Hagar Chemali isn’t just a political satirist, writer, producer, television personality, and political commentator because what she does goes far beyond what the news and talking heads can do for our younger generations. Hagar uses her social media platform, to not only inform and educate but also to share her political analysis in a satirical way. Hagar’s time serving in national security and public affairs under two presidential administrations has adequately equipped her to comment and write on national security and foreign policy at a variety of media outlets, and most importantly, through her own YouTube show: Oh, My World! With that said, Hagar champions her coaches because being a mother, a spouse, and a successful career woman is more difficult than it may seem. Tune in to hear what Hagar thinks it means to be Gen Z!
Speaker 1 [00:00:14] Three, two, one. Lift-off. We have a lift-off.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:34] Hi, everyone. Today we’re in conversation with Hagar Chemali. Did I say that, right?
Hagar Chemali [00:00:40] That’s right.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:43] Hagar Chemali is a political satirist, writer, producer, television personality and political commentator. She served in national security and public affairs positions under two presidential administrations. And she comments and writes on national security and foreign policy at a variety of media outlets, and most importantly, through her own YouTube show. Oh, My World. Hagar welcome to the show.
Hagar Chemali [00:01:08] Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I’m happy to be here.
Sam Jayanti [00:01:11] So I described you in a nutshell. But tell us what I didn’t tell our audience that they should know about you.
Hagar Chemali [00:01:19] Well, I think one of the things that has informed a lot of my career and my the decisions I’ve made and where how I view the world. It has to do with my background. And I’m born and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, but my family is from Lebanon, from Beirut. And I grew up with this awareness of international politics, conflict, human rights abuse, my own family regaling the stories of religious persecution, exile, all sorts of different injustices. They fled the Civil War and settled here in the United States and reminded me every day how lucky I was to be American. And that really, I’m certain without it just subconsciously, I think it’s informed why I pursued a career in international affairs, you know, why I wanted to work in the U.S. government, why I felt so strongly about that. And and certainly now why my media brand has a very heavy focus on human rights and sharing the stories, exposing the stories of human rights abusers and dictators and such.
Sam Jayanti [00:02:21] Yeah. I mean, your background is, is I’m glad you raised it’s such an important facet of who you are. Having lived through, as you referenced, you know, bunch of dislocation, conflict and really a complicated, both personal but also contextual kind of national history in a place like Lebanon has really shaped who you are.
Hagar Chemali [00:02:45] Yes. I people have asked me a lot of often if I thought I would if I envisioned and ending up in Oh My World launching this media brand, because it’s not exactly the typical career path of someone who works in foreign policymaking in Washington, D.C. for 12 years. Like I did. Yeah. And and the answer is no. I had no idea that this is where I would be, that I would be a YouTuber for a YouTube post. And but I tell people, it really it represents every single part of me, every single part of my career, but also every single part of my life, my personality, how my background shapes my perspective. All was packaged in this media brand of Oh My World. And it’s because of, like I said, my, my strong belief in fighting for justice and in exposing the wrongs around the world, because I believe that fundamentally helps make the world a better place by sharing the stories of those doing good around the world so that people know how to act by. It’s also a little bit my personality. I did drama in high school, not something I thought I would ever pursue. But performing is a big part of Oh My World. Given the satire and given that, you’ll also you’ll often find me in wigs with that accent when I impersonate these world leaders. And so.
Sam Jayanti [00:04:00] We’re about to take a look at an example of that.
Sam Jayanti [00:04:04] So two years ago, in your first Oh My World video, here is how you described the show. Let’s take a quick listen.
Hagar Chemali [00:04:17] Hey, you glorious geeks. I’m Hagar Chemali, and I’m so excited to introduce you to Oh My World, your weekly World News quick and dirty in under 10 minutes. Once a week I’ll cover the top world news stories in a fun and easy way. And I’ll do it unfiltered and without political agenda. There are real important things happening around the world and you’re not hearing about it. You may not even be aware that these things affect you here. My favorite part is that we’re going to expose tyrants and human rights abusers while also lifting up those doing good around the world. I worked at the White House, Treasury and State Department, so I get what’s going on, on the inside and out. Trust me, this is not something you want to miss, because if you do, North Korea might just launch a nuclear missile and you may not even be aware. I’m serious. Subscribe and follow us. Send me questions and comments. I want to hear from you and I’ll see you soon.
Sam Jayanti [00:05:07] So I got what was the gap that you saw in the news and the media that you were trying to fill with this show?
Hagar Chemali [00:05:14] Yes. I when I left government in 2016, I thought I really wanted to be a foreign policy analyst for one of the major networks. And I do a lot of commentary I did back then. I still do a lot of commentary, really enjoy it. There’s a lot of lights and action to it, a lot of glamor. But the part that felt missing to me was the mission behind it, where it really felt we were analyzing. We were talking. That’s where the term talking head comes from. But it didn’t feel as though I was educating a younger population. And that was what I really wanted to do, was reach a younger audience in the United States and explain to them why what matters abroad matters so much here and affects us here in ways that people don’t realize on a day to day basis and vice versa. What happens here with our elections or our own social media companies or whatever it might be. What happens here matters also very much abroad and understanding that connection matters a lot because the young generation in particular, I find, has a strong interest in global issues, a strong interest in social good and this force to fight for something better. And that’s why I wanted to reach out to them. And that’s why I launched Oh My World and why I did it on YouTube specifically.
Sam Jayanti [00:06:26] Okay. So it’s a perfect segue to my next question, which is who is your audience and how is that? Has it shifted? Has it stayed the same over time?
Hagar Chemali [00:06:35] The my target audience is our young millennials and Gen Z.
Sam Jayanti [00:06:39] Okay.
Hagar Chemali [00:06:39] And everyone.
Sam Jayanti [00:06:41] I work with a lot of those too.
Hagar Chemali [00:06:42] Yes, this is this they are the future. I often say that they’re the ones who are going to save us. When I think of the problems, we have climate change.
Sam Jayanti [00:06:52] Which is a huge burden for them. By the way, many of them have said to us that they really feel the weight of that burden because of this expectation that they’re somehow going to solve all these problems that, you know, all of our prior generations have collectively created.
Hagar Chemali [00:07:06] Yes, I, I have to be honest, I wouldn’t want to bear that burden. But I’m sure, you know, they’re born with it in a way. And this is a this is a generation that has lived with Internet and phones from the beginning. So they are so much more aware than we were at their age. And that is a pressure on them that creates a certain create some level of anxiety when they think about what their own children will face. Right. For a variety of issues. But this is the target audience. My biggest surprise in the in in launching this brand has been the wide age range of people who love it. It ranges from age nine to age 80. And I’m not kidding when I say that. And it’s just that each react in a different way. And those who are older tend to reach out after each episode and they’ll want to discuss. And I love that. Yeah, but when I think about shaping the stories and what stories to cover, I’m thinking about that younger audience.
Sam Jayanti [00:08:00] Okay, good to know. So in addition to being about the news, your Oh My World videos are also sometimes satire, which I love. Let’s take a listen to this one.
Hagar Chemali [00:08:13] But I thought it was funny when I heard former President Trump say that he declassified intelligence just by thinking about it. Oh, is that how it goes? I think. Donald, think. No, no, no. Think harder. No, we.
Sam Jayanti [00:08:33] So how do you think about news versus satire? And how satire might be polarizing in an already very polarized society that we live in around the world, not just in the U.S.. And how do you think about it? A sense as a media personality, there’s a responsibility that you feel and sort of live every day when you make an episode of Oh My World. How do you think about that responsibility to educate and inform in the context of satire?
Hagar Chemali [00:09:08] Yes, I get this question a lot because when you talk about a brand that is steeped in a mission of exposing these horrible stories and talking about what’s going on around the world, it’s nine out of ten times really negative and really heart-wrenching. A lot of people ask me, how can you find satire in it? And I’m rarely ever making a joke or making light of a serious situation, whether, for example, a conflict or terrorist attack or human rights abuses or whatever it might be. Nine out of ten times. It’s the world leader I am pointing the satire at. Yes. And satire is a way of educating someone on something and pointing the absurdity in the scenario through satire. And it kind of kneecaps authority in a lot of ways and certainly when you’re talking about the authoritarian leaders. And one of the things I say is that every week it feels like I’m given this free content of absurd and ridiculous things that world leaders say, and that it’s not just world leaders, it’s our leaders as well. But that’s usually who I’m directing the satire. And I try to make sure, certainly, when it’s domestic, I say that I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to criticizing. It is not meant to be to lean one way or the other. When it comes to left or right, it’s really just highlighting the absurdity of what they’re saying and that it’s not normal and that’s not helpful to solving a problem. And then I’ll I’ll break down. So my videos have a section often when I get nerdy and I say geek out with me and I’ll put glasses on because I’m not I’m just looking to educate and highlight why this matters, why the way this leader reacted is, is, is crazy. And I think it’s a it’s a I find that people like to learn that way. It keeps them engaged. It keeps it interesting. And it makes it a bit easier to absorb something that’s really actually awful or heart-wrenching. They can at least learn about it and not feel like the whole world is doom and gloom.
Sam Jayanti [00:11:07] Yeah. I mean, it’s a very it’s a really interesting line, right? Because on the one hand, when things are horrible, there’s a reluctance to engage and we want to encourage that in any way possible. Just the idea of being informed, of understanding what’s happening in another part of the world and satire, I think, you know, as proven by the countless number of nighttime talk shows every night is such a critical vehicle to. Educating but also just furthering understanding in a nonpolarizing way because hopefully people see the humor for what it is and it doesn’t turn into a cause of polarization.
Hagar Chemali [00:11:53] Yes, it is. I find it is a fine line that you have to walk and there are times that I’ll draft something. And then when I see it on camera, I end up deleting it. Or when I say it out loud, it just doesn’t end up falling the way I’d like to. Yeah. Sometimes I’ll post short snippets on the social media platforms of Oh My World, and without the other context. When you just have the satirical bits, sometimes it comes off as insensitive. Yeah. Whereas when you include it in this broader part of this is a two-minute clip or a one-minute clip where I’m just trying to educate you on this. The satire then fits in much, much better. So I’m very careful to when I cut those short clips. Yeah. It is a fine line that you have to walk, though. And I will say I think there’s a difference between satire and comedy comedians. There is a very… the line of sensitivity is if it’s there, it’s very blurry. And comedians are known for that. They’re known for making jokes that will offend people and sometimes they don’t know. Sometimes people get a rise out of it. Sometimes it falls flat. And real will deeply get offended. And I try not to even go near that because I don’t view myself as a comedian making jokes. Yeah, it’s really more trying to highlight the absurd and and speak about these things in a colloquial way. Sometimes it’s just by how I react, my face or how I’ll say something in a way that’s just a normal expression or that that will make people laugh about it.
Sam Jayanti [00:13:18] Yeah. You know, is that such an important difference? Satire and comedy. It’s so in a sense Hagar your show is part of what’s become an overall trend in news where more and more of the news is expressed through, I call it sort of a lens of opinion or with an opinion underpinning it relative to, you know, sort of what used to be just a narration and a sense of the facts, right? That you wanted people to know about something. I mean, you could argue I feel very conflicted about this, even as I say that, because obviously, even when we thought we were hearing the facts, there was always an opinion underlying it. Even if it wasn’t communicated that way was to right just by nature of individuals being individuals. How as you try to be objective. There’s a desire for audiences to pigeonhole and categorize you one way or another. How have you dealt with that?
Hagar Chemali [00:14:26] So when it comes to first, you have really hit the nail on the head with news and the way it’s going. And it’s a little shocking how many people can’t really differentiate between the news as it’s reported when it’s analyzed and the opinion part. And I consider myself to sit in the analysis part. Yeah. So I’ll present the facts of the story, which, by the way, I find the hardest part of of it, because it feels like an immense responsibility. I’m not a reporter. Yeah. Or a journalist, but I do. I do like research and I research well. And I have sources I trust. But I will read and read and read multiple sources to make sure I have the most accurate story and make sure every single word is presented accurately. Yeah, it’s an immense responsibility. So I have that part. The analysis part is what I believe sets me apart or sets Oh My World apart because I lived in the world of foreign policy, national security for 12 years. Right. Including handling all sorts of crises, terrorism. During the Arab Spring, I handled Syria the first two years of Syria and watching what protests are, how protests work, how revolutions are, how dictators respond. Yes, I dealt with war or sanctions, all of these things that I all this experience that I can bring to bear in explaining to somebody, this is why this matters or this is how this affects you here, or this is why you should care, or this is how I foresee things happening out in the long term. And I often do a poll. I like to poll the audience and say, You know, what do you think? Do you think this was the right decision by this leader or do you think this is what’s going to happen in the future? And after the poll is sometimes where I’ll say my opinion, but I but I will say I believe blah, blah, blah, or my thought might this is where I’m off my head’s at or my opinion is X, Y, Z, and I’ll do that on TV as well, because I really think that if you’re talking about these things publicly, you have a responsibility to do that. To be very clear.
Sam Jayanti [00:16:19] Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s an interesting way that you’re describing us of straddling that line, because maybe the what is made so much media, so polarizing is the irresponsibility of that fact research piece. Right. Like people have just some some people have just become very lazy about researching that fact piece. And then the opinion there is on top of a very selective rendition of the facts. And, you know, of course, it’s all geared to make someone angry about something, which is exactly the effect it has in the end.
Hagar Chemali [00:17:01] Yes. When I’ll give you an example that was just very recent when the explosion happened at the Kerch Bridge, the bridge that bridges Russia to occupied Crimea, every news outlet, because they want to be the one to say what happened. They want to give the full story. They know their audience wants to know all the details. The Russian government is the one that came out and said that it was a truck bombing. But anyone should know that you can’t take what the Russian government says at face value. Now, by the way, it may have been a truck bombing, but the fact is that we don’t know yet. And so when I did my own episode, I kept searching and searching and searching to see. And I noticed even in sources I trusted, that the truck bombing was just a theory and some of the presented it as a theory, but you really had to be very careful. And you got and then when it came to the to the Ukrainian government admitting they didn’t admit that was part of their that was part of their strategy. There was one official that told one news outlet here, and I’m not shy to want to point fingers that that said that they that they did it. Listen and I say in in the video I could point to examples that very likely pointed to the Ukrainian military having done this explosion. But I never mentioned a truck because we still don’t know if that’s what happened. A lot of engineers say that’s likely not what happened. And and I just I made sure every single word was accurate, but I was stunned in the research and and other podcasts I had heard last week, just saying it as fact when it was not proving it at all.
Sam Jayanti [00:18:34] I mean, in a way, we’ve we’ve it’s not just the media, right? Like we live in a culture where people seem to think it is better to misstate something and apologize for it later or redacted or whatever. And that that’s somehow better than not presenting a view or a piece of information because then it seems like they were left behind or they weren’t in the loop or whatever the the kind of application. And and it’s a it’s a really unfortunate place to be because, you know, certainly we see it in in every facet, not just in the news, in the media, in politics. You know, people sort of take a stand and then if they’re wrong, they’ll apologize later at. But there’s this sort of impetus to constantly take a position and take a stand.
Hagar Chemali [00:19:25] Yes. You know, it’s funny you say that because I teach a course at Columbia on Communications and it train students to become spokespeople or directors of communication in the air. And we talk about a number of tips and rules and and guidelines that communications directors and spokespeople should always abide by. And one of them, it seems so obvious, one of them is to never lie. Yeah, that sounds very obvious, but you may unknowingly lie as well. And that’s and that and that’s lumped into that. And the best example I have of that is when the U.S. government came out in 2012, when our embassy in Libya, in Benghazi was attacked, and they wanted to rush to point the plane at something to explain to the U.S. public what happened, why these protests happened, why they attacked the embassy and their team up with this story of of a video that was made here in the United States that was Islamophobic and that this is what riled up the protesters and caused this attack. And it was later disproven. Yeah, but but days after the attack, Ambassador Susan Rice, who’s wonderful, came out on the Sunday shows and wanted to help defend the administration and used these talking points and explained this story, which was later disproven. And it hurt her career deeply. It prevented her from being Senate confirmed for positions she really wanted. And that is the number one role you we could have just come out and said we are we don’t have all the facts right now. We’re gathering this as we go. We will keep you updated.
Sam Jayanti [00:20:57] So why is that such an unacceptable thing to say? It feels like for anyone in the spotlight like so rarely do you hear that statement, right? Almost that very much in process. We’re still gathering the information. Let us come back to you. There’s always this sort of compulsive desire for everyone to say, here are the facts as we know them. We’ve got this under control. I mean, that’s the basic messaging, right?
Hagar Chemali [00:21:21] Yes. Yes. I think it’s a matter of opinion to on who? On who you ask, because I’ve certainly had bosses where I’ve recommended to them to be a little vulnerable. And audience is like on her ability. And you say, you know, we’re still gathering the facts and we promise to keep you updated as we as we have them. But some bosses just don’t agree with that and believe that we need to come out with something then.
Sam Jayanti [00:21:45] Definitive stance.
Hagar Chemali [00:21:46] Yes. As much as we can, you know, and and that will absolutely get you into hot water. I have never seen that land. Well ever, I’ve read that there are multiple examples of that. The pandemic when it first started is an example of that and and the things the administration was coming up with. Right. And so it’s it’s a cardinal rule, as I tell my own students, don’t lie unwillingly or willingly. You have to make sure that you’re not that you have to hunt down to make sure that your story is actually, in fact, backed up because it’s much worse to to go publicly and they actually have to issue a correction. Yeah. When I said it was totally not true, that only makes to look worse. Yeah. And also, nobody pays attention to a second story or a second headline that is.
Sam Jayanti [00:22:32] Exactly. So Hagar, you pick important snippets of news. You mentioned one, the blowing up of the bridge in the Kerch Strait Bridge in the Ukraine. And you explain them in a very comprehensible way for, I think, as you said, someone who’s nine two, someone who’s 80. Right. Which is wonderful. Let’s take a quick look at this short video.
Hagar Chemali [00:22:58] A lot happened in Ukraine. So let me get you up quickly and then we’ll hear from my favorite Oh, My World contributor, Misha Zelinski, who’s back on the ground there. A huge explosion took place on the Kerch Strait Bridge, which links Russia to Crimea, which is occupied by Russia and was illegally annexed in 2014. This exposure is a big deal first because this bridge is the only connection between Russia and Crimea and because Russia uses it to send military equipment into the south of Ukraine. Second, because it’s an embarrassment to Putin personally, who oversaw the building of this 12 mile bridge. In fact, he personally inaugurated it by driving a dump truck across it. It’s amazing his shirt is still on. It’s probably why this explosion was timed as a gift to him on his 70th birthday. Happy birthday, asshole. We don’t actually know for sure who or what caused this explosion yet, but Ukraine did issue commemorative stamps and senior Ukrainian officials tweeted footage of the blast to the tune of Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday, Mr. President. It’s clever. Putin responded by saying it was a terrorist attack. That’s a little bit pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it?
Sam Jayanti [00:23:56] There’s a sea of news out there on any given day. How do you pick the things that you want to inform your audience about?
Hagar Chemali [00:24:02] Yes, there are some weeks where it feels like I don’t have enough time to cover it in 10 minutes. And that’s a key part of the brand. The news has to be quick. The show is 10 minutes and I strive for less. But that doesn’t always happen that way. And each story has to be about one and a half to 2 minutes. And when I have a barrage of news, the two things I look for the most are which has a nexus to the United States. Anything that has an exit to the United States is going to be first on the agenda. So if it’s a trip by the president, for example, if there’s travel or if there’s some kind of U.S. foreign policy angle to it, it’s an easy sell for me to explain to the American public why this matters. And then on the other hand, it’s something something might not have an obvious U.S. nexus, but it just to me feels as though I have to share this story because this is important. I’ll give you a good example. Right. If I if I talk about conflict. Yeah. Conflicts may not always appear as though it matters. We could go around there. What’s happening in Ethiopia? What’s the famine in Somalia? These are things that may not have an obvious next to the United States, but these are things that I feel deeply the public needs to be aware of because maybe they want. Maybe watching that segment will make them make a donation to a charity that’s helping. Maybe it’s a consumer and they learn that there some business that they support is, in fact, supporting a dictator abroad. And so they’re going to, as a consumer, say they’re going to make a social media post or whatever, calling on that business to to only have ethical clients or whatever it might be. And so I try to think ahead of is there a U.S. access? And what are the stories that really that even if there’s no obvious use in access, Americans really need to know is happening out there.
Sam Jayanti [00:25:54] And a reason for engagement, I think is what you’re highlighting, right? Like whether that’s conscious or unconscious, I guess.
Hagar Chemali [00:26:01] And that is what my are we allowed to curse on this podcast.? Okay. That is what my shit list and crush list are about. So but each show has a shit list crash list and the shit list highlights something that a dictator may have done or a human rights abuser or someone shitty. I even had U.S. tech companies on there, something that something shitty they did that week. And the crush list is obviously who’s crushing it around the world or who I’m crushing on. Usually it’s an activist or a nonprofit doing something good. And and so and I want to bring attention to it. And I’m a genuine believer if if you have and this year I’ll have great have a great example. A lot of entertainers travel abroad and and perform for dictators. They’re getting paid for dictators. And the dictators are the ones hosting those events. And it’s almost like whitewashing a little bit. Right. Or entertainment. Watching sports is often used in that regard as well. And consumers have a lot more power than they think. And the young generation in particular feels strongly about this. So if they band together and they say, Hey, Justin Bieber, you should go perform for Mohamed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, because last I heard, he brutally murdered a columnist from The Washington Post. It it not only does Justin Bieber hear that, but in the longer run it is. Yeah, in the long run, maybe the government will say maybe we should start reforming our ways. That’s the goal, at least.
Sam Jayanti [00:27:28] Long-term change.
Hagar Chemali [00:27:28] Mhm.
Sam Jayanti [00:27:34] The. I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about how you’ve grown and evolved in your career. You’ve done a lot of different things. What is the, how has coaching and mentorship played a role in that evolution over time?
Hagar Chemali [00:27:49] Yes. I have always loved having mentors. I have many mentors. They range in age in there. Men, women, old, young. I’ve collected them along the way in my career. Some of them were while I was in government and they themselves were government bosses of mine. The others are like, Yeah, I just, you know, I would happen to meet them somehow or some way and find that they had this kind of wisdom about them. And especially I think this is the case for anybody, especially in this day and age. But if you have a little A.D.D. like me and you tend to.
Sam Jayanti [00:28:27] You and me both.
Hagar Chemali [00:28:28] Yeah. They say that that’s what create makes that many CEOs have that the the best visionaries those are the most creative. I say it’s my secret weapon.
Sam Jayanti [00:28:38] It’s what I tell myself every day.
Hagar Chemali [00:28:40] Yes there are moments. It’s frustrating, but I often tell people to my secret weapon because I will make my own show for for ADD viewers, someone who just can’t keep attention for a long time. But that means that it means that you have ideas all the time or that you change your mind all the time and you need someone to ground you and help you along the way. Whether it is that you want to make that career switch or that you have some idea that maybe is maybe needs some refining or thinking. And I, you know, I’ve so many one of my and I call them all champions, by the way. Yeah. One of my. I can’t think. They’re all my favorite one. The ones that have are the ones who have helped me the most in launching Oh My World have been women in particular. And and Gretchen Carlson has been one of them. For example, a friend of mine, Maureen Polo, who was really held my hand she’s in this comes from this industry of you know Gretchen obviously from media and my other friend Maureen from the world of production and marketing.
Sam Jayanti [00:29:43] Gretchen’s daughter interns with us.
Hagar Chemali [00:29:44] I know that! That’s why I figured I’d mention her too. Gretchen has been a constant sounding board and you know, I’ll update her and we’ll meet up and then I’ll tell her, like, is this the right path? And she was actually one of the people. This is why I like to mention her when she saw me doing all this commentating on air. Yeah, she took me out to lunch in 2019, April 2019, and she said to me, What are you doing? You’re great on air. I see you all the time and you’re clearly not getting paid for what you’re doing, and that has to stop. And we had this long discussion and I told her, I said, you know, I, I would love to be a contributor, but this is not a full time job. They don’t seem to want to pay foreign policy analysts anyway. I kind of want to do something more mission based and more digital and younger. And she was like, Well then, great, do it and I’ll help you, but get up and do it because what you’re doing now is not working. And I having somebody be your mirror like that is just it’s really lucky.
Sam Jayanti [00:30:40] Well, I think it’s that honesty of right that even when because I think so many of us nowadays and it’s hard not to fall victim to this in a way measure or use as a parameter of success. You know how many people saw it? How many shows were we on? How many people cited it? Did people like it? Did they like our social media posts, etc.? But her pointing out to you, Hey, this isn’t really a long term strategy for success. You’ve got to sort of rethink this. Even though you might be thinking of this as success through a different lens. Is those moments of advice and reality checks are often the most valuable?
Hagar Chemali [00:31:20] Yes. And sometimes you don’t realize how lost you are, you know, until someone that’s why I call it like a mirror. It’s like they’re forcing you to look at the mirror and say, you know, this is actually not working. Yeah, let me help you figure this out. You walk away with this. I remember walking away from that lunch so energized, even though she was basically telling me to stop doing everything I was doing, uproot everything and change it all. But I mean, she had some real strategic clarity. It really was it was so great because it’s just it set me on the path that I was more meant to be.
Sam Jayanti [00:31:51] Yeah, totally makes sense.
Sam Jayanti [00:31:54] So if you had to point to one or two key individuals you mentioned Gretchen Carlson, but tell me about one or possibly two other individuals who were deeply influential.
Hagar Chemali [00:32:08] Yes, I another one of them is a former boss and mentor, also a mentor of mine, one of my best friends. And all of them become my best friends. Now, Danny Glaser is his name and Danny was my boss at Treasury. And he’ll start tearing up if he listens to this. By the way, he’s such a sentimental guy, but he’s kind of one of those, you know, big teddy bears, but also kind of ruthless when it came to sanctions and fighting crime, which is what we did at Treasury together. And so Danny is the one who hired me at Treasury, my first real job back in 2006, and he supported me for every single career change in government. And not just government, but but for the entire 12 years I was in government.
Sam Jayanti [00:32:49] Yeah.
Hagar Chemali [00:32:51] He is the one that if I said I want I want this job or I got a job, but it wasn’t sure we could make it happen. He would help make it happen. When I got a job at the White House to be director for Syria in Lebanon, that’s something Treasury has to fund. Yeah, he found a way to do it when I told him while I was there. I want to switch into public affairs. Yeah. I found this knack for media engagement. Communications was like your right you’d be great at this. And he’s the one who helped me transition to become a spokesperson at Treasury. Yeah. And and even now, I turn to him all the time and say, you know, I don’t know yet. This is what I’m thinking. What do you think about this? I don’t know if this is right. And he’s just an amazing sounding board and champion of mine. And I love having him in my corner. It’s just it’s very lucky to have somebody like that holding your hand. Yeah. Through the whole way, especially in government.
Sam Jayanti [00:33:37] I think it’s such a key point that you’ve made because many of our Gen Z millennial clients that we work with, they really struggle to find what you’ve described, which is a lifelong effectively coach and mentor who has been in your corner throughout, even when you were no longer working with that person. Right. And all of that is about building relationships with people that are not transactional and that are actually of mutual interests and of mutual sort of emotion in a sense. Right. Because the most. Powerful mentors in my life have been ones that I actually worked with very early on, but like you stayed involved with me, they became friends, they became coaches in particular regards, and they stayed interested and connected to me throughout. Right. And they’ve always sort of cheered me on even when what I’ve done has had absolutely nothing to do with what they do anymore or the nature of the relationship that we used to have that sort of got the whole thing started. And that relationship orientation is is really, really key.
Hagar Chemali [00:34:54] Yes. Especially when you’re younger.
Sam Jayanti [00:34:56] Yeah.
Hagar Chemali [00:34:56] You you think you might know best. And but it’s really hard it’s hard to make decisions. It’s hard to know how something could play out later in the future if it could help you or hurt you. And that’s it’s so key to, I believe, very much in mentoring as well. A lot of young women and men in particular life, a lot of them my school sends me. Yeah, another one for me when as we’re talking I just thought of is someone again. I met him during government but he wasn’t in government. His name is Peter Tannis and an older gentleman and has done so much in his career and life. And I would go to him with all sorts of questions when I discovered this love of media engagement. And I told him, But I’m doing Middle East foreign policy now. How do I go from A to B? Yeah. And he was like, okay, I have a plan for you first. You’re going to do this and you’re going to do that. And and and then when I launched my consulting business, I had a consulting business when I left government. Yeah. I wanted to go into media, as I said, but it wasn’t a full time thing. So I launched a consulting business in the meantime, and I would go to him with questions about clients, you know, I don’t know. Do I take this one? Do I not? How how is this going to pan out? And I made mistakes along the way. And I view mistakes, though. And in general, I think I will probably make many mistakes with Oh My World. And I view them as opportunities to learn and say, you know, I did this and yeah, and I learned from that. Now I won’t do that again in the future. And I don’t have regrets really ever because because of that you just view them as mistakes. But Peter has been also amazing in guiding me and that guidance is critical. Yeah, the wise you could make many mistakes that are much worse.
Sam Jayanti [00:36:33] Totally. Yeah. So one of the things that we’re finding in our business. And you mentioned that you mentor a lot of young women. Is that particularly Gen Z and millennials are having a difficult time navigating their post educational lives? Yes, there are a number of life decisions that sort of come into play. Things haven’t been easy given the last few years of the pandemic. There’s still a sort of residual stress that remains because we may or may not be fully through it. You interact with a lot of them there, your audience on Oh My World. What do you see as their challenges and and sort of how to overcome them.
Hagar Chemali [00:37:16] Such a good question. Let’s I for the purposes of this question, yeah. I want to focus on Gen Z in particular because they’re very different than millennials. They are extremely.
Sam Jayanti [00:37:26] As 80 points out to us all the time.
Hagar Chemali [00:37:28] Yes. Yeah. And most of my interns are Gen Z. Yeah. And I love working with Gen Z because they are so hardworking and so passionate and so inspired. Yes. But they’re going to burn out quickly if they continue working the way they do, which is it’s so shocking to hear that as someone I find myself as I am, quote unquote, a geriatric millennial, that the term is horrifying, which means that.
Sam Jayanti [00:37:58] I don’t know what that makes me, but I don’t want to ask.
Hagar Chemali [00:38:00] It’s between Gen X and Millennial basically and it means you kind of have qualities of both and but anyone from that Gen X realm in general works really hard. Following authority is normal. Working any hour is normal, whatever your boss needs. I find Gen Z to be very similar and. But they will work on the weekend. At night they’re texting. They’re they’re working. And, and I often feel I have to tell them like and by the way, it’s not just that they’re working at every hour. They’re taking multiple jobs. Right. And but that’s a problem for them and for the employer as well, because you can’t take multiple full time jobs. It doesn’t work. But you could do multiple, part time jobs. Yeah, but I wouldn’t advise that as a means of growing your career, you could do that. You have the rest of your life to do a part time freelance.
Sam Jayanti [00:38:46] You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’re just doing multiple things badly.
Hagar Chemali [00:38:49] Yes, yeah, yes. And so some of them I’ll mentor, I kind of take it. I’ll tell them, like, listen, let me remove my Oh My World hat for a second and let me just tell you, for your own health and your own career, you should see a full time, full time employment where you can make friends with the other colleagues, where you establish those relationships with mentors, but it also where you focus deep on that one thing you’re working on that leads you to the next step. Whereas doing working 24, seven and multiple, multiple jobs, it’s a quick way to burn out and and and and not an easy way to move ahead. Yeah. So totally. Totally. Does that answer your question?
Sam Jayanti [00:39:30] It does. I think I think what you’re pointing to I mean, to me, it’s indicative of two things, right? I think there is a real shift and a real difference. I mean, not that one should generalize, but let’s just do it for 1/2. You know, a lot of employers feel that millennials are not willing to make many of those trade offs and sacrifices and compromises where they’re so singularly focused on work life balance in a way that they’ve sort of forgotten that there are some some times and some things that require a spirit of compromise where you’re working more and sometimes you’re working less. So on, right. And Gen Z, I think very acutely feels the pressure of needing to access and capitalize all the opportunity, all and any opportunity that comes their way because they’re trying to de-risk, you know, their career and their success, which is like a super normal thing for anyone to do. And at the same time, there’s, there’s that sort of, you know, the realization that, well, in doing that, you might actually jeopardize yourself and by the way, like fully amplify your own capability and your own anxiety level and stress level in terms of being able to do all these different things because it’s it’s very hard to be pulled in so many different directions at one time. Yes.
Hagar Chemali [00:40:59] Yes. It’s it’s impossible. Yeah. And nobody wins. Yeah. In that regard, it’s an I see it a lot now. I see it over and over again. And you know, it’s one of the things I also mentioned when I teach my class, if somebody wants to become a spokesperson or comms director, the job is inherently 24 seven because the press is 24 seven. And and it’s funny, my my class now is a younger class and they don’t seem fazed by that. They’re, you know, they’re just kind of like ready to jump in and dove in. And but but previous students have been put off a little bit by that. But I have to be honest about it and say this is not the type of job where you can say, you know, it’s 5 p.m., I’m off right now or I’m at a yoga class or it just doesn’t work like that. There’s a crisis. There’s a crisis. And you and and it’s it’ll be interesting to see how I know that a lot of corporations, bigger corporations, are trying to find ways, meaningful ways to address those needs. And I think I wish I had bosses that addressed those and showed up on it and never asked. Yes, I certainly why one of the main decisions that made me leave government. When I did, which was when my second boy was born, was that there was zero way to have work life balance with two young children, and I couldn’t be the man I wanted to be. And that’s a shame. But that is it is what it is. It remains like that in government. So I’ll be interested to see how how things evolve in this way and how each side kind of finds a meeting point that works.
Sam Jayanti [00:42:28] Yeah, totally makes sense. I’m glad you raised motherhood, because that’s my last question for you. You’ve pursued as you actually successful career, you’ve done a lot of different things while being a mother to three children.
Hagar Chemali [00:42:40] It’s so easy.
Sam Jayanti [00:42:43] And spouse. Let’s not forget that part. And that’s a whole set of responsibilities too.
Hagar Chemali [00:42:47] Yes, fourth child.
Sam Jayanti [00:42:49] How have you done it? How. What’s your advice for, you know, I when I think back to I mean, I’m a Gen Xer when I think about the women I know so many of them felt so compromised by that position of this sort of onus in a way of the expectation of having a career while being supermom, while being a great wife, while being skinny and everything else. It was just your watch and and the piece that they ended up giving up was the work piece. How did you navigate that.
Hagar Chemali [00:43:23] I have so many thoughts on this issue. So I’ll try to be I tried to be brief, but to answer the first part of your question, I don’t do it all and I don’t think anybody can. And I have a village of help to help me. I have my nanny. I have multiple backup sitters, neighbors and so on. I have my parents who live 10 minutes away. This is a big, big part of of how I am able to dive to my career because they have priceless relationships with my kids and they take them for sleepovers and they are picking them up from school and they’re taking them to tennis and so on between them and the nanny. And because and it’s because I have three of them on top of it, I really felt I had struck that elusive work life balance when I had two kids. Yeah. And both were in school almost full time. One was full day, the other one was almost full day. And it was two of them. And I had a live in nanny and I had my consulting business that was really part time actually, and was doing these TV hits. And I found right that I had struck this balance. If I wanted to do something for me, I could if I wanted to go to the gym or the or go to a social event, it was not a problem. When I hit a third and launched my business, oh, my world, everything went upside down in this. I then realized I wasn’t actually working full time, and that’s how I had struck said balance. But I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t doing what I was passionate about also. And building Oh My World where any startup, any business of your own, you feel you could work on it. 24 seven And that there you’re never going to get through that list. And when you have a third in general, three, but also a young baby on top of it, you know, you feel like you’re drowning at all times. So I tell people all the time and I made a joke about this on my own Instagram. I do a lot of funny videos on Instagram to trending music. And I said, I said, you know, all of you ask me all the time, how do I do it all as a mom and I have a business and I say and I joke. And I was like, you know, just here’s my secret. And I moved back and I had these balls in my hand. I was like, you know, I just juggle it all. And I threw the balls in the air. And not only did those balls fall, but a whole box of balls fell on top. Yeah, that is my daily. That is how it is. Yeah. I have maybe 70,000 unread emails in my Gmail. It’s really bad. I’m very fortunate to have a husband who takes on. Work-related to his own job. But anything relates to house. School camp activities forms insurance. You know he handles all of that. And I’m so it’s very it’s a very lucky partnership. And that is a big part of the formula in making it work.
Sam Jayanti [00:46:05] 100%.
Hagar Chemali [00:46:06] Thanks, Bill. I love you. I mean it, when I say that.
Sam Jayanti [00:46:10] Make sure he hears. Yes. Excellent. Well, thank you so much.
Hagar Chemali [00:46:14] Thank you. Thank you for having me. And thank you for what you do. It’s really important work.
Sam Jayanti [00:46:20] Thanks for listening today. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and while you’re there, please do review the show. We love hearing from you, so email us at info at the idea mix, dotcom or Instagram DM US. Our episode this week was produced by the incomparable Martin Milewski with music by the awesome Nashville-based singer-songwriter Doug Allen. You can learn more about Doug at Doug Allen music dot com.
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