50-Year Broadcast Veteran Chris Wallace On What Common Career Mistake To Avoid

Chris wallacePaul Morigi/GettyChris Wallace at the Fox News Sunday desk.

This week marks “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace’s 50th year in media. Over the past five decades, his positions have included chief White House correspondent for NBC, senior correspondent for ABC’s “Primetime,” and the only person to have hosted two Sunday political talk shows, the other being “Meet the Press.” He’s won three Emmys, a DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton award, and a Paul White lifetime achievement award.

We spoke with him about how he’s been able to stay relevant for so long, especially in a field that changes so rapidly — and how the lessons he’s learned can be applied to any career.

Wallace tells us that it’s necessary to determine where your industry is heading, but not to become obsessed with what your career itself will become.

He says that he’s against the practice of setting specific career plans for one year, five years, 10 years, and so on. He explains:

I think you have to make judgments at each [opportunity] as to whether this is the right way to go or the wrong way to go but to sit there and to say, “Here’s where I want to be at that point” — I think you’re setting yourself up for disappointment or frustration because your timeline and the world’s timeline don’t often mesh.

So while he never decided that his career trajectory would involve a jump from the world of the main broadcast stations to the cable news world, he says he decided in 2003 that joining Fox News would be a move to where viewers were headed. Today Fox News crushes not just fellow cable networks CNN and MSNBC in ratings but ABC, NBC, and CBS, as well.

Wallace’s advice falls in line with the “lifestyle design” approach popularised by writers like Tim Ferriss that we advocate in our 21-day self-improvement plan. “The $US100 Startup” author Chris Guillebeau recommends that in place of a career plan with specific goals, imagine what your perfect day looks like down the line — what work you’re doing, what type of people you’re surrounded by, where you’re living, etc.

Essentially you want to keep a finger on the pulse of your industry, imagine what you’d like to get from life without getting caught up in details, and remember, “Life has a way of setting its own timelines,” as Wallace says.

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