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Tips From The Top: One On One With MLB Network & NHL Network Host Stephen Nelson

I spoke to Stephen Nelson, studio host for MLB Network and NHL Network, about his journey and his best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and what you have learned from your journey to date. First things first, though, what is something about you that your fans don’t know?
Stephen: First of all, any “fan” of mine is definitely either my wife or a relative! But as far as facts about me, I definitely don’t keep it a secret that I hate avocado—the most overrated thing on the planet. How about that I’m half Japanese? I’m yonsei (fourth generation) and went to Japanese school as a kid. #HapaPride! Speaking of, I played a couple of amateur golf tournaments in the same field as Rickie Fowler, who I believe is a quarter Japanese. If the leaderboards of those events exist, you would find me near the bottom.
Adam: What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your development and success?
Stephen: Graduating from college into the work force. I was confident that I’d be able to get my foot in the real world’s door and then take off running, but it didn’t happen. Applying to local news stations, the response was either silence or that I lacked experience. I couldn’t land an interview let alone a job! So my first gig after graduation was an unpaid internship halfway across the country. The transition wasn’t seamless, but it was humbling, motivating and ultimately rewarding.
Adam: In your experience, what are the common qualities among those who have been able to enjoy success in media and broadcasting?
Stephen: Persistence and originality are crucial. But let’s not kid ourselves; timing and a little luck go a long way! In addition to those things, I admire broadcasters who are the same on air as they are when the cameras are off. Genuine authenticity is something people recognize and gravitate toward.
Adam: Who have been the biggest influences in your life and why?
Stephen: My parents. It’s a cliché answer, but I’m not sorry about it. In sports, we talk about athletes that “play the game the right way.” My parents do life the right way—put family first, be respectful, be accountable and don’t sweat the small stuff. They are everything I strive to be as a spouse and future father. Professionally, it’s vital to find mentors who invest in your happiness as much as workplace success.
Adam: What are the best lessons you have learned through your career that are applicable to those who will never earn a living in front of or behind the camera?
Stephen: Be humble. When it comes to working with people, it doesn’t matter how big your paycheck or Twitter following is. Lose the self-importance! You can’t be too proud to own your mistakes, or too arrogant to recognize the team that helped you find success.
Be where your feet are. Young professionals are always looking for the next step—it’s human nature. Aspiration is important, but be present. Don’t sell today short, or you’ll miss out on soaking up the experience or lesson right in front of you.
“Embrace the suck” is something I say a lot. Sometimes we want to hit the sim button, skip the bad and boring parts, and get to a big finish. But don’t run from the long days and seemingly crappy assignments because they carry value.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Stephen: Don’t hide from criticism. In fact, seek it out. Talk to people you respect and have them rip your work to shreds, or offer a different perspective. Your parents telling you how awesome you are is sweet, but it doesn’t necessarily help you grow.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Stephen: Hanging with family is my favorite thing, and ingrained my family-first mentality. Playing team sports developed my love of collaboration—working with people with different talents and strengths to create something great. Golf is a sport that definitely keeps me humble! It also forces you to manage highs and lows, practice patience and cultivate creativity.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Stephen: Have perspective and empathy. Easy enough, right? In your career, no matter how far you get, don’t lose sight of where you started. I remember pestering professionals for advice. Anytime somebody simply responded meant the world! So for me, meeting students and up-and-coming broadcasters is special. I’ve been in their shoes, and now I have an opportunity to do for them what others did for me.
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