Dropout to Dream Life with Debra Alfarone | Ep #19

July 26, 2022

Dropout to Dream Life with Debra Alfarone | Ep #19 On this episode of Second Act Success, Network TV Correspondent Debra Alfarone shares the power of words and how she went from high school dropout to having a dream life. Debra is an award-winning journalist and a reporter for CBS News. She launched into her […]

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Debra Alfarone


Dropout to Dream Life with Debra Alfarone | Ep #19

On this episode of Second Act Success, Network TV Correspondent Debra Alfarone shares the power of words and how she went from high school dropout to having a dream life. Debra is an award-winning journalist and a reporter for CBS News. She launched into her second act by starting her own business as an on-camera confidence coach and speaker working to help women feel empowered on camera and off. Debra also just launched her own podcast and video series called Sh** I Wish I Knew In My Twenties. And a book with the same name is on the way. Listen in to hear Debra’s words of wisdom, and find out what she’s learned along her path to a career and life she loves on the Second Act Success Podcast




CONNECT with Debra Alfarone:

Website – https://debraalfarone.com/

Podcast – https://shitiwishiknewinmytwenties.com/

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/debraalfarone/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/debraalfarone/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraAlfaroneJournalist/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/debraalfarone



Degrees/Certification: BA, Sociology Stoneybrook University / New York University

Career Milestones: Emmy Award Winner / Edward R. Murrow Award

Personal Status: Married 

Current Career Status: Network TV Correspondent for CBS News

Future Plans: The next chapter looks like I’m on stages, speaking, motivating, and inspiring people. I have a book deal. I also want the podcast to be something that people really like and resonate with.

Advice: “It will look different in a year than what you think it’s gonna look like now, be flexible, be kind to yourself, give yourself grace. There’s nothing you can’t figure out. If you have an internet connection, the whole world is at your fingertips. You can learn anything from podcasting to website design, to creating a business, to being a coach. You name it, literally you can learn anything.”



01:05 – Introduction

01:53 – Early life

03:02 – Making videos with friends when she was a kid

03:51 – Keeping your eyes open for opportunities

04:23 – Watching 48 Hours and deciding she wanted to be on camera and cold calling the producer of the show

05:00 – Starting off in TV News

06:12 – Coaching her clients to pick up phone and call people for meetings

06:41 – First big break

07:31 – Working for New York One

9:05 – Favorite stories to report on

10:32 – Why she loves to bring a voice to those who need it

14:30 – Awards

16:49 – Running her own business

18:16 – Coaching clients

21:21 – Teaching her clients to respect themselves and have confidence

25:26 – Podcast and book

25:45 – Working with Debra

26:23 – Debra’s blog

27:27 – Giving advice on social media, etc.

33:56 – Thread between her different acts in life

35:51 – Power of words

37:49 – Moment she knew she made it

41:15 – 5 Fast Qs of the Week

42:52 – Connect with Debra


Second Act Success Podcast
Season 1 -Episode #19 - Dropout to Dream life with Debra Alfarone
Guest: Debra Alfarone
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)

[00:00:00] Debra Alfarone: It will look different in a year than what you think it's gonna look like now, be flexible, be kind to yourself, give yourself grace. There's nothing you can't figure out. If you have an internet connection, the whole world is at your fingertips.

[00:00:14] Shannon: Are you at a crossroads in your career or in life? Well, don't worry because life's next chapter is waiting. This is the Second Act Success Podcast. I am your host Shannon Russell.

I'm a television producer, turned boy mom, turned business owner, podcaster, and career coach. If you are looking to start a new career or begin a fresh chapter in life, then get ready to be inspired with stories of women who have done just that. We will share advice and offer steps you can take to help figure out what your true calling in life really is.

It is time to shine. So let's turn the page and get started.

Welcome to Second Act Success.[00:01:00]

Debra Alfarone is my guest on this episode of Second Act Success. She is an award-winning journalist and network TV correspondent. Debra is still a powerhouse in TV News, but she launched into her second act a few years ago as an on-camera confidence coach. She works with women so they can feel empowered on camera and off. Debra just launched her own podcast and video series called Sh** I Wish I Knew In My Twenties. And a book with the same name is on the way. She, and I shared stories of our TV production experiences, and she had me laughing this entire interview. Let me introduce you to my friend, the incredible Debra Alfarone.

[00:01:44] Shannon Russell: Hi, Deborah. Welcome to the podcast.

[00:01:47] Debra Alfarone: I'm so excited to be here. Thank you.

[00:01:49] Shannon Russell: so much to talk about, let's start with beginning of your journey.

[00:01:53] Debra Alfarone: Oh, my gosh. Well, how long is this podcast? Number one, but no, I'm kidding. So I am a high school dropout [00:02:00] turned network, TV correspondent. Now it ain't as easy as that little, you know, snippet right there. Obviously a lot happened between a and B, but, I just grew up in Hicksville, long island on an aptly named town. Not much really happened around there at the time. And I came from a family that. You know, I was kind of ignored. My parents had a lot going on. My mom suffered from anxiety. They were in the middle of splitting up. And so I was basically left on my own to figure things out and I didn't do such a great job. I dropped outta high school, I was always a smart kid. I just didn't have mentors and role models. So I ended up going back to school and finding some mentors here and there and people who could show me that my life wasn't going to be just, you know, working at the grocery store, which is nothing wrong with, I did it for a long time. And that could kind of try and be something else.

[00:02:54] Shannon Russell: So you went out and found your own mentors. You found your own schooling and where did that lead you? When did you [00:03:00] decide? I wanna get into TV.

[00:03:02] Debra Alfarone: Well, I always loved putting things together and being creative. So my friends and I, we would get little cassette recorders and make little shows and things, and we were pretty funny to be honest with you. So I was always creating, I would even get my dad's camcorder, and I would like make things. So I always loved telling a story. However, I didn't know that people could get paid for that. So I dropped out of high school. I started working at Geico Insurance. So that was a place in my town where a lot of people worked. I worked there and, you know, I met lots of people who were, you know, professionals, right. So I learned from them and then I decided I'm gonna go to college. I put myself through college, working at Geico and getting loans and stuff like that. And then after that, I just got a job at an office. That's what I saw people doing. So I thought that's what people did. So I never thought that I could be someone on TV who told stories, because I didn't know anybody who did that.

However, what I did know is that if you wanna find. Out anything, just keep your eyes open and look and ask around. And so [00:04:00] lo and behold, I did meet people that did different things. And I thought to myself, this is really something I wanna pursue. I got the opportunity to do that by just asking people. And I was really just. An open book and kind of like a sponge. So I would take meetings with people. I don't know how the heck I got meetings with people, but I think just being naive helped to be honest with you and. It all kind of culminated one day when I was home watching 48 Hours and I was like, oh, this is a really good show. I really like this. And I wanna do this. Okay. Well, just a note, you don't wake up in this business and work at 48 Hours. It doesn't happen overnight, but I did watch the credits and saw the person with the most important title and basically did a cold call her name was Susan Zirinsky and we. chatted on the phone. She actually invited me to CBS. And I got to see all these people's offices. I was like, whoa, CBS in New York City. This was incredible. I mean, it is not that far from Hicksville, but it might as well be another planet away.

[00:04:59] Shannon Russell: [00:05:00] Mm-hmm

[00:05:00] Debra Alfarone: I got to just get a taste of that. And that kind of led me on my way. Long story short, I started off in small markets. I mean, I did stories about cows getting out. I worked all day for $75, um, two days actually, cuz I would do a shoot and then edit it. To put together a story and. Not that long ago, couple years ago, Susan Zirinsky was named the head of CBS News, not just the head of 48 Hours, but she was gonna oversee the whole news division. And we'd kept in touch all those years. So she didn't give me a job, but she did say here, let me connect you with the talent person. And the rest is history.

[00:05:40] Shannon Russell: but that's what you needed. You needed that person to take a chance on you.

[00:05:43] Debra Alfarone: Yes, we all do. We all do. And I wanna be that person for other people too.

[00:05:48] Shannon Russell: Oh, absolutely. It took a lot for you to have the guts, to just say, I'm gonna cold call this person. Let's remind some of our younger listeners that back in the day, you couldn't just Google that [00:06:00] person and find out their email. You did have to call, or you had to like mail a letter in. I interned at CBS News in college, in New York city. So I just remember it was a different process than today.

[00:06:12] Debra Alfarone: I will say this, I coach young women to be good on camera and to, grow their journalism careers. I'm a on camera confidence coach. But the thing is, is that they wanna send you an email and an email lands differently than a phone call. And this day, like in 2022 call people, they'll be like, whoa, my phone rings, like, what is that? They won't know what to do, but that's the easiest way to get, to someone directly

[00:06:35] Shannon Russell: That's great advice.

[00:06:36] Debra Alfarone: It works.

[00:06:38] Shannon Russell: So what was your first job in TV? Your first big break.

[00:06:41] Debra Alfarone: My first big break was I was carrying a camera and it was not one of those little cameras. The whole entire gear was 40 something pounds. And I was carrying it around the five boroughs of New York City as a news assistant for New York One where I got paid $10 and 50 cents an hour to shoot, what we call as you're a producer, [00:07:00] you know, VOSOTs, which are basically get some video, get a sound bite and just tell a little bit of the story. And I didn't know what I was doing. I probably looked so pathetic carrying that gear because every time I'd walk into a press conference, people would go outta their way to help me. I'd probably look like I was in pain, carrying it all, but they're like here, give me that. I think they just took pity on me cuz I was, I was little I was skinny.

[00:07:22] Shannon Russell: But you were doing it. You could have given up that first day and been like, this is, this is manual labor here. This is too much work. This is not what I thought, but you didn't.

[00:07:32] Debra Alfarone: no, I didn't, I, I don't know that that was ever a choice. It never occurred to me.

[00:07:36] Shannon Russell: Tell me how your career kind of progressed from there.

[00:07:39] Debra Alfarone: So I worked at New York One and I was behind the scenes just shooting video then after that I was putting together a tape, you know, you need a reel, you need a reel to go send a news directors. And so I put together this tape, I was not good, but I did it. And anytime they'd send me out to shoot something, I would shoot a standup me on camera saying something about something who [00:08:00] knows if it made sense. Who knows? I think I looked cute. I did not look cute. Looking back. This was the time of the Christina Aguilera hair of the stripes in your hair, and I had the stripes, but. I had some good mentors along the way that even said to me, uh, yeah, those stripes, like, no, my one, coworker who helped me out said to me, yeah. Um, that scarf is a little bit too much. He's like, I don't even think Katie Couric can get away with that. And I was like, okay, okay, we didn't know anything back then. And also that's kind of like why I do what I do to help people. Who are starting out so they don't have to waste time. I wanna give them that. So I started putting together a reel and hopped from New York One to a small station, which doesn't even exist anymore in Staten island, New York SI 76. if you haven't heard of it, you're not alone. From there. I went to Connecticut and I worked at two different stations in Connecticut. And then by that time I was much better and I jumped to New York and then to [00:09:00] DC.

[00:09:00] Shannon Russell: Being a journalist, what can you tell us about some of the stories that you worked on that are really memorable to you?

[00:09:05] Debra Alfarone: I have two types of stories that I love to work on the stories about the voices that need to be heard, but aren't heard. So I am all about lifting up the voices of any marginalized community, I actually have a story today that I'm gonna be shooting with a black transgender woman who is going to be a marshall of the NYC Pride, celebration this year. So I'm really excited about that. I tell stories about sex, trafficking domestic violence survivors, people who have a disability, telling their stories. When their voice hasn't been heard and they've been wronged in some way, I'm the one that I love to make those phone calls and, and, you know, ask the tough questions. Now that's one thing that I love to do. The other thing is anything having to do with a dog. If there's a dog story, you can find me there. Dog food truck. Sign me up. Dogs being trained by prisoners. I'm in, you know, [00:10:00] police dogs sign me up. I'm all about dogs because I just think that they're so sweet.

[00:10:07] Shannon Russell: Do you have one? Do you have a dog?

[00:10:08] Debra Alfarone: I actually have a dog at my feet right now. I have two dogs. One is at my feet, and he always is here. He does not contribute to podcasts, but he just gives me that support.

[00:10:17] Shannon Russell: He's moral support. well, why do you think that you are so good at getting these stories out of people who need their voice heard? Do you think it's just something about the questions you ask? Is it your personality? What makes these people open up to you?

[00:10:32] Debra Alfarone: Great question. I know that I am them. They are me and I am them. And of course that doesn't mean that I've been through what they've been through, but I've been through some stuff and I don't care what people think of me. I'm not here to. Be that perfectly polished person on TV who says everything perfectly.

Although I have to do that sometimes. And it's frustrating. I have to say things in a certain way that a producer has written at times and Hey, I can do [00:11:00] that. , but I'm not here to be a reporter first and a person. Second. I know the importance of stories. I know that in this world that is so divided that we have people that just can't see eye to eye on simple things. That stories bring us together. And if I can tell someone the story of, someone that just got outta prison and is really making, a way for themself. Maybe they'll understand that that person is not so different from them.

[00:11:28] Shannon Russell: Right. You're making the stories relatable and, that's important. I'm just taking away from you, the fact that when you grew up, you probably didn't feel very heard? Right,

[00:11:38] Debra Alfarone: believe it.

[00:11:39] Shannon Russell: right. So do you think that that might have been what led you to be this advocate

[00:11:44] Debra Alfarone: yeah. A hundred percent. Absolutely. And I'll even tell people a little bit about my story. There's many stories that I've done where we're friends now and they'll invite me to speak at whatever graduation or like there's one [00:12:00] amazing story that I was, a part of where. There's this organization that helps people who are out of the prison system to start businesses, because it's very hard to get a job when you've got something like that on your record. And I go back there all the time to speak and offer advice and stuff. And they look at me dressed in my news dress with my makeup on and, you know, they probably can size me up and think, well, what does she have to say to me? And when I tell them about some of the things I've been through, Now they wanna listen. Now I haven't been through exactly what they've been through, but they don't think I've been through anything. They think that I've, you know, if I broke a nail, it was like a really bad day. And it's so not

[00:12:39] Shannon Russell: So you tell them a little bit about yourself, have them open up to you and then really get the story and then be able to share that with others so that other people understand.

[00:12:47] Debra Alfarone: Yeah and inspire them too, because that's a lot of my business is inspiration. I do a lot of coaching. My business itself is coaching people and it's not just on camera stuff. It's life stuff. When people say, Hey, how do I [00:13:00] be confident on camera? I'm like, Hey, you know, who are you to be small? You've got a story. If the world is conspired to put you in front of this microphone, then guess what? The world needs to hear what you have to say. So get outta your way, because we need to hear it. You are unique and perfect the way you are. If you're gonna sit there and think about other things, what that person's doing or what that person looks like. You can't compare yourself because you're uncomparable. Is that a word? Incomparable,

[00:13:27] Shannon Russell: Incomparable.

[00:13:28] Debra Alfarone: incomparable. That's actually the word. See, I don't get everything right. I mess up. But people think you don't because you're on TV at the White House, but yeah, incomparable. That's the word?

[00:13:40] Shannon Russell: You can probably think back to yourself when you were schlepping that equipment around New York City and you know, and making such little money that you could have just easily turned it in. But instead you wanted your voice to be heard and you wanted to keep going and look what you've made of yourself.

[00:13:56] Debra Alfarone: Yeah, and I enjoy the use of the word schlepping because that is [00:14:00] such a New York word.

[00:14:01] Shannon Russell: It's a New York word, but I slept as a production assistant all around the city as well. So I'm with you. I remember those days.

[00:14:08] Debra Alfarone: Hot out, cold out.

[00:14:10] Shannon Russell: Carrying the beta tapes? I used to work at MTV and I would have to take them from one building to the other, carrying in plastic bags, breaking my little arms.

so the

[00:14:20] Debra Alfarone: Do they have to be so big? What were they thinking?

[00:14:25] Shannon Russell: I have no idea. So let's talk about your, awards that you've won over the years.

[00:14:30] Debra Alfarone: Oh, my gosh. You know, it's funny. I have, a couple of awards that I forget what they're for. I'm like, oh yeah, look at that one over there. My two awards that I'm very proud of and it wasn't because of me specifically, it was a team effort. That's. Why I'm so proud. I've got my, my Emmy over there and my Merrow over there behind me. No one can see this, but just trust me. I've got the Emmy and Merrow behind me right now. Those are both team efforts. The one that I'm most proud of it's the Emmy, [00:15:00] because I. Was a weekend anchor in Washington, DC. And as a weekend, anchor in this market, you'd think it's a pretty big market, but a lot of people who work on the weekend were maybe junior or didn't have as much experience as I did. And so I would lead the team it was really on me to be a managing editor and look and see, okay, like how can we tell this story? How can we set up this newscast? We covered the March For Our Lives after Parkland, and that was in DC and it was incredibly moving. I was part of really shaping that and shaping the cold, open to the show and sitting there and listening to it and logging the bites that really. Just hit me in the gut. And so it wasn't just anchoring the show. It was being a part of the whole process of putting together the show and that's what the Emmy was for. And now we're gonna have another March For Our Lives here in Washington, DC soon.

[00:15:52] Shannon Russell: For Uvalde?

[00:15:53] Debra Alfarone: It's gonna be another really moving time.

The Murrow was for a local story here in which a young black [00:16:00] man was killed at the hands of police as he was trying to, ride his motorcycle. There's a lot of back and forth about, you know, was he riding, in a way that was dangerous, reckless. but at the end of the day, he died. It was at the hands of police. And this is a story that's told all the time in America. And this was one specific moment in time here in DC. And of course, since then there have been so many more, his name is Terrence Sterling.

[00:16:25] Shannon Russell: Mm, it's so important to have someone like you and your team to bring these stories to us, the viewers, to really understand, because we might not have any idea of really the lives and the people behind these stories. If you don't bring those to us.

[00:16:40] Debra Alfarone: It's what makes local news. So incredibly important.

[00:16:43] Shannon Russell: you're still doing on camera reporting as a journalist, but now you have your own business as well.

[00:16:49] Debra Alfarone: Yeah, that means that I never sleep basically. I love reporting. I love telling these stories and I'm very blessed that I get to do it at the national level. And I love my business and my [00:17:00] business has morphed a little bit over the years, but started out one on one coaching for young women and men as well, but mostly it's women who find me who are on camera in TV news. Then of course it expanded out to give on camera skills and guidance, to all sorts of people, whether they be an entrepreneur, an author, a lot of faculty at colleges will, you know, I'll do presentations for them. And I'm also writing a book now and it came out of the coaching because when you're spending all that time with 20 something, women, you realize that you're not just giving them skills on how to stand in front of the camera. You're giving them skills on how to show up in a room, how to be confident and ask for that. Raise how to negotiate maybe with your boyfriend. Like where do we stand in this relationship? And so it's mindset, it's everything. And so I'm taking all of these ideas and putting it in a book called Beep I Wish I Knew In My Twenties.

[00:17:58] Shannon Russell: I love it. I [00:18:00] love it. And you have YouTube videos

[00:18:02] Debra Alfarone: And part of it is a podcast. I wanna be like you, I wanna have a podcast. And so that's part of that. It's gonna be a video podcast and audio podcast.

[00:18:10] Shannon Russell: amazing. Tell me some of the lessons that you've discussed in, in these videos so far.

[00:18:16] Debra Alfarone: Oh, my gosh. There's so many things. Okay. Here's one for everybody. There's a difference between being and doing. And this is something when you're in your twenties. And I know I did this, I worked my beep off. I dunno how much I can curse in this podcast. So I worked my beep off and I just worked and worked and worked and worked to work. I outworked everyone around me. Oh, you want me to work in the overnight shift? Yeah, I'm here. Oh, you want me to work Christmas and New Year's? I'm here. And when I'm doing all of that, what I'm doing is telling the world that I think I need to overwork in order to have worth. And so if I can. Focus more on being that network reporter, even though I'm in market 1 92 showing up with [00:19:00] excellence every day and having the confidence and peace within me to know that I am worthy, then I'm gonna have more opportunities. It shows up in the world. And so I did a lot of being versus doing. I did a lot of doing out there, even with my business, started my business, worked my butt off. And so what am I telling people? That I have to work very, very, very, very hard, so much that I'm making myself sick or I'm not getting enough sleep. And then I'm kind of looking kind of tired and I'm saying, I'm not worth it. I'm not worth it to have balance. So there's a being versus doing. And if you just. Actually take a moment to focus on who you are being in that moment. You can really set a tone you're responsible for the energy you bring in the room. And what kind of energy you think I'm, I'm bringing when I am working 15 hours a day. Not great energy.

[00:19:46] Shannon Russell: Wow mind blown right now, that was me in my twenties. Now, as we're older, we can look back , and say that that was wrong showing that you're part of the team working the late hours is great, but why are you doing it and not [00:20:00] someone else. And how else could you have showed up

[00:20:03] Debra Alfarone: Yeah. Show up like a leader, you know, and I have to show up like a leader and I have to say no, sometimes.

[00:20:09] Shannon Russell: That's hard for us.

[00:20:10] Debra Alfarone: So hard, especially in an industry where it feels like there's lack, lack of opportunities, but I cannot let that color. My experience, I can't show up. Like, there's a lack of opportunities. I have to show up, like there's money falling out of the sky and then who am I gonna be? How am I gonna walk through the world? Totally different. Totally. A lot of my clients are like, but I have to, but I have to, but I have to, I have to have to take this shift. Okay. Well, do you hear yourself? You're rooted in this nervousness and when you're nervous, you make other people nervous. But if you show up confident, like a leader, like I got this. Yeah, no, I'm not gonna be able to take that Saturday shift, but you know what? I could do that Sunday shift, but I can't come in until three. Is that okay? Someone's asking you a favor. Don't make it like you have to do it. No, I'll do that [00:21:00] favor.

[00:21:00] Shannon Russell: Right. You're not bending over backwards, but you're meeting them with, oh, I can't do this, but I can do this. That's respect. They're going to respect you

[00:21:07] Debra Alfarone: respect is what it's all about, but you gotta, you know, we gotta earn respect and firstly, we gotta respect ourselves.

[00:21:13] Shannon Russell: So you're teaching these women how to respect themselves to move it along a little further in their industry.

[00:21:21] Debra Alfarone: The whole thing is they are incredible women and they are changing the world with every story they do. And so. I know they respect themselves. They respect what they do. It's just that they don't know what they don't know. And we get stuck in a loop in our head of just, you know, the world tells us we're not enough. The world tells us our thighs are too big. And the world tells us that, women are not respected as much as men. If you think about some of the things we see in the news these days. How could we not pick up these tiny ideas? And I'm just here to shake 'em up to. Hey, let's take a moment and look at this when you say yes. Sure. I'll take that shift and I'm not saying anyone shouldn't take a shift. Just wanna make sure [00:22:00] believe me. I've taken every shift. I've worked every shift and Hey, if CBS calls me and says, we need you tomorrow, I'll be there. But , but it's just the energy with which we do these things. And you have to say no, sometimes.

[00:22:11] Shannon Russell: These are things that you've learned over the years that now you can share to your listeners, your readers, your clients. It's so invaluable to have someone on the inside. Who's where these women wanna be telling them, Hey, these are the steps you can take to get here.

[00:22:27] Debra Alfarone: Oh, my gosh. Yes. Absolutely. They'll reach out to me with anything. A one woman just emailed me because she got a new job in a new place, a big market and she's producing and anchoring. A lot to be celebrated there. A lot. It's not easy to move to a whole new place and then be on TV that week. And so of course, somebody had something to say on Facebook and said, oh, I don't like this woman. Like, I don't like this new person, whatever. She was like, how much should I let this bother me? I'm so excited that you, you [00:23:00] actually asked me this because I got a good answer for you. This is a guy who has a car as his profile picture, and I don't see his face he is a person who's home, tapping out stuff on his phone or his computer to a news station on a Saturday morning. How is he changing the world for the better. How's he showing up, you moved across the country, you put yourself out there and, and you probably know Brene brown talks about, that incredible quote about daring greatly, you know, like the kudos goes to the person in the ring. Whose skin is got, you know, dirt on it. And who's like a little messed up because they're out there doing the thing, not the jerk in the stands.

[00:23:40] Shannon Russell: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:23:42] Debra Alfarone: Like, nah, he don't get to occupy rent in your head. He can't live there. Rent free. Sorry.

[00:23:48] Shannon Russell: That reminder must have just made her feel so much better because it's the truth that she needed to hear from someone else when she is just getting used to that criticism. That is probably [00:24:00] so much more rampant that it was many years ago, with social media now,

[00:24:04] Debra Alfarone: It is. And it's incredible in these small markets, they think that they own these newscasters, that they can, you know, say whatever they want. Um, you shouldn't say anything to anybody. You should never call a person a name and you should never comment on people's appearances or voice what you wouldn't do it in the street. So why would you do it on Facebook? What kind of a sad ass person are you ? So I had remind, remember, it's the guy who can't even put his face in it's profile picture.

[00:24:31] Shannon Russell: Exactly. That's not even worth the argument, you

[00:24:34] Debra Alfarone: I know.

[00:24:36] Shannon Russell: Also just for the, the sake of the conversation, men don't get. Affected by those Facebook comments like we do. I think that's just a whole nother thing that, that you can teach your clients the confidence to just shut it off. Focus on what you're doing. You're serving that community. I have all the admiration for this woman,

[00:24:54] Debra Alfarone: First of all, you moved across the country to take a new job. Let's just stop right there. That's really [00:25:00] badass. And it makes me so angry that, but that people will do that. But people gonna do people gonna stupid, you know?

[00:25:05] Shannon Russell: gonna do it, but I love that you're there to hype these women up and make them see the good in themselves and what they should focus on to make their career what they want. And that's so important.

[00:25:17] Debra Alfarone: Yeah. Thank you. And so it's, it's now the book and the, the podcast will be expanded of course, to, to people that aren't in TV news. Anybody could listen to it.

[00:25:24] Shannon Russell: So when can we expect the podcast and the book?

[00:25:26] Debra Alfarone: The book I am working with, a book coach, we've got it out to agents, but the podcast will be launching in July.

[00:25:34] Shannon Russell: I'm very excited for the podcast. That's gonna be huge. And so inspirational for everyone. I'm excited for that. If listeners want to work with you, is it one on one coaching group coaching? How does that work?

[00:25:45] Debra Alfarone: I have something for a TV journalist called The Membership and I also have a digital course. Through the membership, they get group time with me. They can also upgrade to one on ones. If you're not in TV news, and you wanna work with me, you just send me an email. We can work it [00:26:00] out. I also have a digital course for non TV people as well. So that's another way that they could work with

[00:26:05] Shannon Russell: And that's all on your website.

[00:26:07] Debra Alfarone: all on my website.

[00:26:08] Shannon Russell: Easy. Okay,

[00:26:09] Debra Alfarone: Yeah.

[00:26:10] Shannon Russell: Speaking of that, you also have a blog and I was looking at some of your posts you had a post about, Beyonce has people for that. Let's just talk about that because again, another huge reminder for women, for men, for anyone who.

[00:26:23] Debra Alfarone: Yeah. For a while there there's been those girl boss kind of, quotes and things and Hey, I'm all about rah ra, but remember. Beyonce looks the way she does, because she has people for that and JLo too. And I could look at them all day, but believe me, I follow them on Instagram. I'll see every movie I'll listen to every song and they're incredibly talented, but that's their job. That's their job. I mean, My job is to be on TV. You think I haven't had Botox? I mean, I spend a lot more time in the average person, probably with all these different beauty things. I don't know. Maybe, maybe I do. [00:27:00] Maybe I don't. But you know what Beyonce and JLo do, like, oh my gosh. So I feel like , we have to just be kind to ourselves. Beyonce has people for. So we do have the same amount of hours in a day. It's gonna look a little bit different for the average person.

[00:27:17] Shannon Russell: very true. That's a reminder. We all need to think about when we wake up in the morning and plan our day. You also have a free guide. With the three tips to get into the top 10 market.

[00:27:27] Debra Alfarone: I try to give out as much as I can for free. So if you follow me on social, you'll see, I'm always trying to give out some tips. A lot of it's life advice, but the thing about working in a top 10 market or at network, what I realized is, you know, I worked hard, like I said, and it was great. , I worked hard. I learned all the things I needed to learn. And then there's no shame in, in our games. Like if you don't know how to use your voice powerfully, go get a voice coach. , if you aren't sure how to do your makeup. Go to the Mac counter. They'll hook you up if you're not sure how to really tell an award-winning [00:28:00] story. There are conferences where you can learn all sorts of things, find a mentor, there's all of these things. But I realized the one thing that was keeping me from getting to where I am now was my mindset. And so I thought that there were people who worked at network or worked at top 10 markets who were better. Than me and I don't know where I picked up this silly idea about the world, but there was something perfect or, maybe they came from the right family, had an advantage, went to the right school. We look at that perfect scenario, maybe it's someone who was, just gorgeous, you know, knows how to dress, perfectly, um, I I thought that's them. And then there's me over here. And it's actually not true. Everybody has worth, regardless of the school they went to and their family situation, but it took me a long time. And when I finally was kind to myself and just accepted me for who I was. That's when I really got somewhere, you know, it's that [00:29:00] whole calling thing. And also having the mindset that you're enough. I kept calling and calling after Susan Zirinsky, gave my name to the talent person because what happened was I was supposed to go to another person after that and she never called me back. And so I was like, oh, she didn't call me back. Maybe she didn't like me. No, that's not true. You keep calling. I had to keep reminding myself. So I, I called again and I sent an email and said, and finally, I was like, I'll be in New York on this date. And I would love to, you know, grab 10 minutes with you. Well, all those emails and all those calls, all of them with the energy of I'm worth it never, so it was always with the right intention and energy. That's when. She said, okay, sure. And I met with her and I'll be honest with you. She was not effusive about me. I did not get a good vibe from her she said, do you have any more reporting? And I'm like, lady, what are you thinking? I've been doing all these years? You know, she didn't know me. So. That's fine. I didn't make anything of that either. And I just gave her more information when I got home. And then she said, well, I'll give [00:30:00] your stuff over to the person in DC, but I can't make any promises. So not really sounding that positive, but I didn't let it stop me. I go to meet this person in DC who's my boss now. And the whole time that I had this mistaken notion of you need to be X and I'm Y. I was wrong because the person who I ended up meeting for this interview in DC, didn't even see my reel. She just Googled me. And she saw my TEDx talk where I talked about being a high school dropout, and that's what she watched. And so the second I walked in, she was like, we have so much to talk about, oh my gosh, I'm from New York too. And we talked about all of these things that we had in common. And it was me being me that she connected to had nothing to do with the stories that I did, my resume. She didn't know. She just liked me for who I was. So those hiding and pretending to be this perfect person with [00:31:00] perfect hair and, and not telling anybody that I was a high school dropout and, and really kind of just, you know, when people talked about their school, just like not talking about mine at all, like , I dunno, it's silly. Well, that was for nothing because when I finally decided I was enough is when I was enough, but it makes that it takes that decision. For everyone has nothing to do with top 10 markets. It's that decision of I am enough.

[00:31:26] Shannon Russell: You walked in there and that woman said I don't care about everything else. It's you. I wanna talk to it's something about the way you presented yourself in that Ted talk. And that is such a wonderful reminder to people to be themselves. Otherwise that opportunity could just fall to the wayside.

[00:31:43] Debra Alfarone: Yeah. If you don't believe in yourself, how the hell is anyone else going to?

[00:31:47] Shannon Russell: right. And you're still working for her

[00:31:49] Debra Alfarone: Yeah. It's a really great reminder. Stop beating yourself up. You know, one of my colleagues, Errol Barnett said, in a talk there's enough people out there who are going [00:32:00] to stand in your way, who are maybe not gonna help you or make it harder for you, don't you be one of them. And I remember that quote, and I tell lots of people this, because don't be one of them. We are standing in our way sometimes with our small limiting thoughts.

[00:32:15] Shannon Russell: All the time. That is such an amazing quote. You could have easily said, oh, she didn't call me back. She doesn't like me. All right. I'm just not gonna try again. You know what someone doesn't like you until they tell you they don't like you and that's not

[00:32:29] Debra Alfarone: you go.

[00:32:30] Shannon Russell: Yep. So you

[00:32:31] Debra Alfarone: Exactly. You gotta call me and say, I don't like you for me to go. Oh, okay. And I tell my clients this and they just don't wanna listen to me. They don't wanna believe me. And I'm like, you call them again. This is a lot of my coaching. Or I, I get this I'm bad at negotiating. Ah, and they're all like in their head, I'm like, oh, how did the last negotiation go for you? Oh, I haven't done it before. So how do you know you're bad at it? Be impeccable with your words. I am hesitant about negotiating, cuz I don't have a strategy. [00:33:00] Okay. Well now you're being impeccable with your words, but don't beat yourself up. I'm bad. Don't you ever tell yourself you're bad, but I did it for a long time. I just have years on these women. That's all I have been through it. I have told myself I was terrible and bad and unacceptable for a long time. I'm just not gonna do it.

[00:33:18] Shannon Russell: And you don't have to, you have proven yourself time and time again, and now you are entering what I'll call your second act of going back and serving. a new audience with your podcast, with your book, with your coaching business, you're serving them, teaching them what it took you so long to learn on your own.

[00:33:38] Debra Alfarone: that's the thing. I just wanna help people not suffer. Like I had to, like, I could have been so much further along if only I had a me to help me out. So I wanna be that for other people.

[00:33:48] Shannon Russell: What do you think a common thread is between all of these different steps you've taken in life or these life changes that you've had?

[00:33:56] Debra Alfarone: Hmm. That's a great question. There were a lot of no's [00:34:00] along the way, a lot of no's way more no's than yeses and people don't see that when they see you standing at the White House, they don't know about the no's the people who said, nah, I hope they're watching by the way. And they do see me there, but anyway, there were a lot of no's and only a couple of yeses. And I just feel like if I let those nos stop me, I would never have gotten to the yeses. You can't let those nos mean anything. They have to be just a, not now versus a

[00:34:25] Shannon Russell: I think a lot of, especially the younger generation, they think like, okay, it has to be immediate. No, it doesn't have to be immediate. Keep working towards it.

[00:34:32] Debra Alfarone: Yeah. And what happens is that, we see these, top 30, under 30, top 40 under 40. I mean, I get it and that'd be great. Like that's really nice. Like, wow. I'd feel really good about myself for like an hour and then I'd be done. Like, I, I don't think anyone cares after that. It's nice to be on those lists, but what happened at the top? What if I was the 31, 1 30 first person? Am I not worthy? You know, and I don't need to go out there and tell a story that, millions of people. See, what if I did a [00:35:00] story that one person saw it change their life. Just, you never know who you're affecting. I think this world sets us up to like, just compare ourselves and you gotta be perfect. I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to be the optimal candidate. The perfect candidate has this degree and that much experience and looks like this and does this, and is this age I don't need to be that. I need to be me. I'll find my home.

[00:35:24] Shannon Russell: You're gonna tune into people that you resonate with and that's your audience

[00:35:30] Debra Alfarone: And if it isn't there, build it right. Like look you're you have a podcast that really lights you up. No one said, Hey, I'm gonna hire you for this podcast. No, you built it.

[00:35:40] Shannon Russell: yeah.

[00:35:41] Debra Alfarone: You know, that's the thing is that we get to create things. If only we believe in ourselves

[00:35:46] Shannon Russell: So important. And that brings me to something that I know you say a lot is, there's power. In words, what is the power of words in your storytelling and the story that you tell yourself? I guess,

[00:35:56] Debra Alfarone: Well, it starts with the story you say. You tell yourself in your [00:36:00] head, then it comes out in actual words. But, many times I've looked at myself in the mirror and thought unacceptable. You know, I don't like my nose. I don't like my eyes. I'm I'm too old or I'm too young or I'm too this, so I've, I've really said some mean things to myself over the years. I apologize, self. Um, but again, when we talk to ourselves and yesterday, my husband and I, this is silly story. He had an electric scooter and then he thought it'd be a really great idea. If I had one. and I was like, this is great, but you know what hills are, are real things. I didn't know what it would be like to go down a hill or up a hill. And so I'm trying to tell him like, listen, I'm not as strong as you, you have to be patient with me. Like I'm not, I'm not good at this. And I heard myself. A coach that tells people, don't say these words go back to an old theme of, I'm not good at this. I'm not strong. It's hard for me. And I'm making it harder. I realize what I was doing. And I say, oh, we're not doing that anymore. And I chose to believe in myself and literally [00:37:00] time I've chosen it in the moment. I've. Like more steady on the scooter, I wasn't hesitating. And when you're hesitating is when you make those dumb mistakes and you're like, Ooh, let me not go over that bumper. Let me jump off right here. Cause I got scared and then you fall down and that's kind of like life.

[00:37:17] Shannon Russell: It's the mindfulness, like you said, it comes back to that to really just knowing yourself, knowing what you wanna believe and then that, and manifesting it.

[00:37:23] Debra Alfarone: Yeah. And, and really being impeccable with your words is I think the most important thing as a storyteller whose currency is words, I'm using words. So I'm never gonna call something in Inferno, if it's a fire and I'm also not gonna call it a blaze because we don't talk like that. but I'm talking to a producer. So, you know, your stuff.

[00:37:45] Shannon Russell: Is there a moment in your career where you said, okay, I've made it to where I wanna be.

[00:37:49] Debra Alfarone: I think that I can remember that moment. Yes. But it's so funny and I'm working on this, the moment comes and then it's on to the [00:38:00] next thing. Isn't that incredible? I think when I first did a CBS weekend evening news live hit at the White House. That was. When I thought, wow, how the heck did they let me do this? How did I get here? Because I'm not a political reporter. There are people that know politics left and right. I'm just a storyteller, I just tell the story that's in front of me. And I just remember thinking. How did I get here? I, I mean, I know how I got here hard work and, and, and proving myself. I'd been working there for a while, but it was filling in on the CBS weekend, evening news that really hit me. A couple of people who saw me a couple of old, managers from the past. And they were like, wow, I got to see you. It's so wonderful to see you doing so well. And that was a moment for me. And then, you know, the next moment comes and then you're filling in again, or you're doing another [00:39:00] story. And so it kind of is fleeting. I know that I think we had some wine that night, you know, we, we celebrated, but it's on to the next and I just remember. When I took a year off from news. I started my business after I left my last local news job in which my boss was not digging me. And I was put in a position where it wasn't, it wasn't working for me anymore. And that's another less life lesson. Don't stay in a room where you're not celebrated or appreciated. And so I left and started this business. And for one year I did the most incredible stuff. I was so proud of building a website, building a business, building an offering, building a, a mailing list, figuring out an email customer journey, uh, creating a sales page. Creating a digital course. I did so many amazing things in that year. And when I got back into TV, that's when people were like, oh man, you are killing it. And I'm like, I've been killing it. You just, [00:40:00] haven't been looking your idea of killing it is different. And so killing it is a lot of things you don't have to be standing at the White House to be killing it.

[00:40:09] Shannon Russell: I love that. You're absolutely right. And that's amazing that you were able to take that year to really build it to a place where you were thriving,

[00:40:17] Debra Alfarone: It was incredible. And you know what? I didn't make a lot of money that first year, but I didn't lose money. That's success to me.

[00:40:23] Shannon Russell: that's success, and then your colleagues saw that. Wow, what can Debra do now? Like, she's on the next thing, exciting.

[00:40:30] Debra Alfarone: That was always a lesson for me because there is this like. You know, TV news, when you're in it. You think it's the be all and end all, and there's an ego about it, but I'm just telling stories out here.

[00:40:42] Shannon Russell: You're enjoying it. And that's all that matters is that you are excited to tell the story this afternoon. You're excited to bring these stories to people and you also get to have your business at the same time. So you're in a great place. You've got a lot going on.

[00:40:55] Debra Alfarone: And I'm trying to have balance. I'm trying to be healthy and have balance and [00:41:00] end my Workday at a certain time, but it's not easy. And I'm sure you know that.

[00:41:04] Shannon Russell: Yes. Balance is a, a crazy word. I try not to use too often cuz I don't think it really exists. as much as we try.

[00:41:15] Shannon: Alright. It's time for our Five Fast Qs of the Week. Here we go!

[00:41:20] Shannon Russell: Name, one thing that these different chapters in your life have taught you.

[00:41:23] Debra Alfarone: That you are the only person out there for you. You gotta make it happen. Ain't nobody coming. There's no white Knight. No, one's gonna knock on your door and give you an opportunity. If you're not out there actively making it happen, then you are just sitting around my friend.

[00:41:39] Shannon Russell: Would you recommend taking a leap into a big life change for your best friend?

[00:41:43] Debra Alfarone: A hundred percent, unless my best friend, you know, it wasn't at the right time for them, but I'd invite them to consider thinking about it for the future. Their timing is important, but I always think you have to bet on yourself.

[00:41:56] Shannon Russell: What is the one piece of advice that you would give someone who is starting a second act [00:42:00] today?

[00:42:00] Debra Alfarone: It will look different in a year than what you think it's gonna look like now, be flexible, be kind to yourself, give yourself grace. There's nothing you can't figure out. If you have an internet connection, the whole world is at your fingertips. You can learn anything from podcasting to website design, to creating a business, to being a coach. You name it, literally you can learn anything.

[00:42:25] Shannon Russell: What does the next chapter look like for you?

[00:42:29] Debra Alfarone: The next chapter looks like I'm on stages, speaking and motivating and inspiring people. And I have a book deal, a several book book deal, and the podcast is something that people really like and resonate with.

[00:42:50] Shannon Russell: I can see it happening very soon, very soon. Where can our audience connect with you?

[00:42:55] Debra Alfarone: You can always email me if you're interested in anything having to do with my business. And that would be [00:43:00] at debra@debraalfarone.com. And I hang out a lot on Instagram and TikTok. So shockingly I'm @debraalfarone. So that it'd be easy to find me at either, but I love to drop my gems of wisdom and you know, lot of the stuff is stuff I learned from other people. And I'd love to do Q and as so if you got a question. A life advice question hit me up on TikTok. Hit me up on Instagram and I will answer you in a video.

[00:43:26] Shannon Russell: All right. Well, thank you, Debra. This has been so eye opening, so fascinating, and I'm gonna continue to watch your career grow. I'm excited for the book and the podcast, and I just thank you for your time.

[00:43:38] Debra Alfarone: thank you so much. If there's anything that I can ever do to support you and this podcast, you let me know, anything at all. I am so blown away by how. You get stuff done and how professional this podcast is and just, you are incredible. I really had a great time. You are a great interviewer coming from an interviewer. You're a fabulous interviewer.

[00:43:59] Shannon Russell: thank you. [00:44:00] That means so much to me,

[00:44:01] Shannon: Debra is hysterical. I hope you enjoyed her as much as I did. It was so much fun, chatting about TV and sharing stories with her, but I really loved how she's using her experiences and her skills to help other women feel confident on camera. And off-camera. To learn more about Debra, go to debraalfarone.com. And check out her new podcast called Sh** I Wish I Knew In My Twenties. I'll have links in the show notes as well, so you don't miss an episode.

I hope you will join me on Thursday for another new episode of Second Act Success. This time we'll be featuring Liz McDade. She is a PhD scientist who decided to pivot and open her own business. Her business is called No Trace and she educates others on living a low to no waste lifestyle. Thanks again as always for listening. See you next time.

Thank you for joining us. I hope you found some gems of inspiration and some takeaways to help you on your path to Second Act Success. To view show notes from this episode, recommend to guests with a great [00:45:00] story, and learn more about us. Visit secondactsuccess.co. Before you go, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast. So you don't miss a single episode. Reviews only take a few moments and they really do mean so much. Thank you again for listening. I am Shannon Russell, and this is Second Act Success.



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