Career lessons from legendary game show hosts

Last year Game Changers, a documentary on game shows (hosted by none other than Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek), highlighted our love and fascination with the TV mainstay and its sometimes-colorful past.

In the spirit of those of us who love game shows, here are some career lessons to be learned from game show hosts:

Make your side hustle matter

Back in the 1960s, Bob Eubanks who is best known for hosting The Newlywed Game was active in the music business. He mortgaged his home to raise funds to bring The Beatles to California for their initial appearance at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964 and 1965. Eubanks produced concerts for The Rolling Stones during their early tours and was also a producer for The Supremes, Bob Dylan, Elton John, and Barry Manilow. Oh, and he was Dolly Parton’s agent for a couple of years.

Game show host career lesson learned: Just because you’re good at one thing, doesn’t mean you can’t be great at something else as well. Another game show host, Vanna White, is known for crocheting beautiful afghan blankets. White has a long-standing partnership with Lion Brand Yarn, specifically Vanna’s Choice Yarn.

Be happy for the success of others

Speaking of Vanna White, her co-host on Wheel of Fortune Pat Sajak is known on and off-camera as being the quintessential nice guy. Sajak seems genuinely thrilled when contestants on the show win big and crushed when they don’t.

Game show host career lesson learned: It can be tempting to be so focused on crushing the competition that you forget to celebrate the success of deserving colleagues and friends. It won’t diminish your own best moments if you remember to be happy for others.

Your work could inspire people in unexpected ways

As the host of Let’s Make a Deal, the late Monty Hall would tease contestants faced with the dilemma of choosing an object behind an unmarked door. Hall would tantalize contestants with the allure of winning a car or valuable trip and tease them that they might just win a booby prize instead. Straightforward classic TV, right? Totally. But according to the Encyclopedia of Math, it also inspired a statistical puzzle known as the Monty Hall problem or Monty Hall paradox introduced by biostatistician Steve Selvin in 1975 in a letter to the journal The American Statistician.

Game show host career lesson learned: Just because you’re really good at one thing doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck in that niche forever. Hall was a brilliant man who happened to be best at hosting TV game shows. But his particular brand of logic both inspired and entertained others.

Take your time … or not

In the documentary, it’s revealed that prolific game show creator Merv Griffin — who is credited with inventing both Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! — created the iconic Jeopardy theme heard in the Final Jeopardy! round in just 90 seconds while sitting at Marlon Brando’s old piano.

Game show host career lesson learned: When you’re really good at something or have enough experience to know your strengths, it shows. While Griffin created some of television’s most iconic and enduring shows and spent years doing just that, he was confident that in under two minutes he’d created something worth sharing. Don’t spend extra time on a project or speech if you already know that it’s great. Go on to the next thing confident in your talent.

Give credit where credit is due

You may have noticed that in the above point I wrote that Griffin is “credited” with inventing Jeopardy! That’s true. But it wasn’t entirely his idea. According to a Wikipedia article on Griffin, it was actually his wife Julann who came up with the show’s iconic answer then question format. In an AP profile released before the show launched in 1964, Griffin said “I was mulling over game show ideas when she noted that there had not been a successful ‘question and answer’ game on the air since the quiz show scandals. Why not do a switch and give the answers to the contestant and let them come up with the question.”

Game show host career lesson learned: You may be the best at what you do, but chances are very good that you didn’t do everything on your own. Sharing the credit doesn’t just encourage good feelings within your team, it also encourages people to share their best work and ideas knowing they’ll be properly acknowledged for it.