Throughout his career as a bestselling author, motivational speaker, and Emmy award-winning TV host, Bill Boggs has met or worked with some of the most successful people in the world, from political leaders and movie stars to philanthropists and entrepreneurs.
They’ve all spoken about the secret to success, and Boggs says you might be surprised at its simplicity: Always follow your passion. Sure enough, he says, they all live by that oldie-but-goody, concerned more about career than money or fame, and proving that maybe there really is truth to the saying, “If you chose a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Boggs will present “Success Strategies — How to Get Where You Want to Go to in Life” during the Princeton Chamber of Commerce’s monthly membership luncheon on Thursday, September 10, at 11:30 a.m. at the Princeton Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. Cost: $50. Visit www.princetonchamber.org, or call 609-924-1776.
Boggs’ story starts in Philadelphia, where he was raised by his father, a swimming coach who later started an electrical supply business out of the family home. Boggs’ mother was a purchasing agent. He spent most of childhood sitting by the radio, tuning into the fantasy stories and imagining a career in show business.
“I’m just old enough to remember the golden era of radio. I grew up with Bob Hope, Jack Benny, the Lone Ranger. I remember Art Linkletter and Don McNeill,” he says. “As a kid, I wanted to be like the men on the radio.”
Even as Hollywood beckoned, Boggs says, “I grew up knowing that I was going to have to make a buck. I was selling vacuum parts door to door when I was in ninth grade.” Boggs made hard work and education his priority, and went on to earn a bachelor’s in sociology and a master’s in communications, both from Penn.
After college he pursued show business and has since appeared as himself in several movies and television shows, including “Trading Places,” “The Lemon Sisters,” “The Eyes of Laura Mars,” “The Dave Chappelle Show,” “As the World Turns,” “Spin City,” “Miami Vice,” and “Oz.”
He is currently the celebrity correspondent for the syndicated “My Generation” television show, but he has worked as a game show host, a news anchor for WNBC-TV on Weekend Today, and as the host of Midday Live with Bill Boggs in New York. He also was the host and creator of the PBS television show, “Home Cooked Classics,” and he pioneered the first-ever national restaurant review show, “TV Diners,” on the Food Network. He also served as COURT-TV’s first executive producer and as an executive producer of the Morton Downey Jr. Show.
Today, he’s married to Carol Campbell Boggs, a publishing executive, with whom he lives in Manhattan. He has a son, Trevor.
Defining success. In today’s must-have-everything world, success is often defined by a laundry list of material items: McMansions, Bentleys, 72-inch plasma TVs, blinged-out chains, yachts, and private planes. However, success is actually a mindset, Boggs says. It’s a never-say-never, be-the-best-you-can-be attitude combined with passion, ambition, drive and perseverance.
“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to defy category. I’m just going to do all the things I wanted to do, and I’ve been successful,’” Boggs says. “Success is not having a house in the Hamptons. If you’re following your passion, you’re leading a successful life.”
Learning from others. While it’s important to carve your own path, Boggs also advocates surrounding yourself with successful people and following in their footsteps. For example, if you know a businessman who has overseen the growth of an organization for a decade, invite him to lunch and pick his brain. Or if you meet up-and-coming professionals at an informal mixer, pull them aside and find out exactly what they’re doing to make a name for themselves.
That’s the approach Boggs took when writing his book, “Got What It Takes? Successful People Reveal How They Made It To the Top,” published by HarperCollins in 2008. The book features interviews with more than 40 entrepreneurs, world leaders and celebrities who discuss how they reached the top of their field and the factors that determined their success.
“I spent a year interviewing people like Joe Torre and Donald Trump,” he says. “By the end, I had 2,000 pages of transcripts, but there were several key points that all of these successful people talked about, like developing good work habits. I was able to learn from their experiences and share those with others.”
The secret(s) to success. The secret to success isn’t all that big a secret, it’s just many professionals fail to recognize their passion, pursue it, and use it to their personal and financial benefit, Boggs says. But successful people are also willing to make mistakes; accept advice but make their own decisions, and develop a strong work ethic, Boggs says.
“Risk taking is the key to living a successful life, and knowing the value of mistakes is crucial,” he says, adding that it’s important to also resist temptation and make positive lifestyle choices. “You don’t want your life to be like a VH-1 documentary.”
Boggs has long adhered to those secrets, he says. But his favorite is another oldie-but-goody that he believes many disregard en route to success. “When I was little Bill Boggs and going to church, there was something about the concept of do unto others,” he says. “I’ve lived by the golden rule, and it has served me well.”