Embracing Life's Unknowns With Paula Rizzo

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Life is a mystery, and we all know that we don’t get everything we want and things don’t go as planned. If there’s a twist and turn, you don’t have to dwell in it negatively. What can you do to the thing that didn’t work out? Will you wallow in despair or overcome it? Don’t hold yourself back. Use those to rise and become the best version of yourself. Think of your health and wellness and listen to Paula Rizzo’s deep insights on the value of change and the power of embracing the unknown when life doesn’t go according to plan. She talks about the service mentality she brings to her work and her belief in the importance of intentionality, knowing your “why,” and having a plan to achieve your goals. Paula is a productivity expert, media trainer, strategist, consultant, and speaker. In this episode, she joins Tony Martignetti to discuss the importance of knowing yourself and your tendencies, recognizing your progress, and paying respect to your journey, not just your major accomplishments. 

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Embracing Life's Unknowns With Paula Rizzo

Paula Rizzo is a media trainer, strategist, consultant, and speaker. She is also an Emmy Award-winning television and video producer, working with individuals including Deepak Chopra, JJ Virgin, and Jillian Michaels, and has formerly served as a senior health producer at FOX News.

I am honored to have my guest Paula Rizzo on the show. Paula is an Emmy Award-winning TV producer, bestselling author, media trainer and strategist. She trains authors and experts to perform better on camera and produce their own videos. She's also the author of two amazing books, Listful Living and Listful Thinking. Both of them are amazing. Go check them out. Paula, I want to welcome you to the show.

Thank you. I'm excited to dig in.

Everyone always asks me if I have any marshmallows or any s'mores. We can do this in person someday. The platform is about us creating some space for you to share your story. I want to highlight some of the key pivot points in your life that have made you into who you are and all of the gifts that were revealed along the way. Particularly, I talk about the flashpoint, the moment that ignited your gifts into the world. You have many gifts. I think that's going to be hard for you to pick.

It's interesting because I started my career as a television producer and I've always been a very curious person. I think that's what led me to the news business. To be able to learn and become an expert in a lot of different subjects and tell people things that they don't know. I've always loved that. It could change their lives no matter what I'm telling them. If it's like, "You should eat kale or here's what's happening in the news in your local news." I was always very driven as a producer. I always want to get the next job and the better shift. It was the times when I didn't get what I thought I wanted that made the biggest impact.

In everything, as you plan it, you're not growing. There's some element of when things don't go according to plan. You're in this place of uncomfortableness.

For someone who loves list-making, schedules and rules, it's a little disorienting when things don't go exactly as you had hoped. Thinking back through my career, the times when I went for a job promotion. I remember there was a morning show job that I wanted as a producer. I wanted it because it was the next big step and I didn't get it. I remember being crushed but it was the best thing ever because I didn't want to work that shift anyway. It changed the whole trajectory of what I ended up doing after that. I think about it. There's a lot of those little moments.

Even writing my book where I thought I was going to do this one thing. For instance, there was a doctor at the time that I was working with because I was a health and wellness producer. I was helping her to write blog posts and get her name out there. For the most part, that has been the role of a producer, to be like a ghostwriter. You create the content for the reporter for the anchor. She wanted to write a book and I was like, "Great. I've always wanted to write a book." We started writing her book and it didn't work out. I was annoyed but that's what started my whole journey of becoming an author myself. To launch my blog, ListProducer.com and start talking about list-making and productivity. Things that I thought makes me super quirky. That's been nine years in the making and two books later. The thing I thought was going to happen didn't happen and it turned out to be even better.

I love that because I want to dig into the failure that you dealt with and knowing the emotions that went through you as you are trying that out and it’s not working out. I love how you pivoted quickly and were able to see the lesson in it. That's beautiful. Tell me the emotional journey that you went on at that point when you said to yourself, "This isn't going to work out. This book didn't work out in the first time."

As a goal setter, it's difficult when you don't see it. I'm big on manifestation and visualizing. When it doesn't happen exactly as you thought, it's a real gut punch. My husband and I bought our apartment in New York City. We got it renovated and it did not go anywhere near what I thought was going to happen, which is now what I've learned happens with renovations. I was very optimistic but it was going to go on schedule, perfect and then it wasn't. For somebody who's an optimist, it could be difficult when things don't seem to be what they should be. I've learned to take a step back and look for what's the opportunity that comes out of this. If I did that other thing or if I was over here doing that, I wouldn't have seen this other thing. I wouldn't have gotten this other opportunity.

You need to create good stuff and have structure. Do it by design and plan it, and set your intention.

It seems like it's a muscle that you're building over time. The first time that something didn't go according to plan, you must have been paralyzed with like, "What do I do now?" Over time, you're starting to build this muscle of like, "Things don't go according to plan. I'll still make lists. I'll still do the things that I love doing but at the end of the day. I do realize that things don't go according to plan."

For somebody who's in the television business, things don't always go according to plan but you have a rundown of exactly what's coming next. Every minute is accounted for in that newscast. You know what's supposed to be coming next. That's how I've been trained and what's ingrained in my brain like, "This is happening next." When that doesn't happen, it does throw you off but I've learned to embrace it. To your point, I've been able to see it differently. Not as a failure. We're in the beginning of my career. It's like, maybe I didn't know myself or maybe I didn't really know what I was capable of. I thought too much of myself. I thought, "I could get that job." That wasn't the case at all but you tell yourself these stories and it's different.

I'm seeing a theme of adaptability. As I think of the TV space, when something doesn't go according to plan, it's not like you can deal with that issue and let it happen. You have to be able to adapt and say, "What can we do to fill that space that didn't work out?" It seems you've been able to figure out how to be more adaptable and that might be part of your genius.

19VCPCaption1I never thought of it that way. It is the art of plan B. When I was a control room producer of a live show, it's always like, "What's our plan B? What are we going to do if this doesn't happen? If this live shot goes down? If the reporter doesn't show up on time? If they don't file their report, the anchor has a sneezing fit? What's your plan B? What are you doing instead?" Those things happen and you have to have some adaptable plan to switch to the next thing. It has trained me in a lot of ways. I thought it was list-making like, "I'm super good with deadlines and making lists and all of that," but adaptability is a big part of it. It's fun to think that way but it can be exhausting too. You're always thinking of what could go wrong or if this doesn't work out, then what's going to happen next? I've tried to push myself to go with the flow a little bit more and be okay with change, which is not my tendency.

It's like a paradox of having a plan but also holding it loosely because you're able to say, "If the plan doesn't work out, I'm able to roll with the punches." You have to have that because if you don't have a plan in the first place, you don't have anything to follow. I'd love to move forward. Here you are in TV land and you decided that at some point, it's time to move on. What was the decision process between being fully employed inside of the "system" to being self-employed? What happened?

It was a long process for me. I feel like it took a lot of lists and planning. It's funny because when I did finally give my notice, everyone at my job were like, "We were wondering when you would go." They already knew and I was like, "Really?" It was funny. From the time I started my blog, I knew there was something else. I loved my job. I wanted to continue to get the news out there. I look at news as a public service to be able to help people and let them know what's going on in their world. I love that.

It was such a privilege to work in that environment and be able to have a front-row to history and be able to be a part of many huge things in our world, but it gets tiring. When you have to read the news like it's homework. It gets to be a little bit too much. You have to know everything that's going on. I thought that was the start. When the blog started, when the book came out, I was still working full-time. My first book Listful Thinking. There's a moment that I remember and I write about it in my second book, about walking outside.

I worked in Midtown Manhattan and walking outside for lunch, going and sitting down. At the time, Midtown Manhattan was very busy and had a lot of people. There were a lot of people eating lunch outside and talking to each other without masks. It was a different world. I sat there, looked around and said, "If I am sitting here in a year, what am I doing? I cannot be sitting here in a year. I need to do something else," because I already had been very entrepreneurial. Writing a book, it's like having a business. I had already started that. I was speaking a lot. I was taking days off to go do speaking gigs and to do stuff. I thought this is it. I need to go back to my desk and formulate a plan.

What I did was I wrote myself a letter, an email, sat at my desk and banged out this letter. It was exactly how it was feeling at that moment so that I wouldn't forget because it was so powerful. I was like, "You're meant for more than this. This has been awesome but this is now the thing that's holding you back." I felt I couldn't fully talk about all the things that I was doing or promote my books in a bigger way. I also wanted to show, "I'm still doing my full-time job. Don't worry." I was hiding what I wanted to do. It was such a good opportunity but it was holding me back.

It's this feeling of an identity crisis. The fact that you say you love what you're doing but at the same time, you felt held back. You felt like there were some limitations that you wanted to overcome. That is such a powerful way to do it. I love that you wrote yourself an email. That's so cool. It's such great advice. I think that's something that people who are reading will pick up. Maybe it's time for you to write yourself an email.

I wrote an email and sent it myself one year later. I had it scheduled to send and I completely forgot that I had written it. It was one of those moments of like, "I got to write this down because I don't want to forget." I did it and forwarded it to myself one year later. I got it one year later, to my surprise. I totally forgot. At that point, I had given my notice and the letter from myself was that extra push, that extra affirmation that I was doing the right thing because I was scared. I've always had a full-time job with benefits. I wasn't sure if did I make the right decision. Literally, I told myself that I did and it was amazing. It was an amazing tool to help to push me.

When you don't get what you thought you wanted, those times make the biggest impact in your life.

It's almost like something you want to do on a yearly basis where you could just say, "What's the email I'm going to write to my future self in one year?" To be in a different place, you had mentioned that you were already pretty entrepreneurial in terms of before you made the leap. I love that because there's something about that is insightful. You don't have to necessarily be out like jumping out of the plane. You can start small, start speaking, start doing little things. There's something about the tiny steps that eventually lead the big leap that has resonated with me and with a lot of the speaker's way, people they have on the show. It seems like that was right in line with what you were talking about.

It was like little bits of, "I'll try this. I'll do a little bit of speaking. I'll have this book come out." That was a big deal but obviously, it was a small part of what I was doing until that seed grew. It grew so big that I couldn't ignore it anymore. I couldn't see myself going to my regular job every day anymore.

I'd love to know, what was the first thing that made you scared when you were out there like, "I'm finally doing this. I'm out of the nest and I'm on my own?" What was the first thing were you like, "What do I do now?"

It is the lack of structure for me because you're used to it. The last TV job I had, I was at that station for over one decade. I was a senior producer there. I come and go as I pleased and was able to call the shot. It was great. It was awesome. It's why I stayed for so long. It was then like, "Blank slate. Everything is open. Do whatever you want." I did and I was exhausted. I was like on a Zoom call every hour. I was open from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM and didn't have any boundaries. I thought that's what you were supposed to do. That's what happens to a lot of entrepreneurs. People who start their own businesses without that structure, you're all over the place. I quickly changed that but that for me was like, "Is this what this has to be like? Did I make the wrong decision?"

That initial questioning sounds familiar to me and I'm sure to a lot of people who jump out of the nest. The one thing that makes a lot of sense is that discipline that you have have to stay focused but also don't overwork yourself. It's that self-care element too. Stay in action but don't be overly acting.

19VCPCaption2I was producing health and wellness. I had a lot of great learnings that I had gotten from being a journalist. A lot of meditation, mindfulness and yoga. All this stuff that I had learned and reported on through the years, I was able to tap and say, "This stuff does work." This isn't something that I talked about and I was hoping people got stuff out of it. I use it for myself. Mindfulness, for a lot of journalists and professionals, it could seem like an eye roll like, "This is what?" I was that way. I was like, "This is so silly." Now that I get it, it took me a while but I finally get it.

Now I'm able to implement it into everything. I check in with myself. How do I feel about that? If I work with a certain client, I like that. When I get off the phone with them or off a video. Do I feel charged up or do I feel depleted? What does that mean? To know yourself in that way has been helpful. Everything that I did on television has set me up for this moment, for everything that I'm doing and I'm grateful for that.

This element of keeping connected to your past even though it's sometimes people will say like, "I'm never going back or never going to do what I did before." Those things are all what made you who you are. It's okay to respect that and keep connected to that. It's interesting you said that. Tell me more about what you're doing now that lights you up. There's an element of now you're more directly talking to the people. Having an impact that's direct, is that what it's all about for you?

It would break my heart when someone would pitch us to be on our show. They had a great message but they weren't able to articulate it in a great way. They weren't ready to be on camera or to be speaking but they were obviously passionate about what they were doing. I couldn't take the time to train each one. That, to me, was such a missed opportunity for the audience. Here's somebody who would be a great expert, but because we don't have the time to be able to get them to the level they need to be to deliver this message, that message is not as amplified as it could be.

That's such a great way of approaching this because it's aligned with a lot of what we need now. There's a lot of people who are being held back because they can't get their voice into the room. Maybe they don't know how to speak into the room or say what's on their mind. Someone like you can help to amplify their message in the right way. Not to be overly salesy in that sense. It's more about religious speaking their message.

As an entrepreneur, I've learned a lot about online marketing, digital marketing, content marketing and marketing. That's not the world that I come from. I come from the world of journalism and the world of public service. That's what I try to teach when I'm doing speaking engagements or when I'm working with clients to be able to say, "How can you be of service with your message?" Not, "How can you sell more books?" I get that you want to sell books.

I understand. I'm an author. You want to sell books. If somebody doesn't ever buy from you, doesn't ever buy your book, course or services, they still need to come away and get something from you. You need to give first to be of service. That's how I look at this. Whether it's through producing your own videos, pitching the media or whatever it is that you're doing, whatever message you're putting out there, it needs to be of service.

I love that service-first mentality. It's so valuable because it's people get to know you through that. They get to see what you care about and you get to show that you care about them and that sells.

It does. As a journalist, the experts who would give without wanting anything in return were the ones that we would go back to again because they were easy to work with. They were authentic. You knew they weren't in it to promote themselves and to market. They used it for that too but they did it in a way that was authentic.

In terms of the things that you're doing now with people, you've got many vehicles that you're pursuing because you have Listful. Getting people organized, getting things going on the listful side but you're also doing a lot of the video. Getting people ready for video. What is it that makes those two worlds come together most powerfully?

Every experience led to who you are now as a person, whether it’s good or bad.

It is the idea that you need to produce great stuff, whether that be a great video, a great segment on TV, a great to-do list. Everything is designed. Everything's very intentional. You're doing it by design. This is not something that I never tell people like, "Start shooting a video." You have to think about what you're going to say, what's the audience going to get out of it, all of that. You're setting that intention. It's the same thing with the to-do list. When I teach people how to be more productive, whether it be setting up their remote office or whatever it is that they're doing, I always tell people to start with, "Why are you doing this? What is it that you're hoping to get out of this day? What's your intention?" From there, you'll be more aligned with it and you'll want to actually do it. You'll be able to get more done that way.

There's something about the way that you help people that is powerful. The why is more along the side of the reason behind everything, the heart behind it. There's also the tactical. You get into how to make more time, how to become more intentional about getting things done. There's getting that first foundation is important but then getting into the how is powerful too. I love that combination of both that makes it drive home.

It is very much thinking through where you are with whatever you're doing with your productivity, list-making and organization. Where would you like to be? What would be the best-case scenario so that you're dreaming big. You have to be tactical. You have to have a plan. You have to have to-dos and deadlines. How are you going to get there? That's the third piece.

Now that we're in this vein of talking about the things that you do with people, what are some advice for people who are maybe earlier on in their career or early in their process of taking the leap out of their job? What would you tell them? What are the lessons you've learned through your journey?

There's always the sense of I'm not ready and you're never ready. You have to be as ready as you possibly can be. This is someone who is always saying, "I'm not yet ready." My husband always jokes with me. One of the first big job changes. He had said to me, "You should apply for that job," and I said, "No, I'm not ready for that job. I'm not ready at a bigger TV station." He still jokes with me to this day. "Remember you weren't ready for that job? Remember you got that." I worked at that TV station. That's where I won an Emmy. That's where my career completely changed. You always think, "I'm not ready," but it doesn't matter. You'll figure it out and that's part of it. I like the idea of being able to change things up, especially if it doesn't go exactly as you think. It's terrifying but it's okay. You're going to be okay.

That faith that everything's going to be okay is a powerful way to think and live.

It is knowing yourself, though. That's the thing. Knowing how do you react? Look at other things you've done in the past. How have you been able to get through those moments? How have you been able to make them work for you or not? Knowing that about yourself reassures you to be able to say, "I've been here before." When I first went out on my own, you're building and I thought back, "I've done this before." I've been in this boat in different parts of my career. I got to where I wanted to go and I changed my direction. I did this and that. It's happened before. This is nothing is new.

I liked that you mentioned that because there's this element of you start building a muscle like writing a book is something that's pretty powerful. Going through that process of diving into, "What am I trying to say? What are the things that are important to me? What are the concepts? How do they all align?" When you put that out in the world, now it's like you have a roadmap for yourself. You've built a way of doing that. It's like, "Now I know what it feels like. I can work from that experience to do it in some different form in many different ways." That's how this gets built.

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Also, it takes time. These things are not an overnight success. I had a LinkedIn learning course come out about building your remote office and how to be more productive and all of that. People are like, "Your career is blowing up," and I'm like, "I have been doing this for years." It's like, "Everything I have done has been working out. I didn't decide I was going to do this and LinkedIn was going to be excited about it. I've been working at this." I think that's another part too. That's what you're uncovering here in the show with all these people that you're talking to is that we see this one little blip. You need to pay respect to the journey, look back and say, "Look at all these great decisions or bad decisions that happened before we got to this point," because it's not about this huge pinnacle. Everything else matters.

In practice, too, that's another part of it. The amount of practice and hours you put into it. Not to say that it has to be a difficult or challenging repetitive process, but there's an element of putting some equity into it and practice being committed to doing the craft that allows you to say, "That's why I'm doing this. This is why I am the way I am."

You put in the work. "I worked my full-time job, come home, try to figure out what's my blog posts going to be for tomorrow and do the blog post." Labor of love. You do it because you enjoy it and it's fun. That's how it should be. I'm having more fun now with my job than ever before because I get to pick what I do. I'm charged up about the people I work with and what I'm writing about. Before, it was chosen for me. "These are the people you write for, these are the topics you write about," and now it's different. Now I get to choose.

I often talk about being the author versus the reporter of your life. You've been both in a very liberal sense and that's great. That's very interesting. Anything else in terms of advice that you would offer?

It's also to not be so hard on yourself, to look and see what have you done. Often, people look at what they have not done. Especially with list-making, goal setting and people will have this list at the end of the day and feel like a failure like, "I didn't write a book today." You set yourself up for failure because nobody can write a book in one day but what were the little things that you were able to do? I'm famous for going back to a list and writing down things that I did that weren't originally on the list so I can cross them off and be excited. It's those things that will show you that you are making progress. You do have some momentum going.

One of the things that I often say is, “Lists are not a life sentence.” They're there for you to have some order, some ideas of what's next and what's happening. It doesn't have to be something where it's like a prison you live in. That's the one thing that has been helpful. I have to say, I've learned a lot about my list-making from you. I do appreciate all the great insights on that course. Now that we're talking about Listful Living and Listful Thinking. I wanted to ask you about different books. What book has influenced you the most in your life?

I re-read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. At the time when I first read it, I probably read it before I left my job. I was about to make a leap. I was feeling like, "Something's about to happen here." It was good but when I re-read it again, it's like, "Now I was ready for it. Now I understand and I can see." You can see the patterns of how you might sabotage yourself or your success. Sometimes people will, "Now I can identify it."

Writing a book is like having a business because it takes up your time, and you earn from it.

For those people who haven't read the book, it's amazing to have some tools to be able to look at how you react to different situations and ways that you might stifle your success without even knowing it, if you have certain tendencies to do that. When you read the book, you can realize, "Why am I doing that?" Somebody who wins the lottery. All of a sudden, everything else falls apart in their life. It's an upper limit problem. The idea that they don't feel worthy enough to be at that level something is holding them back. Now I identify it all the time.

When I watched the news, something happens. I'm like, "That guy has an upper limit problem." My husband's like, "Really with this? This is ridiculous." I get it. That's a good lesson too. Sometimes you're not ready for certain messages or things that you hear. You learn a little bit about it, but sometimes you do need to go back and re-read things where you're in a different place in your life. It's a little bit different. I'm sure you've read it as well.

A couple of times. I resonate so well with how you described it because there's an element of the first time I read it, I didn't like it. I was like, "This is okay." I needed to read a couple of other things or taken a few of the things along in my life journey to appreciate the message. It comes to this quote like, "When the student is ready, the teacher arrives." That teacher might be in the vehicle of a book, person or life event. It could be anything that's powerful. I don't know where to begin because this was powerful. I've loved the insights, the story and having you on the show has been a pleasure. Thank you.

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Thank you.

I want to give everyone a chance to know where they can find you.

You can check out the books anywhere books are sold. If you want to get a starter kit, if you're a list-maker or you want to make better lists, you can go to ListProducer.com/StarterKit and that will help you to see how I set up my list because I'm very specific about the way that I do it. I find that it's helpful to have a system. You can vary it a little bit but you have to have some system. That's the deal. I'm @ListProducer all over social media.

Thank you again. I also want to thank the readers for reading. Thank you, Paula.

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About Paula Rizzo

Paula Rizzo

As a best-selling author and Emmy-award winning television producer for nearly 20 years, I’ve produced health, wellness, and lifestyle segments with a range of top experts, including JJ Virgin, Jillian Michaels, and Deepak Chopra. I served as senior health producer for Fox News Channel in New York City for over a decade. Today, I work with experts, authors, and entrepreneurs on how to position themselves for media (traditional as well as blogs and podcasts), build their lists, and engage customers and fans for their brands, books and businesses.

I’m also the co-creator of Lights Camera Expert – an online course geared towards helping entrepreneurs, authors and experts get media attention.

I created the productivity site ListProducer.com and am the best-selling author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed, which has been translated into 12 languages and has been featured on many media outlets including Fox News, Fox Business, Prevention, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Brides and made it on Oprah.com’s list of “Self Help Books That Actually Help.”

My latest book: Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You will be published in the Fall of 2019.

I’m a regular speaker, and presented the keynote address for New York Women in Communications, and have presented at MA Conference for Women, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), American Society of Association Executives, and others.

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