Osher Günsberg On Reframing Your Reaction To Bad News

Osher Günsberg on reframing your reaction to bad news

After recently losing two TV hosting gigs in the space of a week, our expert panellist on growth has had time for reflection. As he’s discovered, when life gives you lemons, it helps if you have a plan in place and are willing to do some work on yourself. That way, you actually have a shot at making lemonade . . . or something just as sweet

AT 17, I chose to work in the entertainment industry. A place that fluctuates wildly between “greenlit” and “cancelled”. And I have just lost not one, but two big TV jobs. (The Bachelor Australia and The Masked Singer). In the same day. You might know what losing a job feels like.

I certainly know what it used to feel like.

When I lost Australian Idol, it felt like the world didn’t want me, like my life was over, and I’d be moving into a caravan park eating tinned spaghetti and Weetbix for the rest of my days, a washed up ex-TV guy shouting “I used to be someone ya little shits!” at the groms who are knock and running the tri-axle Viscount I now call home. However, between then and now, two important things happened;

1) I got sober, and 2) I lost two jobs in the same day (which is why this week is hilarious because it’s not the first time this has happened.)

I am incredibly grateful for my television career. I’ve worked hard to be the undeniable choice to keep the gig if the shows roll over.

At one point, I hosted four prime time television shows in the same year. To say that the last decade has been successful would be an understatement, and the cherry on top was getting nominated for a Gold Logie Award last year, a career defining moment if ever there was one.

So, to go from that workload, (and without being crass – that income, as those four prime time TV shows were on the mortgage application form when we bought this house) to nothing, well that could be tough.

The fact is, when the news broke publicly this week, it was just another Tuesday and the only remarkable thing about today is that it’s bin night.

This was not how it used to be.

My mentor David, who has guided me as I learned how to deal with uncomfortable feelings without needing to reach for a drink (or drugs or porn or sex or gambling or all of the above) held my hand the last time I got double-fired back in 2012.

I can still recall his voice on the phone as I told him “David I’ve just lost the last two jobs I had in the space of 18 hours”.

Without missing a beat he said, “I’m excited for you pal, this means that there’s bigger plans for you”.

Shocked that he did not want a front row seat to the pity party I was throwing, I repeated myself. “I don’t think you heard me correctly – I am now unemployed, divorced and paying rent out of my savings in a foreign country.”

“And I don’t think you heard me correctly – I’m excited for you. This means there’s bigger things ahead for you”.

Thankfully I’d been working with him for a while, so I knew enough to take a deep breath, reset on my exhale and by the time I breathed back in I had been able to let go of that old self-pity and experiment with the new way of being he was describing.

That reframe changed everything.

Instead of focusing on what I’d lost, I was able to put my energy into what was possible. The terrifying first-date question, “So, what are you working on?” now had a new answer. “I’m not working on anything”, became “I’m not working on anything, which means the next thing I work on can be anything”.

I am very grateful for David. I am equally grateful for my accountant, who had helped me save up a few vital months of runway. I used that money to pay myself a wage. My job? To invent the next job that I was going to do.

One of the shows I created was a dating show, and after pitching it around LA, a network in Australia bought it in the room. Not long after, the same network called to say they’d just acquired another dating show, would I like to host that one instead?

That was May 2013, and the show was The Bachelor Australia. I’d gone from unemployment to booking a massive network show once again, but I knew to not approach it the same as I had last time.

My former manager in LA, the late John Ferriter was an absolute mogul of the television industry. With the perfect combination of wisdom and strength, listening to him was like sitting at the foot of a showbiz oracle, his every sentence could be the title of the next massive business book. His wisdom guided me then, and still guides me now.

Two of his best have been with me these last few days. “Unless you host the 6 O’clock news, one day the big show you just booked is going to get cancelled. The moment you get that big show, you need to allocate time every week to planning for the day that happens.” Now I know when it happens, it’s not personal. It’s show business, not show friends.

You can be super tight with everyone on your production team, the network, even be driving a fancy free car the sponsors loaned you (thank you Mazda for that Turbo MX5 – I promise it was only sideways a few times). Yet the moment the show no longer makes a good business case, it’s over.

This is a little contrary to another hard truth of my game – it’s a fast yes or a slow no.

I’ve become better at spotting a slow no coming. When I was in breakfast radio in Brisbane, I saw a slow no appear on the horizon and before it arrived and made the choice for me. I was able to orchestrate a dignified exit.

Thankfully I spotted the current slow no a while back, but you wouldn’t have known from looking at me. I learned through my own mental health journey that the antidote to panic is a plan. Similar to how the ABC that has a folder full of clear action steps for when a reigning monarch dies sitting in the corner of every radio studio, I had a contingency plan and it slowly became my main mode of operation even though I was still shooting television and outwardly things looked like they’d keep going.

Importantly, my wife and I discussed this distant possibility well before it became a close possibility, and after seeking the advice of a business mentor I began to put everything in place about a year ago.

I changed the structured of my business, streamlined processes, hired people to help where I had blind spots.

While I was still actively shooting big shiny-floor TV shows, in the background projects I had been allocating time to develop were put on the top of the Trello board, and by the time there was confirmation that what we expected was going to happen (that these two jobs weren’t continuing on the network) it was a mostly seamless transition from one mode of operation to another.

There might have been a slight flicker as the UPS handed over to the emergency generator but other than that you wouldn’t notice anything was different, except that Dad’s around the house a bit more.

I won’t lie to you, I’ve had to do a heap of work around the self-worth and entitlement piece – but that’s all a part of it.

To make sure I was ready for the eventuality, I’ve been living as if this was going to happen since late last year. In that time, I’ve woken up with resentment, anger, or entitlement (sometimes all at once).

And rather than make any choices from that reactive space (like sending a verbose email to someone I really shouldn’t if I ever want to work again), I have been doing something different.

I’d try to notice those feelings, and then say to myself How fascinating! There’s a part of me that’s angry at (nice TV person) for getting the gig on (TV show I believed I should do). Well, that’s interesting isn’t it? I’m going to make a cup of coffee, sit down and write out all the things I’m angry at on the right side of my notebook. Things like ‘that guy gets all the gigs, ‘his podcast is HUGE, or ‘he’s got a massive deal with the Good Year blimp’ and then on the left side of the page, line by line I will write “of course” at the start of every one of those complaints, and then say them out loud.

If you’ve never tried this, you’ll be amazed at how effective it can be. A version of this happened at least once a week at first, then every fortnight or so, with perhaps a spate of three days in a row here and there. As uncomfortable as it was, the work was worth it.

By the time I was given the news face to face, I was able to smile and say something like “Of course. I totally get it. It’s tough to commission anything in this market. I love working with you, the whole team are great, I love the formats and if they ever get a chance to get up again, I’ll be first in line to show you I’m still the undeniable choice to host them.”

Because all of that is the truth.

The hurt and anger and resentment? That’s just me as a reactive petulant child, but sometimes he can take the wheel. The wreckage that kid has caused my life, the lives of others, my health and my career is immense – so it’s worth the work required to keep him in the back seat.

There’s one more powerful reframe I use if the childish resentment Demogorgon starts to reach for the steering wheel – it’s a moment between Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth in the film The Godfather Part 2. Speaking about his mate who got whacked to Corleone who ordered the whacking, Roth says, “I never complained, because it was business. And this is the business we have chosen”.

And this is the business I have chosen. I chose this life. I can un-choose it any time I want. So as Butch Coolidge said to Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, “What now”?

I’ll tell you what now. It’s got to do with one other thing that John taught me. Leaning forward in his chair under a photo of him jamming with Paul McCartney he says, “Someone’s going to be the next hit songwriter. Why shouldn’t it be you?”

Giving myself permission to think big and to execute big has changed my life.

Changing my mind from thinking, That sort of thing is for other people with connections and capital and lower body fat, I won’t even start, to That is exactly the sort of thing I would do. Pass me the post-it notes.

What a gift. What a wonderful present to get for my 50th birthday. An opportunity to reinvent what I get to do.

That’s what now.


Osher Günsberg on the mental burpee everyone needs to do

Osher Günsberg on what healthy masculinity actually looks like

By Osher Günsberg

A fixture on prime-time TV for two decades, Osher Günsberg is Men’s Health’s growth and personal development expert. Having carefully navigated his own journey of self-discovery and sobriety, Günsberg knows how difficult it can be to make the necessary changes in life that can facilitate inner peace. Now, he wants to help you make transformative changes in your life. For more of Osher’s insights listen to his bi-weekly (every Monday and Friday) podcast, Better Than Yesterday.

More From