CELEBRITY APPRENTICE February 7, 2008 Episode 6

Ever since “Celebrity Apprentice” premiered this year, there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not stopped in the streets and asked about my experience on the show. I knew that the Apprentice was a very successful show, but I was still surprised by the sheer magnitude of its popularity, and just how much the Apprentice phenomenon is a part of American life.

When I was approached to participate in “Celebrity Apprentice,” I have to be honest; my initial reaction was joy, quickly followed by fear. I thought to myself “I am already successful, what if they make me look like an idiot?” And being highly competitive, my next thought was “What if I don’t win?” The truth is, as an entrepreneur, failure (or the fear of failure) is a muscle that I use every day. On the journey to success, I have failed more than I have won, but it was always with the knowledge that it was all a part of the game. However, it was precisely at that moment that I knew that I had to accept the challenge, and combat my fear head on. The icing on the cake was the knowledge that we were going to be playing for charity, and I was proud to be competing on behalf of Count Me In, a non-profit organization run by the extraordinary Nell Merlino that supports women starting up their own businesses.

You would think that with the involvement of the celebrity cast that The Donald would be a little easier on everyone, but in fact, it was just the opposite. The shooting schedule was grueling – sleeping only a few hours a night, barely having time to grab a bite to eat, and thrown into a series of tasks that appeared much easier on TV than they were in reality. Behind the scenes, the experience was a real “career boot camp” with Donald Trump in the role of the tough army general, and the rest of us acting as foot soldiers eager for advancement. Due to the time constraints of a one-hour show, the viewing public only gets a taste of what actually goes on in the boardroom. The boardroom sessions usually lasted at least two hours long and let me tell you, they were brutal! It was often a mix of jubilation (if you were the winning team) and sheer panic and pain (if you had the misfortune of being on the losing team).

Every time I watch the boardroom segment on TV, I get that same stomachache all over again. I felt that Donald Trump was particularly hard on me, as it seems that he really never got over having to fire Gene Simmons, because Gene decided to take a bullet for me (Episode 3). When Donald Trump lets me go in Episode 6, I have to say that it was in that moment I felt like an “at will” employee sent packing just because the boss doesn’t like you. We’ve all had those people in our lives – bosses or co-workers who don’t like you or don’t get you, and then there are others like Gene Simmons who totally get who you are and rise to your defense. All of these people come into our lives for a reason – to show us the way and teach us valuable lessons.

First of all, I could not pay Donald Trump for what I learned on “Celebrity Apprentice”. What an amazing opportunity is was to spend a month with an extraordinary group of people – all successful – all with different skills sets. Learning from each and every one of them was a gift! How many times in life do you have the chance to be in a “boot camp” with two Olympic gold medalists; a bona-fide rock star; a country singer; a Playmate; Broadway, TV and film actors; a world-champion boxer; an ultimate fighter; a super model; and a Latina businesswoman like myself who came from nothing and achieved the American Dream. This experience was priceless. Can you imagine what these people know? To grow as a person I knew that I had to put my current success behind me, and strip myself bare in order to truly learn from what lay ahead. I had to ask myself “Is what got me here, still working for me? Have the habits and skills that have made me successful a tool, or a hindrance, from this moment on?” I now feel is totally necessary to take a good look at yourself at mid-career.

Specifically, what were some of the things I learned? Well, when placed in a group of my peers, I was surprised to see that, like most women, I embraced being the worker bee in a task. But it was Gene Simmons who brilliantly illustrated the fact that in life you need to strive to work smarter, not harder. When I was the Project Manager in Episode 2, Donald Trump pointed out that we over delivered. In this Pedigree challenge, the client requested a dog commercial. In addition to the commercial I delivered a web site, a radio spot, and an entire marketing plan that they didn’t ask for. I also learned about the power of “celebrity” in all you do, and how that often dual-edge sword can be used effectively in promoting positive change – like fundraising for charity.

Well, I may have been fired, but I want to express my gratitude for the entire experience. And, I haven’t forgotten one of the primary reasons why I came on this show, which was to raise $250,000 for my charity COUNT ME IN (www.countmein.org). And I am determined to still do so! I have pledged $25,000 of my own money, and am asking others to join me. By the time the finale of “Celebrity Apprentice” airs, I should have accomplished my mission. On Friday’s “Today Show” I will be announcing that I am up to $220,000 and counting. Individuals and corporations like AIG Insurance, Serta, and businesswomen who have turned their companies into million-dollar companies through the help of COUNT ME IN, have joined me in the challenge of women helping other women. If you need help growing your business, go to Count Me In.org and sign up for business coaching, credit repair and a community of women just like you. And if you want to help other women grow, go to Count Me In and donate.

Remember sometimes when you win, you lose; and sometimes when you lose, you win. Everything happens for a reason. Life is about taking risks, growing every day, and NOT being afraid to fail. You will fail, but ultimately it will take you to your greatest victory.

So what’s next? What am I going to do after “Celebrity Apprentice”? Well, this summer you can catch a groundbreaking daytime reality series that I’ve created, that you will also be able to follow on the web, called “The New You”. It’s a twelve-week program where we’ll take women who have stopped putting themselves first and put them back on the path of health, wellness, and beauty – we will take them to all of their doctors’ appointments, help them with any depression and mental health issues, provide advice on their career and mission in life, and give a boost to their appearance (the natural way). I hope you join us in this summer series that will transform the old you into THE NEW YOU.

For more information go to thenewyoutv.com, nelygalan.com, and check your local listings.