Apr 28, 2024 - Business

First look: Axios CEO Jim VandeHei's "Just the Good Stuff"

The front cover of Jim VandeHei's new book "Just the Good Stuff."

Cover: Harmony

Adapted from a book by Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, "Just the Good Stuff: No-BS Secrets to Success," out Tuesday. Preorder here.

My big D.C. break came in 1996, when Susan Glasser — then editor of Roll Call, now a columnist for The New Yorker — hired me to cover congressional leadership. Glasser's reporters were routinely rewriting stories I was breaking for an obscure publication called Inside the New Congress.

  • So I shot her a snarky note telling her if she liked my stories so much, she should hire the original. To her credit, she did. (Lesson: Sometimes it pays to be a smart-ass.)

Why it matters: Glasser hired me at the very moment Congress was the story in Washington, with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich often upstaging or overshadowing President Bill Clinton. By pure luck of timing, I had a beat the journalism world was watching closely —­ an authentic big break.

  • I had three advantages: I was roughly the same age as most of the congressional aides who sat in the most important meetings. I liked to drink and play cards. And I wasn't an Ivy League liberal. This was a winning trifecta in a Congress controlled by Republican men.

So how do you make and take your breaks?

  1. Think. Take the time to reflect on your interests and passions. What excites you? What bores you? Where are you willing to move?
  2. Train. You make and control your destiny more than you think. But often only if you put the hours in.
  3. Ask. Find mentors in every job. Don't be a stalker. But be curious about how things work, what worked well for them, what didn't.
  4. Work. The single best way to catch a break is to put yourself in as many situations as possible for one to materialize. This means being the person who raises their hand for any new task, no matter how menial.
  5. Pounce. Two great questions to ask: Will this teach me things I need to learn? Will it expose me to people I can learn from?

More Jim hacks: Preorder here.

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