­tu­nity – a move that has re­sulted in some of his fond­est mem­o­ries and great­est feats. In his new book, Roker offers nuggets of ad­vice dubbed “Al­tru­isms,” along­side shared nar­ra­tives from Roker’s ca­reer.

“I have been fore­cast­ing the weather for forty years and I can’t nec­es­sar­ily pre­dict to­mor­row’s weather with 100% ac­cu­racy,” he writes in the in­tro­duc­tion. “How the hell will I know what I’ll be do­ing in five years?”

Plans, Roker points out, are rigid, can go awry and don’t leave room for fun, ex­plo­ration or ad­ven­ture. In fact, he sug­gests that if you have a five- year plan, you should take a “match” to it.

“You Look So Much Bet­ter in Per­son” came into ex­is­tence the same way many of Roker’s accolades have: He said yes to some­thing un­planned. Af­ter speak­ing at a Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Black Jour­nal­ists con­fer­ence, his pub­lisher ap­proached him and asked whether he would be in­ter­ested in writ­ing a book with tid­bits about his ca­reer and lessons learned. Even­tu­ally, he warmed to the idea.

“If noth­ing else, it’d be nice to have a col­lec­tion of sto­ries about my ca­reer be­fore I re­ally hit old age, be­cause I’m for­get­ting more and more,” he tells USA TO­DAY.

But the re­sult is more than a gather­ing of mem­o­ries: The book serves as guid­ance for peo­ple at differ­ent points on their own ca­reer paths. The “Al­tru­isms” pro­vide both a les­son and a smile, and the power of “yes” in ad­di­tion to the power of “no” is ev­i­dent through­out.

“I think the two most pow­er­ful words, no mat­ter what lan­guage, are ‘ yes’ and ‘ no,’ in what­ever your lan­guage’s equiv­a­lent is,” Roker says. “‘ Yes’ gives you the op­por­tu­nity, es­pe­cially in your pro­fes­sion, to do things you might not have planned.”

Roker uses his own ca­reer path as an ex­am­ple. He never had a de­sire to be­come a weath­er­man and didn’t rel­ish the idea of be­ing on tele­vi­sion.

“I lit­er­ally had no in­ter­est in be­ing on tele­vi­sion,” he says. “When I looked in the mir­ror when I was a sopho­more in col­lege, and star­ing back at me was a chunky, bald­ing, glasses- wear­ing Black kid, I didn’t look back ... and go, ‘ Hey, you should be on TV, you’re that good- look­ing.’ ”

But he gave it a shot and it cer­tainly panned out. Other mo­ments of tri­umph emerged in the same way, in­clud­ing when he made his Broad­way de­but in “Waitress,” some­thing else he never ex­pected to do.

“On the other hand, the power of ‘ no’ is that if you say ‘ no’ to the

things that are not im­por­tant to you, it gives you more time to say ‘ yes': yes to your fam­ily, yes to your friends, yes to the things you what to do at work,” Roker ex­plains. “I want peo­ple to come away with the power of those two words.”

But con­sid­er­ing each op­por­tu­nity, even those you wouldn't nor­mally think of is worth it.

One Al­tru­ism that is par­tic­u­larly salient is the fo­cus of the book's final chap­ter: “Build Your Own A- Team.”

No one gets through life alone and no one be­comes suc­cess­ful alone. Roker cer­tainly hasn't, he notes, point­ing out the many mo­ments in which his loved ones, col­leagues and men­tors sup­ported him.

“I think you've got to find a team,” Roker says. “You've got to find a group of peo­ple that will help you, whether ( they are) friends, fam­ily, co- work­ers – those are the peo­ple who are go­ing to help you achieve your great­est achieve­ments.”


Al Roker’s long and var­ied ca­reer is an ex­am­ple of not stick­ing to a plan, he says.


Al Roker on Oct. 29, 2019.

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