Talk Radio Host, Attorney, Advocate, Author, Groucho Productions LLC
As a talk radio host, attorney and author, Lisa is an advocate of sharing the life lessons of great women to uplift the women of the world. After graduating from NYU Law and serving as a successful attorney, Lisa made a major career transition to fulfill her passion, and became creator of the Gracie-Award winning READ MORE »
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: I started life out as an attorney and practiced for many years. But I was unhappy, tense and frustrated. At 45, I decided to change my life by getting on the radio. I had a vision to create my own talk radio show, which would be different than what I was hearing in the car. I had a passion to speak out about injustice, to fight for the little guy that is always getting the raw deal. I cut back on my practice, went back to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, and six months later, got on the radio every Saturday morning with a show. The show took off, and within two years I was on that station every day, eventually making it to the coveted “drive-time” slot of 4-6 p.m. I found what I was born to do. I have since won many awards for the show, including the prestigious “Gracie” Award, conferred to women for excellence in broadcasting.
I still practice law part-time, and remain admitted to the Bars of Connecticut and New York. Practicing law keeps me grounded in everyday problems, and helps to inform the show.
Q: How can someone who is not in a traditional position of leadership, still inspire a shared vision in her workplace or community?
A: I have great respect for Dr. Maya Angelou because she inspires others to be their best selves, to draw from their humanity to find goodness, and because she fights for justice.
It’s a funny question you pose, because I find many people assume that because they don’t have a title, they can’t be a leader. But really that’s a form of cowardice. The truth is that every single time you speak up against unfairness, you are a leader. Every time you sign a petition, and put your name on the line for a cause you believe in, you are a leader. Every time you attend a local town meeting, and show up to fight for the direction of your school or your community, you are a leader. All of us have much more power than we know- but most of us are afraid to use it.
I became a leader in my own town simply by speaking up for a cause I believed in. That’s all it took- nothing more. I didn’t intend to lead anything, but what happened was that other people heard about the cause, agreed with me, and joined the movement. If you care about something enough, you become a leader, because other people will look to you for guidance. All it takes is speaking up.
Q: It’s hard to focus on the “big picture” sometimes because we can get caught in the weeds of work and life. How do you stay focused on executing your big picture vision?
A: For the show, I ask myself these daily questions:
What worked? Why?
What didn’t? Why?
What am I doing tomorrow that I left out today?
Those simple questions keep me focused on the vision of the show- and sometimes the answers keep me up at night, with a bad case of the “woulda coulda shouldas.”
For the big picture piece, I consult with a friend of mine regularly, who forces me to look at the long view. She insists that I pay attention to metrics of growth (which I hate), and she pushes me beyond the everyday to see where I should be ending up a year from now.
If you don’t have someone in your life doing this with you, you should join a mastermind group or something like that, where strangers make you answer questions you’d rather avoid.
Q: A great negotiation can be game changing for one’s business or life. Studies have shown that men are much more comfortable negotiating and asking for what they want compared to women. What’s your advice to women who are uncomfortable asking for what they want?
A: These studies are more than 1,000 percent true. Our biggest problem as women is that, unlike men, we expect to be recognized for doing a job well done. We can’t seem to get it into our heads that the business world doesn’t play by those rules. We don’t automatically get a bonus or promoted because we are great; there is no justice in business. Even though I know that intellectually, it’s been rough for me to execute in life. So here is a strategy I hope that will help:
- Make an appointment with your boss ahead of time for a review. Rehearse for that review with another person.
- Ask for more than what you really want. For some people this is tough to do, but trust me, men do it automatically. That way, when you don’t get it (and you won’t), you won’t feel so bad, because what they give you will make you closer to what you wanted in the first place.
- Make a list of bunch of other things that you can ask for that aren’t really that important to you. Those things help warm up the conversation, and they take the tension off you, because the stakes are not that high for you. If you get some of them, great.
Whatever the outcome, come out smiling. Never let anyone you work with see you are unhappy in the job. This is the most important lesson I can teach you
Q: Many people become discontent with their current career yet are too afraid or reluctant to make a change. What’s your best advice for women in this situation?
A: This question is particularly applicable in my case because I had been practicing law for over 20 years when I decided to go into radio. Since I ran my own law practice, I couldn’t just drop it overnight and start something else. It took me well over a year to scale down my practice sufficiently to be able to attend the CT School of Broadcasting full time, for a seven-week course. Then I went back to law full time for a while, because of the demands of my clients, until finally I got on the radio on Saturday mornings. Over time, my practice became less of a focus while my radio career took off. Now my time is reversed- I spend just a few hours a week on law, and the majority of my time on the radio.
My best advice is to start doing the thing you want to do while still doing the thing you are making a living at. Don’t quit your day job. Figure out a way to do what you love part time. Take a course to learn it better, go to a convention where the people are, intern for someone you respect in the field. Just get out there and do it. You won’t know if it’s what you envisioned until you start doing it. Life is short- don’t wait.
ON Starting Out
Q: What are your top 3 tips for a woman entering the “real world” workforce?
- Try as best as you can to learn the “hidden curriculum” of your job. These are the rules of behavior that the men will not tell you out loud – and neither will some women. For example, learn how you are expected to handle a mistake- are you expected to cover it up, or admit it out loud? Assume that you are being told about 30 percent of what you need to know to be successful, and the rest will come from casual conversations in the ladies room or in the cafeteria, or at a networking function. If you can find an acquaintance who used to work in that company but is no longer there, that can be a gold mine of information to help you succeed.
- Revenue is key to success. You may have the most wonderful personality, but if you don’t bring the bucks in, you will not be promoted. I learned this the hard way at my first job out of law school. Everyone was all smiles all day long, but at the review they told me my hourly billings were not enough. I realized then I needed to clock in at 7 a.m. and out at 10 p.m. every single day to stay there. I did that for just enough time to land myself a decent job with good pay where I could also have a personal life. You need to know your priorities. If you want to be successful at many high-pressure jobs, remember that in most places you are strictly a dollar sign.
- Dress Appropriately. Yes, it’s a sexist world, what else is new? Everyone is judged by their appearance, but women more than men. If you want to create an impression of competence, dress like someone you would respect if you went into their office for an interview. I say this as I wear jeans and a sweatshirt, but I’m now in a radio studio- I paid my dues in those horrid suits for years.
Q: Even in a job you love, you won’t be able to utilize all of your talents or explore all of your interests. What other outlets can women connect to, to feel a sense of wholeness?
A: Life is a balance of family (and friends), career and community. You need to have involvement with all three to be a rounded human being. At times, life has a way of shifting priorities- you may spend years at a career with very little involvement with family, and then for years the reverse may be true. But for me, I know when my life is off-balance, when the wheel is skewed too much in a particular direction. So when I had a baby, I started a book club with about 8 other women whom I didn’t know very well. Once a month, I had an excuse to get out of the house and talk about something stimulating with my peers. It saved me.
I’m a big believer that our communities need us, now more than ever, because so many women who used to be involved with them now have full-time jobs. If you want to feel a sense of wholeness and meaning, get involved with your local government- volunteer on the finance committee, conservation board, education, parks and recreation- wherever your passions lie. You’d be amazed at the network of great people you will meet, and how that will inform your career as well.
ON Letting go
Q: Women often spend so much time judging their decisions and obsessing over the “what-ifs.” How do you let go of that doubt and focus on what is ahead?
A: Do you think it’s because I’m a Gemini that I used to spend so much time second-guessing myself? I did it as a parent too, big-time. No more. I can’t say when I changed, but I did change. Life is simply too short to obsess over the what-ifs. I believe it’s one of the benefits of aging- you outgrow the what-ifs.
If you don’t believe me, make a friend who is at least 10 years older than you so she can give you good pep talks and get you out of your doldrums.
ON Giving Back
Q: Why is it important for every single person sharing this earth to give back in some capacity?
A: Because we are all here to figure out what lessons we are meant to learn in this lifetime, and then to take those lessons to heart. A universal lesson is to figure out why we are here, what we were meant to do. When we share our talents with others, our lives have meaning. The reason we have too many people in despair, too many people addicted to drugs to numb them from feeling their own lives, is because those people do not think their lives have meaning. They feel worthless, they feel disconnected. When you give back to someone else, your life becomes meaningful. This is the selfish reason to do it.
The other reason to give back is that it’s a moral imperative. We owe it to others to pass on the lessons we have learned.
ON Self Care
Q: I’ve learned from experience to take inventory of my relationships, to see who is imparting more negativity, stress or insecurity than confidence. Have you had to reassess a personal or professional relationship that was holding you back from becoming a more fulfilled or successful person?
A: Yes. This is very hard to do. It’s hard to let go of any relationship, and usually there are good and bad points to everyone.
But yes, and by asking the question, you touch on an important aspect of self-examination. Sometimes certain people have to be cut loose.
Right now I’m grappling with this, and I haven’t had the guts yet to make a break with someone I know is probably not the best person for me to work with. I’m still grappling… What is holding me back is the fear that no one else will be able to take his place. Even as I write this, I realize how silly it sounds- there is always another door that will open. Nevertheless, I’m stuck.
Q: Tell us what inspired you to write your book.
A: My beautiful sister, Jill Zarin, was the impetus behind Secrets of a Jewish Mother. Were it not for her show, RHONYC, we never would have had this opportunity. The idea came to me in the shower after I watched a scene on the show where my mother, Gloria Kamen, was giving advice to another cast member. My mom has always given the best advice, and the book was very easy to write, filled with anecdotes from all three of us. Secrets of a Jewish Mother was a dream I never knew I had. I am so grateful for it. Between the writing, the book tour, and the many events since in which we have appeared in front of thousands of women to share our stories, we as a family have been able to experience life in ways we never even imagined.
ON Self Care
Q: Can you share an experience that made you more conscious about the need for women to understand their personal finances?
A: As an attorney, I have had too many women come into my office knowing nothing at all about the money they had, where it was, how to get access to it, nothing. Too many get divorced or widowed, handicapping themselves unnecessarily. Financial literacy is as essential as reading.