Who doesn’t know the famous, hilarious red-head. Each generation gets to know her all over again thanks to networks like TV Land and Nick at Nite. While she was obviously way before my time, I found myself becoming a fan as a child. I Love Lucy had long since been off the air (my parents were kids when the show was on), but in syndication, I was introduced to America’s favorite redhead. I never miss an opportunity to watch the show, or any of the other shows and movies she’s done.
I remember when I was pregnant with my son, she was pregnant with Little Ricky. OK, so Little Ricky was by then a grown man probably with grandchildren, but I remember being pregnant at the same time (1991). She gave birth the day before I did and I remember crying (hormones) because I was so happy for her. I’m not a crazy fanatic or anything, but I love her shows. She was always getting into something, and she was unafraid of the consequences. Yeah, Lucy and I have a lot in common. Who can’t help but laugh when you walk past Grauman’s Chinese Theater or chuckle when you see a box of candy or bottle of wine? My grandfather even had a trunk much like that famous trunk she locked herself into. And who could forget her taking the dramamine and falling asleep on the Staten Island Ferry when she was supposed to be getting her “pass-a-port” (gotta love Ricky’s accent).
As we celebrate her 100th birthday, I can’t help but take away some important career and business lessons I’ve taken away from her humor and talent. Of course there are many more, but here are the top six lessons I’ve learned from Lucille Ball/Lucy Ricardo.
Own your stuff. Lucy was madly in love with Desi Arnaz and was a success in her own right. She wanted Desi to experience success as well. In her time, it was unheard of for a woman to have any kind of behind the scenes clout in Hollywood. And definitely not a place for foreigners to have any say. Yes, Hollywood was very racist back then (and in some ways still is today). So what was Lucy’s solution? Desilu Productions. What many people don’t know is that it was Lucy who came up with the idea for Desilu. She let her husband run things but make no mistake, that was her brainchild. I Love Lucy was the first real sitcom developed by a husband and wife team, and under Desilu Studios pioneered the multi-camera shot, and filmed in front of a live audience. Nobody else was doing that at the time. The most important thing I learned from Lucy is when people deny you, create your own! When you believe enough in yourself to “just do it anyway”, you trail blaze.
Do it anyway! How many times have we heard “No Lucy, you can’t be in the show!” from Ricky? How many times did people say “Lucy (Ricardo) has no talent, she can’t sing“? Did she care? Hell no! Week after week she did everything she could to get into Ricky’s show. We all knew she couldn’t hold a tune. But it was fun to watch that spirit, that hubris that she exuded as she forged ahead to get out into the spotlight. I learned from her that even when people say no, do it any way. Everyone’s definition of talent and success is different. Don’t let others put you in a box or try to define you. And did you know that she was 40 when she decided to go for what she wanted (with her career)? She didn’t let the fact that Hollywood considered her “old” stop her from achieving her dream.
Be fearless when you want something. As I sit in my hotel room in Los Angeles, I can’t help but be reminded of Lucy’s trip to L.A. where she created havoc. But then again, when hasn’t she? Sneaking away from the tour bus to find William Holden’s home was brilliant. Of course these days Beverly Hills PD will arrest you before you could get to the front door. But she showed some real guts. She wanted to meet him and wouldn’t let anyone stand in her way. Not even her side kick Ethel, or that big ass dog William Holden had. LOL Now I don’t advocate trespassing on people’s property or stealing (remember John Wayne’s footprints?). But when you have an idea, go for it. Don’t let fear of consequences (most time imagined) hold you back.
Know when it’s time to move on and invest in yourself (and your business). Sadly, as I Love Lucy came to an end, so did Lucy & Desi’s marriage. She had done all she could to hold that marriage together, but it had become a business liability. She had to cut it loose in order to move forward in her career. While she did divorce Desi, she maintained her ownership in Desilu Productions and focused on her own career. She cut loose the baggage of the past and forged ahead to hone her craft, build her brand (America’s funniest redhead) and give the fans what they wanted. Desilu went on to produce some of the most famous shows of all time (Star Trek, Dick Van Dyke Show, Mission Impossible, My Three Sons, I Spy, The Untouchables, That Girl, I can go on and on). By 1962, she bought out Desi Arnaz to have complete control of the company. She was the first woman to own a major studio. I’d say that’s investing in yourself in a big way. She not only invested in herself, she invested in others.
Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself (or your business) while still honoring the brand.When you hear the name Lucy you think comedy. Did you know she started out as a “B” movie screen actress? I’ve seen a few of them (after getting to know Lucy Ricardo) and found myself waiting for the punchline. She didn’t set out to be a comedic actress but clearly she found her stride. When she did I Love Lucy, the TV execs didn’t believe she could pull it off. Clearly, they were wrong. She went on to be the number one comedic actress of all time. And not just that. Lucy was responsible for green-lighting many shows that were not the typical comedy prototype. She wanted Desilu to be a studio/production company that wasn’t singularly focused. She realized she had to give the people the content they wanted. And that meant a variety of programming. Studios today need to take note!
Don’t let the fact that you’re a woman keep you from calling the shots. I don’t take anything away from Desi Arnaz. In fact he was responsible for many of the innovations at Desilu. He knew the financial benefits of reruns before CBS or any other studio (he bought the episodes of I Love Lucy from CBS outright, which was a very lucrative decision). But Lucy was no slouch. She had a knack for knowing how to pick just the right programming, and she did all the approving (all of her approvals have gone on to have long runs and remain popular in syndication. Three of the shows went on to become successful movie franchises- Mission Impossible, Start Trek and The Untouchables). When it made financial sense, she bought out her partner rather than sell to someone else or become an “employee”. She showed she could multi-task and still run a successful company. She starred in her own weekly show while still running the studio….while being a Mom.
Yes, she is and always will be America’s Funniest Redhead. But make no mistake, Lucy was a hell of a businesswoman who had a command of her career that women today should respect and model. Long before Oprah, there was Lucy. We should all hope to have the kind of brand longevity and business acumen that she had (and still has) today. Happy Birthday Lucy. I’ll be checking out her old home in Beverly Hills and the Lucy exhibit at Universal Studios to pay my respects for a woman who paved the way for women to be taken serious in business. She leaves an enormous legacy and blueprint we should all be paying attention to.
Till Next Time,
Yes Lucy, You CAN Be in the Show…and Own It!
Article taken from: http://www.empowerme.org/index.php/2011/08/07/6-career-business-lessons-learn-lucille-ball/