Do What You Love: The Celebrity Agent
Ever dream about finding a way to do what you love for a living? In my "Do What You Love" column, I ask people who've done it to tell me their secrets. Here's hoping they inspire you to do the same.
You know many of Ken Lindner’s clients — Matt Lauer, Mario Lopez, Lester Holt and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, but Lindner, who describes himself as both an agent and a life coach, stays mostly behind the scenes. That doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t see the results of his work. Every success his clients experience might partly be attributable to Lindner’s unique approach to “career choreography.” Lindner, who recently wrote the book “Your Killer Emotions: The 7 Steps to Mastering the Toxic Emotions, Urges, and Impulses That Sabotage You” (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2013), explains how he pioneered the career choreography concept and why he loves what he does. He also offers some advice on how you can find a way to do what you love for a living, too.
BusinessNewsDaily: What do you do?
Ken Lindner: I am a “career choreographer,” in that I coach and counsel individuals to make highly strategic life choices that put them in the very best position to attain their career goals. Others may call this an agent, a career placement professional, but I have coined it a “career choreographer.”
The core concept of career choreography is that there is a certain set of steps that you can take that will put the percentages in your favor that you will attain your goals and live your dreams. It is through strategically mapping out these steps and choices that I am able to equip and empower my clients to attain extraordinary career success and happiness. I have “choreographed”the careers of many of this country’s leading broadcasters/hosts such as Matt Lauer, Lester Holt, Mario Lopez, Robin Meade, Megyn Kelly, Sam Champion, Tom Bergeron, Shepard Smith and Nancy O’Dell.
I am also a life coach and in this secondary (but equally, if not more important role), I help individuals obtain their personal and professional goals via “Life-Choice Psychology.” I help individuals identify and understand their Personal Emotional Triggers (PETS) which can, when channeled properly, lead people to attain tremendous personal and professional success, and thereafter sustain it — which oftentimes is even harder to do.
BND: How did you end up doing this for a living?
K.L.: As much as I believe in strategically choreographing the steps of my or anyone’s career, my becoming a talent representative was a pure, totally unexpected fluke.
I was just about to be offered a position at a prestigious law firm and had every intention of accepting it. Just before the offer was to be tendered, I learned that one of the clients of that law firm was the William Morris Agency, [which was] then the most prestigious talent agency in America. Fortuitously, my dad’s best friend growing up in Brooklyn was Sam Weisbord, the president of William Morris. My dad suggested that I fly to LA to meet Sam before I began working for the (William Morris) law firm. Sam and I spoke for hours over dinner; I told him about my business marketing and contract law backgrounds.
At the end of the discussion, Sam shocked me by saying that he didn’t want me working for his law firm, but he would instead train me, through working in the William Morris Agency Business Affairs Department, to become a talent agent — a position at which he was “sure” I could excel. Then Sam told me about all of the stellar talents that William Morris represented — such as The Beatles; Elvis Presley; Robert Redford; Clint Eastwood; Goldie Hawn; Al Pacino, etc.
Hearing about the “people business” and how truly fascinating strategically guiding careers was totally sold me. As a result, instead of accepting the law firm position (which would have paid me more than twice what I’d earn at William Morris), I took a lower level/training position at William Morris — but learned quickly how much I loved it!
What I learned from this experience is that it’s great to plan ahead and envision your ideal future, but when a compelling curve or new data is thrown at you, be open-minded, flexible and constructive regarding an unexpected opportunity, and if it’s the right move — seize it! Carpe diem!
BND: What was the crucial decision you made that led you to this place in life?
K.L.: [T]he crucial decision that I made that led me to my current professional place in life, was choosing at age 27 to work for the William Morris Agency and declining the law firm offer that I was poised to receive.
The very specific reason why I consciously chose to accept the William Morris offer was because being a talent representative would make great beneficial use of my greatest skills and passions, which are:
1. I love helping people fulfill their potential;
2. I love being highly strategic and crafting effective plans of action;
3. I love being an entrepreneur;
4. I love finding creative solutions to complex challenges and creating a win-win outcome;
5. I enjoy using my legal/contract background, as many of the things that I do involve contracts; and
6. Most of all, I love enabling individuals to make highly beneficial career choices, by equipping them to master their emotions, urges and impulses.
BND: What did you want to be when you grew up?
K.L.: I wanted to be a professional tennis player. I was the No. 1 high school tennis player in New York City my sophomore through senior years. I was the captain and No. 1 player on the Harvard University Varsity Tennis Team. I defeated Arthur Ashe in an exhibition match a year before he became the No. 1 tennis player in the world. However, when I was faced with the choice of quitting college to join the tennis tour or continue at school, I opted to stay in school. At that time, I realized that my values and passions were changing. I found that I loved my studies and writing even more than playing competitive tennis. I was also very excited to begin my group tennis instruction business after college graduation, as this would combine my love of tennis and being a business entrepreneur.
BND: Why do you love your job?
K.L.: I love equipping and empowering individuals to attain career success and happiness; and I love being an entrepreneur and business owner where I have the role of impacting not only my clients’ lives, but also those who work with me. Building a company requires positive energy, small and big-picture goal setting, creativity, and persistence, which are qualities that I identify readily with. My huge reward is seeing career goals being fulfilled on a daily basis.
BND: What’s the biggest misconception about your job?
K.L.: The biggest misconception about my job is that I merely find positions for individuals and negotiate advantageous contracts for them. Most of what I do is guiding and enabling individuals to make strategic choices and decisions that will positively impact their immediate and subsequent moves, their careers, and personal and professional happiness.
Another misconception is that I probably advise clients to make career decisions and moves based solely on financial remuneration. While money is a factor, if the position in issue won’t help my client achieve their core short- and long-term growth objectives, I may well counsel my client not to accept the position — even if it is one that is highly compensated.
BND: If you didn’t do your job, whose job would you like to have and why?
K.L.: I would be a spiritual leader, or have my own television show, such as Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil have. This way, I can enlighten, equip and empower individuals to make positive, enhancing decisions that will lift their lives and nourish their souls.
BND: What is your best advice to other people who are trying to find a job they love?
K.L.: My best advice to individuals is:
1. Identify which positions/jobs/professions will take advantage of and showcase your unique skills, talents and gifts.
2. Make a list of your key abilities/skill sets, and then research which jobs/positions will take advantage of and showcase those abilities/skills. For example, if you have strong communication, people skills, love problem-solving then you should absolutely consider roles in the field of media relations, communications and/or sales.
3. Match your skills to your education and maximize any hidden talents you may have, such as an aptitude for languages; and perhaps you should continue to pursue your love of a foreign language in the field of media, Latino/Hispanic and Hispanic stations are always looking for people who are bilingual — Telemundo is one of the fastest-growing networks.
4. Always be mindful of how you are different from anyone else and highlight your unique talents.
5. Be willing to change course at any point and be open for the unexpected curveball which could lead you to your preferred career path that you weren’t expecting, such as what happened to me — attorney turned agent.
6. You are the best advocate for yourself and always believe in you and your inner ability to change your course in life.
BND: Do you think having a job you love has made you a better person in other areas of your life?
K.L.: Absolutely! I love helping others and being a bright light in their lives. This process fills my heart of hearts with love and empathy, as well as empowering feelings of high self-worth and self-esteem. This happiness and love in my heart of hearts led me to be a better, more understanding, more caring, and more loving person in all other areas of my life.
BND: What’s your idea of perfect retirement?
K.L.: I will never retire! My dad worked until he was nearly 99 years young! Working kept his mind strong. He felt relevant and valuable. However, if I were to leave my talent representation business, I’d continue to write, speak, and hopefully enlighten and inspire. It’s a beautiful life to which to aspire!