In pop culture fabulosity

stuff i learned from dr. joyce brothers

Dr. Joyce Brothers, psychologist and “TV personality” died last week. She was so embedded into US popular culture that strangers felt like they knew her. So when the news broke about her death, my Twitter feed and FB lit up with lots of “#RIPdrJoyceBrothers” messages.

The woman was a pioneer, an inspiration, and something of an institution. For years, you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing her on the news or talk shows sharing info about previously taboo subjects with authority and a matter-of-fact ease.

Then she started showing up doing silly, campy stuff on game shows, The Love Boat, and movies like The Naked Gun. (and even though she wasn’t actually in the skit, i still crack up thinking of that gilda radner’s roseanne roseannadanna skit that included her …)

Dr. Joyce was also a friend of my family’s from the time I was a kid. 

After being a little in awe of her early on (she was dr. joyce brothers, after all), in time, she became simply Joyce. Both reserved and funny, she was sometimes shy, and sometimes a powerhouse in a teensy body.  She was also a whirling dervish of an entrepreneur who taught me some important things about blazing your own trail, and crafting a non-traditional career and life.


SAY YES.  I saw Joyce at a family party right around the time that I was starting to envision my someday-business, and I asked how she managed to craft such a unique career. (this was way before folks were talking about creative, multiple-stream-business, “renaissance businesses,” or multipotentialite lives…)

She told me she didn’t consciously set out to craft anything. It happened almost by accident. She said “yes” to college, “yes” to studying psychology, “yes” to marriage and family, but beyond that, she said she just grabbed opportunities that came her way, and stayed open to possibilities.

When something seemed interesting or fun, she’d say “yes” again.

(you can read about some of her big ‘yeses’ – like auditioning for the $64,000 question … and beyond – here in the new york times obit …)

SHARE WHAT MATTERS, BUT DON’T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY. Though Joyce was whip smart (she got a doctorate when not a lot of women were getting their undergraduate degrees, much less graduate ones), she fell into her career of TV psychologist (cause, well, see above.) and though she was first and foremost a psychologist, she found that she really enjoyed the lighter stuff like the talk shows and the silly guest spots on movies and TV shows, and she saw that it helped keep her and her work out there. She was also secure enough to let herself be spoofed in the process.

YOU CAN’T BE EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE, SO PICK YOUR THING(S). Joyce was an innovator with her television psychology spots and radio programs (you must remember, this was WAY before dr. ruth, dr. phil, and all the oprah-promoted coaches and live-your-best-life gurus …).

But some psychologists didn’t like what she was doing; they thought she diminished the profession by going on television – even when she was talking about psychological matters – and she got a fair bit of flack for it.  At the same time, some who did appreciate her advice column, radio program(s), and television appearances thought she was cheapening herself with the guest spots in movies, game shows, and sitcoms.

But guess what? She didn’t care. She knew who she was. She was helping people with her columns and television appearances, and she also had a blast doing guest spots on TV and in the movies.

She had a family, good friends, and incredible experiences.  She blazed her own trail.  And she paved the way for many of us crafting our own creative, change-the-world businesses today.~  

 ~    ~    ~    ~

Now, I’m not sure that Joyce would have said these things were tenants to live by or anything like that … but they came through as I observed her in action over the years.

She made it clear that you could do your thing – shine it bright and clear and stay open to the opportunities that cross your path – and do the work without worrying what everyone else thinks. Just get out and do your thing.

(really, go do it. i think joyce would approve …)

In all her glory …

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  • suzanne
    May 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I absolutely loved what you wrote about Joyce. She was a tiny little pioneer in a conservative suit with a quiet but deliberate voice. When I was pregnant, she said her only advise for me was when baby cried to pick him/her up…until they could tell me what they wanted, crying was their voice trying to tell me they needed something. I did…and she was right.

    • Deb Cooperman
      May 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm