Samuel Haskell, former executive vice president for the William Morris Agency, Inc., gave a speech to broadcast journalism students at the Armor Theatre in Manzanita Hall last Thursday for the Executive Speaker Series program at CSUN.
The Executive Speaker Series was initiated in 2004 to give CSUN students the opportunity to learn life skills and receive professional advice from some of the top executive minds in the U.S.
Haskell, 42, has had clients from Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin, to Ray Romano and Martin Short. His wife, Mary, has been by his side since the beginning of his career and has raised two children with him. Haskell’s son, Sam VI, is a student at CSUN in the Cinema and Television Arts program.
Haskell’s speech started with telling the audience about his roots in Mississippi and a meaningful instance in his childhood when persistence paid off for him. His anecdote led to the first lesson for the audience: blind faith pays off.
“The greatest distance between two points is a leap of faith,” Haskell said.
He told audience members they needed to look in the mirror every morning and ask themselves if they like who they are.
He attended premed school because his parents wanted him to become a doctor. But Haskell said he wasn’t happy with the path he chose, so he changed his major to theatre, radio and television communications with minors in several other subjects.
While Haskell was in college, he met his future wife, fell in love and then put his plans to move to California on hold for a year to get his master’s degree and stay with his girlfriend, Haskell said. He finally decided he couldn’t wait any longer to go to California and see the opportunities it held for him.
Although Mary was still in school and couldn’t go with him, she supported his decision.
“If she hadn’t been so supportive, I wouldn’t have gone,” Haskell said.
One point he repeated was the importance of a supportive and understanding partner. He said a leap of faith is “something everyone must possess in one form or another and (that) there’s one person in your life who’ll help you reach that path.”
Haskell also pointed out that a person can’t be too cocky and self-confident, nor can one do everything alone. He said people have to think about what they want, who can give it to them and to make sure the person who gives it to them is happy about their decision.
When he came to California, he had his sights set on the William Morris Agency and called every week for two months before reaching the person with whom he needed to speak. He started in the mailroom and made it into the boardroom after 17 years.
Persistence is key in earning your desired job, Haskell said.
Haskell said he helped start the reality TV craze with “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and helped create the TV series “Everyone Loves Raymond.” He told audience members not to reach their potential, but to reach for their potential.
“If I reach my potential, I have nowhere to go but down,” he said, adding that it’s up to each individual to determine whether or not they’ll become successful.
“I’m glad he came and talked to us,” one attendee said. “He gave out some really good advice (?) he really motivated me to be persistent.”
A representative from the University of Advancement office said, “The (Executive Speakers Series) program is great for students who don’t have access to these kind of people anywhere else.” The program has been very successful in the past and will continue to flourish in years to come, she said.
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