As many of you know by now, I recently appeared on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire: Guinness World Records® Edition.” While the title of this post probably gives away the ending, just in case you haven’t yet seen my episodes, though, here’s a video:
Day 1: Dress: Target; Cardigan: Ann Taylor Loft; Shoes: Nordstrom; Awesome Amethyst Necklace: FAB Custom Jewelry.
Day 2: Shirt: Nordstrom; Jeans: H&M; Shoes: Nordstrom; Necklace: Artisan-made, a gift from my sweet hubby that he bought me in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Now that you’ve watched the show, you know “who I was wearing,” and how I lost the $52,100. But how did I find true success? Let’s dive in….
How I Ended Up On A Game Show In the First Place
The truth is, I’d never thought about being on a game show. It wasn’t on my radar.
But when ABC called me to invite me to do a Skype interview to see if I would be a good fit for their Guinness World Records edition of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” it sounded like fun to me, so I said yes. They interviewed me on Monday and called me a few days later to book me. They couldn’t guarantee I’d appear on the show, but did offer me a thousand dollars just for showing up.
I try to live what I teach my clients: “Live a life of opportunity and adventure.” That statement, along with “Feel the fear and do the thing anyway,” and “Be kind to other people and do good wherever you can,” pretty much sums up my guiding philosophy in life. Since I married a man who shares in that philosophy, we packed our bags and headed off to Stamford, CT, where “Millionaire” is filmed.
(Side note: to keep this post from becoming too long (and I’m sure it will be too long anyway) I’m leaving out many fun details, like how both Leo and I had to take pictures of various outfits for the producers to choose from, the pages and pages of documents we had to sign, and the very short notice – we had to be there in two weeks!)
Upon arriving at the studio, Leo and I met some amazing people. We met Bob Bretall, who has the world’s largest comic book collection (Bob and his friend Rick, who is also delightful, host a cool podcast, Pop Cult Power Hour, and here’s Bob’s writeup of his experience on “Millionaire”), and if you ever have any comic book questions, Bob’s your guy. You’ll never meet nicer guys than Bob and Rick.
We also met the fastest talking woman, a guy who juggles ping pong balls with his mouth, Erin Lavoie, who chopped down an insane number of Christmas trees in two minutes (see that video here), a guy who’d eaten the most ghost chili peppers in a minute, a guy who carves amazing pumpkins amazingly quickly, a fellow Hoosier who has broken the most toilet seats over his head in a minute, and Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy fame. Everyone was fascinating and cool, and we had a great time talking with them in the green room and in rehearsal.
Goal #1: Get On The Show
We all knew there was a chance of not getting on the show. But I wanted to play because…really, to come all that way and not play would’ve been pretty disappointing. And while meeting other recordholders was fun, I knew I’d have even more fun if I played.
During rehearsal, I realized immediately that there were an awful lot of producers and executive-types watching us. So I knew it was time to “turn on the charm and energy.” And hooray! I ended up on the show.
In the first commercial break (which is really just a break- they add commercials later, but a nice man brought me a real glass with water and a straw and my producers came over to give me extra encouragement), Terry Crews leaned over to me and said, “Did you ever think when you broke a world record that you’d end up here?” I laughed and said, “I sure did not!” He said, “You never know! Opportunity brings more opportunity!” I told Terry that Leo says that to me all the time, and he said, “Leo must be a smart man.” (and indeed, Leo is a very smart man. Opportunity does bring more opportunity.)
Playing the game was so much fun. A lot of people have asked me if I was nervous. I was excited, but I speak all the time in front of lots of people. And people, I broke the world record for the longest webcast with a 36-hour video. As a result, being on camera doesn’t really bother me or make me nervous. So mostly I was just excited, because it was so much fun.
Goal #2: Make It To the Wardrobe Change
Each of us had a couple of producers assigned to us throughout our game play. My producers, Graciela and Michael, were lovely and super-encouraging. They told me, “Our goal is to make it to the wardrobe change.” A “wardrobe change” means you made it to a second episode, which means you’re playing well. And hooray! I made it to the wardrobe change and had all my lifelines intact.
Goal #3: ???
We had a big pause in taping the show after the wardrobe change because the union rules required that the staff go on their lunch break. So I had about an hour’s wait in between my tapings. I’ve thought about whether the wait affected into my game play in the second episode, and while I do think something was different when I went back on the set, I don’t think it was the wait…I think it was that once I’d made the wardrobe change, I didn’t have a goal once I got back on set (I mean, except for getting to the million dollar question, though I don’t think I ever articulated it to myself).
My strategy was always to keep my lifelines intact for as long as possible, saving them for the last four “big money” questions. The problem is, I’m normally not “halfway” on questions. I typically feel like I know it or I don’t. When I get questions wrong, I’m usually confident when I answer and surprised when I’m wrong. This is something that happened in my Skype interview and when Leo and I play Trivia Crack on my phone (which, incidentally, is how I prepared for the show, in addition to reading the 2015 edition of the Guinness World Records book).
I made it to the tenth question, which is the one right before the “big money,” with $53,100 in my bank. I used one lifeline on the ninth question, an “Oscar movie” question, because I really only watch movies with superheroes, aliens, and explosions (and also movies set in France, which doesn’t fit into any equation other than I just happen to love France).
When I happened on the tenth question, the “George Clooney question” I remembered the story when it was in the news because I remember thinking, “George Clooney, you big weirdo,” at the time, but in the game, I didn’t recall which dictator he was spying on. I could:
- Ask the Audience
- Ask my “Plus One,” which was my husband, Leo.
Leo and I had been playing trivia games on my phone for two weeks, and also being married people, we talk a lot. I have a pretty good idea of what Leo does and doesn’t know. And Leo, who is brilliant and super-knowledgeable about a great many things, does not spend a lot of his time thinking about American celebrities and what they’re doing with their money. I was pretty sure he didn’t know the answer to this one (it turned out later that I was right on that note, although looking back, I think he might have talked me into choosing the correct answer, if I had brought him up to help me).
I asked the audience. Now…the producers told us that the audience at this particular studio tends to be really good with questions about pop culture and sports. I figured this was sort of a pop culture question. Truth is, I was leaning toward the answer they chose anyway. And I can be stubborn, so even if I had brought my hubby up to help me, I might still have gone with the audience.
Was That the End? No, It Was Not.
I walked off stage, still kind of in shock that I had been wrong (look, sometimes I suffer from hubris, okay?), and I said to my producer, “Did I just lose fifty thousand dollars?” She said, “Yeah, but you did great!” and then I saw Leo and I said, “I’m so sorry!” and he said, “You did so well! I’m so proud of you!” They started taking our mikes off…and then I heard, “They need her back on set.”
I thought, “Did they change their minds? Did I actually get the question right?”
Nope. Terry Crews’ turtleneck had moved and was showing the sticky tape that held it in place, and they needed to re-shoot my last question. That’s right, folks. I shot losing $52,100 not once, but twice. Big fun*!
Now, here’s what they don’t tell you: when you finish playing the game and your microphone is off, they take you to sign some papers and then an assistant takes you to the green room (which you aren’t allowed to re-enter, in case you infect the other contestants, I suppose). The assistant collects your belongings for you, then turns you over to an armed security guard, who escorts you out of the building.
I have never been fired, but I imagine it feels a lot like that experience felt.
I really have only two regrets. My biggest regret is that I didn’t get to bring Leo up to help me. I was saving him for a really big, really difficult question, because I knew he was my greatest asset in the game. And Leo is really charming and adorable, and I love him more than there are words for, so I do regret that I didn’t get to have him with me on stage, sharing in that moment (though he says he really does not care).
My second regret is this: the makeup artist used an amazing lipstick on me for the show and I really liked it. I asked her what it was and she couldn’t tell me (something about ABC contracts and not being allowed to recommend products or something) but she said I could pick it up and look at it. And I never did. So I’ll never know what that awesome lipstick color was, and that totally bums me out.
That’s it. The only two regrets I have. And here is why:
When I Realized What True Success Was:
From the moment I got the first phone call, I loved this adventure and knew it was awesome just to be invited. And I always felt really fortunate that I got to be on the show.
The show aired a lot faster than I expected, but as soon as we heard that it was scheduled, Leo and I knew we wanted to have friends come over to screen the episode. About fifty of our friends showed up at our home, and they had all waited several days and not watched the show when it aired so they could watch the show with us. Here’s just ten seconds of that night:
That’s just ten seconds. I got to have an entire night like that. And as I looked out over the sea of faces that night, I felt unbelievably wealthy.
For the last few years, I have wanted to build a village for Leo and me. I have wanted to surround us with amazing, awesome, warm, kind, and supportive friends. Building this village has not always been an easy feat for me.
I am an introvert by nature. Spending all day working from home in relative solitude does not phase me—quite the contrary, I really enjoy it. But I also enjoy being around good people, and the truth is, when I started my village-building journey a couple of years ago, I had built a tiny circle, but not a true village.
Looking around at the friends who joined us that night, I realized that Leo and I have achieved something really special: we have the coolest friends ever. Everyone was unbelievably supportive. I think they all just understood: it was always about the adventure and never about the money, and this experience was an amazing adventure. Even if I had won money, the true wealth could only have come in the form of having that wonderful, supportive village to share that adventure with and laugh about it afterwards.
So to my dear friends who were there and to those who couldn’t make it that night, thank you for being the true wealth in my life. Thank you for being so awesomely cool and celebrating the adventure with me that night and for many yet to come.
“It is a good thing to be rich and a good thing to be strong, but it is a better thing to be loved by many friends.”
“Money will buy you a bed, but not a good night’s sleep, a house but not a home, a companion but not a friend.”
– Zig Zigler
“Money may be the husk of many things but not the kernel. It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintance, but not friends…”
– Henrik Ibsen
***Final note: In this post, I have shared a 10 second clip of my friends in my living room. Given my massive and very public stance on NOT posting photos or images of any kind of the children in my life, due to the disturbing way in which such images are often used, you may have thought I lost my ever-loving mind. Rest assured that I checked these 10 seconds carefully and ensured that there are no identifying details showing for any of the children and most of the adults in this clip. As a result, I feel okay about sharing it and have not, in fact, lost my mind or changed my position on the safety and privacy issues involved in sharing children’s images online.