Coach’s Corner:  What We Can Learn from Joan Rivers


J.D. “Jim” Fox, Head Coach, Next Act Coaching

I’ve always loved Joan Rivers’ comedy, and volunteer at the same NYC charity where she served on the Board for decades.  When she died, a little baby wing of the place was dedicated to her.  I see it every week, and love that it’s there.

I also just finished “Last Girl Before Freeway,” a biography of Joan featuring interviews with many of her friends, not to mention a goofy ending with the psychics Joan supposedly uses to communicate from the Great Hereafter.  Or Wherever.   Whatever.What We Can Learn from Joan Rivers

As an executive coach, my real takeaway is just amazement at the woman’s drive.  More drive than I’ve ever seen, and this is from a guy who worked in law, academia, nonprofits, health care, politics, government, and TV news.   Joan was driven to exceed her family’s ideals.  Driven to succeed in the boys’ club that was comedy when she started out.  Driven to survive exile from NBC at the hands of Johnny Carson and his successors.

The list goes on:  Driven to survive her husband’s suicide, driven to leave no empty pages in her calendar, driven to make more money even as she became a wealthy mogul due to the Joan Rivers Collection on QVC (Quality, Variety, and Convenience).

What We Can Learn from Joan Rivers - Men Are So StupicSince she dropped f-bombs like a hat, she’d have no issue with me saying that’s a f**kload of drive.  (Of course, Joan would’ve used the vowel and consonant instead of asterisks.)

Here’s the thing, though … she always played from her strengths.   She was funny.  She was usually the smartest person in the room, even as she deferred to many (especially her husband).  No one ever said “no” to her and saw it stick; she knew from persistence.   People messed with the young Joan Molinsky, but not with the adult Joan Rivers.

It’s hard to count the number of next acts she had in her career; not to mention in her very public, cosmetically-enhanced life.   C’mon, a bestseller titled “Men are Stupid… And They Love Big Boobs?”  Hysterical.

The times I saw her doing experimental bits at small comedy clubs in New York, I left with my jaws hurting from laughing so hard.   I was far from alone.

Here’s the lesson:   Joan Rivers was exceptional in her drive.  It’s probably what enabled her to bust through as many ceilings as she did.   For the rest of us, still driven but not viewing every bit of white space in our schedules as a deficit, there’s this:  play to your strengths.  What you like to do.  What you’re naturally good at.  Build your next act around them.






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