My guilty pleasure is reality tv.  It often comes as a surprise to people who either think I don’t have any free time so certainly couldn’t spend it watching reality shows, or that, like with my reading, I’d prefer educational topics. Nope. I love me a good brain-turn-off show, the more the merrier.

So, it may also not come as much of a surprise that over the years I’ve auditioned for 4 such shows myself.  The first was The Apprentice, back in 2008, I think.  It took some convincing to go, but ultimately, I was at a career low point then and figured why not? While I knew I wouldn’t be dramatic enough or be a big enough character, I went.  I spent about 7 hours in a hotel ballroom waiting for my turn with 8 other people in front of a producer.  We sat around a “boardroom” table and were told we’d be given a conversation topic to discuss.  We were reminded that this show is seeking truly talented people, but it is still tv, so it needs to be entertaining.  The topic was “Why are we in a recession?”. When the first woman spoke, her response left me dumbstruck.  While I am a registered Independent, she boldly stated, “The Republicans!”…and that was her entire remark.  It only got worse from there when others began to chime in. I couldn’t believe how quickly the conversation was spiraling downhill so I put my hand up and exclaimed, “NO!”.  Then I proceeded to talk about personal responsibility and education around financial literacy. (I’d yet to pen my kids book on these topics, but maybe this was a subconscious seed planting.)  The conversation shifted but still couldn’t stay on a rationale course. I ended up getting the last words and could tell that the group respected my opinion.

The producer told us she’d then point at us and ask whom we’d hire or fire and why.  One by one, I was hired, never fired.  Only one other guy was hired by anyone in the group. I knew that sealed my fate as someone they would not call back. As we exited, everyone congratulated me and said, “You’ll definitely make it to the next round” to which I replied, “Thank you but I doubt it. I didn’t cause any drama or say anything so off-the-wall that they’ll even remember me.” Whether I was right or that I created a self-fulfilling prophecy, I never heard back.

About two years later, one of my idols, Oprah, announced that she’d be casting for a reality show where the winner would get their own show on her network (OWN). Again I thought, I could do that! The ironic thing to note is that I’m pretty terrified of being on camera. I’m super self-conscious about my appearance so the idea of having cameras in my face at all times, especially when the purpose of most of these shows is to get you out of your comfort zone, doesn’t sit well with me.  But, like with most things in my life, I saw an opportunity to potentially get close to this person whom I greatly admire, so again I figured why not throw my hat in the ring? I’ll certainly not get it if I don’t try.

So, along with a friend who was equal parts courageous and naive as I was, we drove to the cattle call early on a Saturday morning about 45 minutes away. It was a hot summer morning in Atlanta, and we had to get in line and wait for our number.  Fortunately, we were assigned a time to come back after less than 2 hours of being there and got to come back at 6pm.  At that time, we were divided into groups of 10 and sat with a producer (this seemed to be a theme). We each got 30 seconds to pitch our idea of what our talk show would be if we won.  I talked about doing something like The View for a younger audience.  Apparently both I and my idea were not a hit because I never heard back. Neither did my friend. I watched that show and was surprised that neither of the winners ever had a show air.

(Please let me take this intermission to remind you that it has never explicitly been a goal of mine to be on a TV show. I simply continued to see opportunities and grabbed them.)

So, back to my normal life I went.  One show that has become a favorite of mine over the last couple years is Shark Tank. As someone who is always trying to learn more about running my businesses, I became addicted to this show and look forward to it every week.  So, when I was watching an episode this spring and saw an ad that they’d be coming to Atlanta in a few weeks for a casting call, I got nervous.  I knew that meant I had to consider it.  I went back and forth each day leading up to it. I had 2 attorneys review the 14 page contract. I talked in circles about why I wasn’t ready yet and the timing was wrong, but that if I didn’t give it a try, I’d never know.  So, I spent hours the night before the casting talking with a former ad exec to help hone in my pitch and writing out answers to the list of questions.

I went with a friend the next morning to wait in line.  They promised to see the first 500 people.  I was number 420.  They told us to come back later that day so we did.  After a couple hours of waiting in the holding area and getting tired of hearing potential contestants wanting to pitch their idea to the audience (us) or asking questions that were answered in the application packet, the highlight was hearing from the head casting director about how the process works and all the steps one goes through before hitting the air. Also interesting to learn how many people get filmed, but are not air-worthy and never make it although they may have cut a deal with the “Sharks”.  (Also a good time to note how hilarious it is to tell people you are auditioning for a show called “Shark Tank” who have never heard of it.  They immediately begin to think you’re auditioning for some crazy and dangerous show where you literally swim with sharks! ).

As my number drew nearer, we were placed in groups of 5 in a room where there were 5 tables, each with 1 producer. Each group was assigned a table and got “60” (really more like 20-30) seconds to pitch to the producer. I was fourth in my group and the ones before me seemed to bore the producer. She then locked eyes with me as I gave my condensed pitch. She smiled and nodded her head during it. Then asked me a question and said, “Great job!”. Hadn’t said that to the others so I suddenly felt encouraged.  Wasn’t nervous all day because I didn’t think I had anything to lose. Suddenly she gave me a glimmer of hope. Yet, I never heard back so thus, you will not be seeing my on Shark Tank, at least this season!

I really thought after that that my days of random reality show auditioning were over. Wrong I was. A Facebook “friend” of mine (a woman whom I’d met online through a mutual business contact) announced she had her own show that was a hybrid of The Apprentice and Shark Tank.  I wasn’t going to do it, but again thought, what is there to lose? So, I studied up on the people on her panel, her, and any information she sent around. I’d learned from my other experiences how unprepared people come to these things without any of the paperwork, finishing 14 page contracts and questionnaires in line.  To my luck, the questions on this application were identical to Shark Tank‘s so that was easy.  Also to my luck, the auditions were tiny since no one knew about this show.  There were no more than 20 people at the one I attended.  Probably to their benefit because it was so poorly run. The people behind the scenes arrived after those of us trying out.  It took a couple hours to get through which was ironic compared to the huge productions I’d seen and how much more efficient they were. This was the first one that filmed while you presented so that was unnerving a bit. Certainly not my best pitch but the panel of 13 judges all were engaged and I was told after that I got a lot of great feedback and yes’.  So, again, left feeling optimistic.  When I later saw the contact on Facebook post that they’d wrapped filming, I knew I’d also not been cast. I look forward to seeing this one on TV to see how it pans out and where it ends up airing. Will be interesting to be on the inside of something before it’s even a thing.

I share all of this in part because it’s fun to go back and remember and draw parallels to things that seemed so random at the time.  It would be even neater to tie it all up in a package if I’d been cast at some point. Maybe that’s in the future and maybe it’s not. I don’t really care either way. I look back and I’m proud that I went out of my comfort zone each time to try. That I never let my fears, insecurities, and doubts stop me.  That I was able to remember that if I don’t take chances on myself, who else will? And more importantly, if I don’t try, I will absolutely fail, so I lose nothing if I try and get nowhere further, but still have things I can learn along the way. I was more comfortable at each audition because I’d been there before and it was no longer completely unknown.  It’s a great takeaway for every area of my life and I hope for yours too.