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Leadership Edge with Seinfeld's George Costanza

For my leadership series, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview:

Jason Alexander

Best known for his award-winning role as George Costanza of television’s Seinfeld, Jason Alexander has achieved international recognition for a career noted for its extraordinary diversity. He has worked extensively as a writer, composer, director, producer and teacher of acting. He has well-known roles in such shows as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and in films “Pretty Woman,” “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Love Valor Compassion.” On Broadway, he won a Tony Award for his performance in “Jerome Robbin’s Broadway,” and starred in “Fish in the Dark” and “The Portuguese Kid,” among others. After moving to LA, Jason continued working in the theater, notably serving as the artistic director for the Reprise Theatre Company and starring in “The Producers.”

Ernest Grant, PhD, RN – the President of the ANA

Dr. Ernest J. Grant is the 36th president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the nation’s largest nurses organization representing the interests of the nation’s 4.3 million registered nurses.

A distinguished leader, Dr. Grant has more than 30 years of nursing experience and is an internationally recognized burn care and fire-safety expert. He previously served as the burn outreach coordinator for the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals in Chapel Hill. In this role, Grant oversaw burn education for physicians, nurses, and other allied healthcare personnel and ran the center’s nationally acclaimed burn prevention program, which promotes safety and works to reduce burn-related injuries through public education and the legislative process. Grant also serves as adjunct faculty for the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, where he works with undergraduate and graduate nursing students in the classroom and clinical settings.

Q&A for Jason:

Provide a brief introduction to yourself. What brought you to this specific career path?

Mostly a sense of community. I was a shy, intimidated, lonely kid and though I have siblings they were much older than me, so I was essentially raised as an only child. I didn’t do sports, so I wasn’t part of any teams. When I walked into my first production show at the age of 12, those theater kids become your instant community. If you play along, they become in a very real way your very best friends. It was the first time that I discovered there was this whole community of people who get and appreciate me and that was really the draw. And that remains true to this day. It’s the comradery and community of people who tell stories together and that’s what keeps me going.

What is your blueprint to success?

I wish I had a blueprint; I would have followed it! Unfortunately, in a career like this, very few people get to make a blueprint. You can make choices, but to actually have a blueprint is a little hard because you are usually waiting to be invited to someone else’s thing. Some of us, and I have been part of it, spend some of our time trying to make those things and make other people part of it. So if there is any kind of a blueprint now it’s to do things, if I can, that entertain, amuse, uplift, educate, celebrate and try and do as little of the kinds of stories that agate, anger, and oppress. I have become devoted to the idea of using storytelling to make the world a little bit happier, lighter, and more hopeful than it has been.

What is/are your life philosophies? Are there any social causes that you are particularly passionate about? Are you working on any exciting new projects right now?

I am particularly passionate about philosophies and social causes that try to make people’s lives better. Specific to this current campaign I am doing now through a partnership with Sanofi and the American Nurses Association called Not Today, Flu, the idea of being part of a campaign to remind people that the flu is a serious illness with potentially huge complications like stroke, pneumonia, stroke, hospitalizations and even in some cases death. It is easy to address it by getting your flu vaccine. This is exactly the type of social campaigns that I am interested in.

The other one I am incredibly passionate about is an organization called Starts With Us and they are focused on trying to address the divisiveness that has been amplified over the last 10-20 years by finding methodologies in which people can address each other with differences, but with curiosity, compassion, and courage. They help give people tools so they can communicate with others who they think they don’t agree with, and they think they have nothing in common with, to find and celebrate common ground.

What are your "3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started" and why?

Tom Hanks had a good quote: “this too shall pass”. No matter how good it gets or how bleak it looks, it is of the moment, and you have to remember that it’s only of the moment, and something else is on the way. Whether it comes to you, or you create it. The second is that kindness trumps just about anything else. There were times when I would do an interview like this when I thought the thing I was supposed to do was be entertaining and funny, and I never have actually thought of myself as a naturally funny person. So there were many times in the attempt to be amusing or entertaining, I’d say things that were either not totally true or unkind. As such, I’ve tried to learn across the board to lead with kindness more than anything else. Finally, there’s a famous line that Gertrude Stein wrote, “there is no there, there”. It’s something that I didn’t realize until I had my family. Essentially, it’s the idea that when I become this person, or when this thing happens, or when I get to this position, I will have what I want and be what I want to be. I have found that never to be true. The journey to those things is where the good stuff is, and the arrival is just a marker.

Do you have a life hack that’s always come in handy?

I can only tell you that almost any new skill I have ever learned, I have learned on YouTube. Whatever you need to do, somebody does it better and it is on YouTube. They are not always right, by the way. I can tell you that many things that are supposed to get stains out of clothing, do not in fact get stains out of clothing. But most of the new skills that I try to do somebody has figured it out and I watch their videos.

What do you want the readers to know (any calls to action)?

I would just close by reminding people that they can take control of their health and help protect their loved ones as we inch closer to the holidays by going to get their flu shot. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions, and you can visit if you want to find where to get a flu shot near you or find additional information.

Q&A for Ernest Grant, PhD, RN – the President of the ANA:

Provide a brief introduction to yourself. What brought you to this specific career path?

“My name is Ernest Grant and I have had the privilege of serving as a nurse for more than 36 years, most notably and presently serving as president of the American Nurses Association, which has been a tremendous honor. I developed a sincere passion for both science and for helping those in need as an adolescent, which led me to naturally pursue a career in nursing with the help of a high school guidance counselor. Nursing is a highly specialized profession rooted in rigorous learning and it was a culmination of some of my greatest strengths and passions – leadership, scientific research, and empathetic care.

As clinicians and educators, nurses are trusted voices providing quality patient care and guidance to help individuals make informed decisions about their health care such as getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19. That’s why our partnership with Sanofi on the “Not Today Flu” vaccination campaign is so important. Our program elevates the scientific and health expertise of nurses and other healthcare professionals who have been on the front lines of fighting both flu and COVID-19, encouraging Americans 6 months and older to get their flu shot to ensure we continue to help protect ourselves and communities from the flu, which is expected to make a resurgence this season.”

What do you want the readers to know (any calls to action)?

“I ask everyone who is eligible to please, please get your flu shot this year – especially people over the age of 50 and immunocompromised individuals. My fellow health experts are saying this flu season may have a potentially severe impact on populations due to reduced exposure over the past two years given the COVID-19 preventative measures.

It’s important to first consult with your nurse or other trusted health care professional to answer your questions, discuss all prevention options, and to learn more about the importance of flu vaccination. Flu vaccination is the best way to help protect your family, community, and loved ones from the flu. Getting your flu vaccine this year will also help reduce the burden of flu illness and flu-related complications on our health care system.”

Are you working on any exciting new projects right now?

“The “Not Today Flu” vaccination campaign is a wonderful collaboration between the American Nurses Association (ANA) and Sanofi; although our messaging is meant to strike an amusing tone, our work here is extremely important. Each year, less than half of eligible Americans get a flu vaccine. Our goal is to encourage everyone eligible, 6 months and older, to get their flu vaccine this upcoming season, to help prevent the flu and flu-related complications, such as cardiovascular events, pneumonia, and hospitalizations. The flu is still a serious health concern that should not be deprioritized.”

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