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Dana Perino talks with 'Extreme You' author: 'It is definitely hard to share some of your most embarrassing moments with the world'

extreme you

Editor's note: Fox News anchor Dana Perino recently sat down with Sarah Robb O’Hagan, author of "EXTREME YOU: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat" (Harper Collins, April 4, 2017).  

DANA PERINO: Writing a book is a wonderful challenge. How does the final product of "Extreme You" compare with your original vision?

SARAH ROBB O'HAGAN: WOW, what a great question! And yes, I can't say I ever truly understood the twists and turns, the moments of utter frustration as well as the total thrilling highs of writing a book.

It's one hell of a journey.

When I began the process, the first concept for my book was much more of a strategy book for business people.

Quite honestly, I was hiding behind the ideas that I had learned across a bunch of different companies. But luckily for me, my agent was a patient and thought-provoking partner who kept pushing me to "find my book" and to be willing to share more of myself in the process.

Little by little, as I just wrote out so many stories that had impacted me, I came to see so clearly that those stories were what mattered.

It is definitely hard to share some of your most embarrassing moments with the world, but I truly believe that others can learn more from the vulnerable stuff that all leaders go through. And that is really where my book has ended up. It's a collection of incredibly inspiring stories: some of mine as well as those of an incredible bunch of highly accomplished people that I got the chance to interview.

And yes, it also includes strategy and research and a fiercely practical set of tools for the reader who wants to take their life and career up a notch.

DP: In Minute Mentoring we ask mentors to give their three best pieces of advice to younger professionals (for example, one of mine is to not be afraid to move) -- what are yours?

SRO: First, my dad always said, “Without risk does not come great reward,” and I really do believe that. When you are ambitious, you want to have big impact but that does not come by staying in line and following a path that has already been laid in front of you.

Then my career coach, Anthony Salemi, who is one of my greatest mentors, always reminded me to “worry less about making the right decision and more about making the decision right.”

You can apply that to the tough decisions you make as a leader, and to those decisions you make in your own life.

It really works if you put your energy into making the best out of the things you have decided to do—taking total personal ownership for your actions.

And, I think if I was giving my own advice, it would be to stop worrying about making the right move or getting the perfect job or having the perfect resume and just GET IN THE GAME!

No matter what role you do, no matter how menial the work may feel, it will teach you something and you will benefit from it later in your career. You need to experience great roles and not so great roles to know where you really thrive.

DP: How did you make the decision to leave corporate America, where you were incredibly successful, to start your own venture "Extreme You"? And how do you recommend people improve their risk tolerance?

SRO: I'm lucky that I have life-long mentors and supporters with whom I was able to spend a lot of time talking it through. My brother-in-law was actually a pivotal voice for me at a very confusing time.

I was terrified about stepping off the career ladder that I had been climbing for so long.

I worried that I’d fall off the radar and not be able to return to the level I had been. But Shane said to me “it's time for you to lose your corporate backpack and step into the void. Until you do that you won’t know what else might be out there for you.”

And he was so right. The first few months were incredibly hard actually, but the very act of stepping into something so unfamiliar awakened in me so many dreams and ideas that had been lying dormant.

By far, it has been the most invigorating step of my career.

DP: What if people feel a bit overwhelmed and tired of battling -- what could they learn from your new book?

SRO: Gosh, we all get there at some point in our lives. And I think what is so important to remember is that you will thrive in your career and in your life when you can stop “battling” and find the vocation that really blows your hair back.

I think society pushes us to spend so much time comparing our progress to others, but when you step off that treadmill and just make the moves that truly energize you, you will never look back. 

DP: Was there a moment in your career when you realized, “Wow, I’ve really made it?” We celebrate so few of our own successes.

SRO: Well, you have to start with some context and understand that I come from New Zealand, a country with less than 5 million people, but almost 30 million sheep!

I don’t think that my idea of “making it” was massively ambitious compared to what others might have aspired to.

I started my career in the airline industry and I do remember that the first time I got upgraded to business class on a three-hour flight from Auckland to Sydney, I just thought I was the frickin’ bees knees. I thought there was nothing better than that!

But probably more meaningful was when I got my job and relocated to Los Angeles; holy sh*t, that moment of landing at LAX at the age of 23, knowing that my big American dream was happening for SURE, I thought I'd made it then!

DP: Where do you do your best writing? Do you prefer silence or noise (in your house, I assume there’s noise!)?

SRO: My house is a VERY noisy house: three kids and my husband all rattling around, not to mention Eddie the dog (you know how we love our dogs!).

So, I do my best writing when there’s nobody around and I can crank up the classical music and really tune my brain in. However, that is a very rare luxury so I have tuned my brain to do a lot of writing with the hum of the family happening outside my office door.

That said, my greatest trick for writing is to schedule going for a run during my writing sessions. When I head out for a run and take an idea that I am trying to craft with me, I can often really unlock it just by getting my brain away from the computer and into the fresh air.

DP: Most people spend a lot of time worrying about “what’s next” for their careers. When those thoughts come up for you, how do you manage them?

SRO: I’d say in the last 5 years I worried about that a lot. I was incredibly lucky to have a lot of success in my late 30’s when I was working with the team at Gatorade and quite honestly after that, I felt really worried that I wasn’t progressing enough and that the challenges I was taking on were not meaty enough.

But actually, this was an amazing time of reflection because it coincided with my mother being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I had to start wrapping my head around how fast we all reach the end of our respective roads. This experience helped me reframe this worry in my head.

I just don’t worry anymore about what’s next in my career. I worry instead about making the most of every day that is given to me. With my family, my friends, and my awesome work mates, making sure every day was the best it could be.

DP: So, I have to ask…what’s next for you?

SRO: It is fair to say that I have my hands full right now with my new role as the CEO of Flywheel Sports and the launch of my book, "Extreme YOU: Step Up. Stand Out, Kick Ass. Repeat."

That said, my big dream when I started this venture was to be able to one day use the learnings of "Extreme YOU" to help identify high potential young talent that don’t get access to the same opportunities as others and help bridge the gap.

That is ultimately what will be next for me: figuring out how to make that dream a reality!

Dana Perino currently serves as co-host of FOX News Channel's "The Five" (weekdays 9-10PM/ET). She previously served as Press Secretary for President George W. Bush. She is the author of the new book "Let Me Tell You about Jasper : How My Best Friend Became America's Dog" (October 25, 2016). Ms. Perino joined the network in 2009 as a contributor. Click here for more information on Dana Perino. Follow her on Twitter@DanaPerino.

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