Interview with Monica Crowley
Monica Crowley is a host and political and foreign affairs analyst for the Fox News Channel, and the host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Monica Crowley Show. She has also been a regular panelist on The McLaughlin Group and an anchor on MSNBC. She is the author of The New York Times bestseller, What The (Bleep) Just Happened? The Happy Warrior’s Guide to the Great American Comeback. She served as Foreign Policy Assistant to former President Richard Nixon from 1990 until his death in 1994, and wrote two bestsellers about her experiences, Nixon Off the Record and Nixon in Winter. She has also written for The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, and The New York Post, and has lectured at Yale, Columbia, and MIT. She graduated from Colgate University and holds two Master’s degrees and a doctorate from Columbia University.
Visit Monica’s website at www.MonicaMemo.com and follow her on Twitter @MonicaCrowley
How important do you think it is for a young woman to have a mentor? Do you think that there needs to be a formal mentoring relationship, and what is the best way to find and approach a mentor?
A great mentoring relationship can make an enormous difference in a young woman’s life. Benefiting from the wisdom, guidance, and direction of a more accomplished person (whether in your field or not) can be career-changing—and life-changing as well. It lends a perspective that you simply cannot gain on your own. I was incredibly fortunate in that my first mentor was former President Richard Nixon, for whom I worked during the last years of his life. I was a brand-new college graduate with an interest in national security issues, and he was a superb mentor. I got a better education from this ultimate practitioner of American foreign policy than I could have in any classroom. It is precisely that DIFFERENT kind of education—direct, immediate, wide-ranging, horizon-opening—that a good mentor can offer that no one else truly can.
It need not be a formal relationship; it can be looser and more casual, if that’s what circumstances dictate or if that’s the more comfortable way to go. Take a look around your environment. Is there someone whom you particularly admire and respect? Is there someone to whom you naturally gravitate? Is there someone whose leadership style and/or results you find interesting? Tell him or her! I’m a big believer in offering praise whenever and wherever it’s due. That will begin a communication that may then lead to a real mentoring relationship. If it doesn’t flow organically, you can always ask the person directly if they’d be interested in guiding you. It never hurts to ask; they will be flattered by the request. And if the answer is “no,” don’t be daunted. Seek out someone else. People generally love to teach what they know.
When did you know what you wanted to do as a career, and do you think that young women today need to have an advanced degree in order to climb ladders?
In college, I fell in love with national security and foreign policy issues and knew that I wanted to study them further and perhaps build a career around them. I had always also been drawn to television, radio, and print. It wasn’t until I began working for President Nixon that I realized—thanks to him—that I could indeed do both. He convinced me to ditch law school (where I would have been fundamentally unhappy) and go to graduate school instead to earn a Ph.D. in foreign affairs. He also encouraged me to seek out media opportunities and pointed me in the right directions. I think it’s important for a young woman to have an advanced degree—if she is truly passionate about what she wants to study (witness how I fled law school for graduate study in another area). Otherwise, the advanced degree isn’t really necessary. The only thing required for success is a passion for what you do.
One of the things so admirable about you is your clear-headedness. How do you get to the point where you don’t feel frazzled? And you’re disciplined about turning off the electronics at night – how long did it take you to break the habit?
I’m always frazzled! I must disguise it well. I do think it’s critically important to exercise, even if it’s for just a few minutes a day. I try to work out almost every day and I do a lot of walking. I find it really clears my head and allows both big and smaller ideas to make themselves known. It’s also great to get lost in some great music while you walk or exercise. It really takes you out of yourself and puts you in a more productive—and happier!—mindset.
I once suffered a terrible bout of insomnia, and I’ll never forget what a top sleep doctor told me: that if he had to rank diet, exercise, and sleep, he’d put sleep first. It’s THAT important to a healthy body and mind. He also recommended shutting down all electronics at least an hour before bedtime and keeping them out of the bedroom. I confess that I don’t always do that—but when I don’t, I have a tougher time falling asleep. In this 24/7 culture, you really do need to disconnect for your mental and physical wellbeing. The world will survive without you for 8 or 9 hours. Take care of yourself, because no one else truly will.
Our mentors often advise mentees to read more – you’re a voracious reader. Are there any books or genres you recommend to mentees?
There’s the reading I HAVE to do, and then there’s the reading I WANT to do. I love to get lost in a great book that has nothing to do with what I cover all day long. I have to do so much reading for my job—breaking news, news analysis, etc.—that during my downtime, I love to read things that take me away from all of that. I just finished Keith Richards’s autobiography, Life. I couldn’t put it down. Prior to that, I had read a biography of Mick Jagger. (I guess you can call this my Rolling Stones period.) I’ve just begun a new thriller, Gone Girl. As important as it is to read in your field to stay current and advance your career, it’s also vitally important to read for fun. Read what you love.
Here’s our signature question: If you could give a mentee three pieces of advice as she starts her career or is making a transition from one position to the next, what would they be?
1. Decide where you’d like to be in your career in one year, five years, and ten years, and then draw up a game plan to get there. You may not follow it strictly, and life will intervene with all kinds of surprises, but I’ve found that crafting an outline for yourself is a very effective exercise. It encourages focus and discipline.
2. Seek out a mentor. A great mentor can open doors—and your eyes to whole new worlds.
3. Be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else. Draw upon your unique gifts, don’t be afraid to admit a mistake and ask for advice, stay humble, never stop learning, work hard, give credit freely, and be honest, open, and kind. Those things will take you further than you can imagine. Good luck!