We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessie Zahner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jessie, alright, let’s jump in with a deep one – what’s you’re definition for success?
I think about this question all of the time. When I was younger, I thought success was making tons of money, getting into a top school, landing the best job. As I started getting older I began traveling a lot. Even as a kid I was so curious about other people, other places, how people lived in other places. I took one trip that really changed how I viewed success. I went to Peru for a couple weeks to hike. During my time there, I met so many wonderful people, learned about how they lived, how they cherished the land around them, why the cherished it. I saw so many kids and adults who had so much less than I did, but they were so much more happy. Being out in the middle of no where, with no phone or internet or social media or television, I had so much time. Time to listen, time to learn, time to observe, time to think. I thought about how every one seemed so happy and together and how back home people were always running around, working, buying all of the things, but a majority of them weren’t happy. I started thinking more. “What is all the money, and the top schools and the coolest jobs good for if it doesn’t make you happy?” So I think each person needs to define success themselves. If working 24/7 makes you happy, then work! If hanging out with your kid at home makes you happy, do that! If quitting your job, selling all your stuff and traveling the world makes you happy, go for it! Success is something each of us as an individual defines. But I think most people would agree that each definition of success can be measured by one thing, happiness. So if working your entire life to become a great lawyer, or the president of the United States or the CEO of a company makes you happy. You’ve won, you are successful. If having a family and getting to make great memories with them makes you happy, great, you have won too! There is no right or wrong way of success. Success happens in little moments too. Like when I ride an Alex Toussaint 45 minute HIIT and Hidden Hills ride on my Peloton and PR, that’s a success, and although I feel like my legs are going to fall off, I am so happy about it! Getting my daughter to eat her entire dinner, is a success. Excelling in my job is a success. Taking time to be with my daughter in nature is a success. We all are successful in our own ways. It is important to reflect on all that we have accomplished and then look forward to what is next. How are we evolving. How are we changing to be even better tomorrow. Success isn’t beating ourselves up about missed opportunities, not getting a gig, comparing ourselves to others, worrying about how far we still have to go. If you didn’t have anywhere to go, if you were right where you needed to be, life would be boring. Success is a mindset. A positive one. Determination, motivation, positivity, never giving up, cheering on your friends and family. That is success. And when all that comes together, it is really just happiness that is the ultimate success.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career has been such a wild ride. I went to school for Psychology and worked as a therapist right out of school. My passion was and still is working with kids. I worked with children with ADHD and Autism in school and home settings but also did individual and family therapy. I love helping people but I have been an athlete my entire life. After college soccer was over I was always looking for the “next thing” in sports. While working as a therapist, I would work nights for the Philadelphia 76ers as a fan squad girl. After that gig ended, I started working with the Philadelphia Union, an MLS team, in promotions which ultimately led me to interviewing players and coaches post-game. When I moved to Baltimore in 2010 I decided I would try making a living working in sports. I went to a career fair and booked an interview with the Washington Nationals. The job was for sales, I had already told the guy (who would be my new boss) that I had no interest in sales. When it was time for the interview I didn’t want to go but I had never been to the ballpark before and so I figured I would go check the place out. This is why you always say, “Yes”! This “guy” over at the Nationals was such a good salesman he sold me on the job with a call one day when I was visiting my family in Erie, Pennsylvania. “Hi Jessie, this is Mike with the Nats. Congratulations. I know you said you didn’t want to work in sales but we had over 500 people apply for this sales job and only 10 people got picked. So whether you decide to take this job or not, that is a huge accomplishment. So congrats.” …I took the job. I haven’t looked back since. From the Nationals, I went on to work for the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Rams. All in different sales roles, each job creating some of the most memorable times of my life. Getting to these jobs wasn’t easy, especially as a female breaking into a male dominated industry. I think the way that I have overcome challenges is by just having a drive, a passion, an enthusiasm, knowledge and an energy that can’t be stopped. I love sports, I watch sports, play sports, listen to sports talk radio and podcasts, attend sporting events, my life revolved around it. When I would come into an interview for a position, I was excited, I couldn’t wait, I also was smart, I knew everything about every player on the team, how the team did last year. I had to be just as knowledgable or even more knowledgable than the guys who were interviewing for the same position. Once I got the job, I never took a minute, hour or day for granted. I knew that I was lucky. I also knew I wanted to help people. Most people don’t look at sales as something that can help others. But it is. I was the girl. I was the girl who would hook you up with the best seats to the best game. I’m the girl who would turn just a regular Tuesday night with your son at a Wizards game into early access to watch John Wall and Bradley Beal warm up courtside. I was the girl who would come meet you at the game to make sure everything was going great. I was the girl who would clean up messes and make things right again. I made sure that each person I touched in this job, left the game feeling better, happier. I helped people grow relationships with their kids, families or business colleagues. I helped create once in a lifetime memories for people. I took a real pride in making other people as excited and happy as I could. I think that is what really helped me along the way. I gave up my career in sports a few years ago to raise my child. I will definitely return one day when she is older. For now, I started really perfecting my craft with photography. I got a new camera, started shooting, reading, practicing. That turned into mini sessions I now hold in the South Bay at a low cost for families. I still work multiple times a week on photography to get better. Landscape photography is my passion and what drives me to learn more. Aside from photography, I work full time in sales again, now in aesthetic medical sales. I work for an amazing group of people, mostly women, who are honestly such a blessing to me. They meet me with the same level of enthusiasm I have towards life. They are helpful, positive, motivating. There is a mentality that we can all succeed by elevating each other. We sell things that help people in so many different ways. I think with my overall brand it is just about happiness, connecting and people. I want connect with people through sports or photography or anything. I want to be a positive light in someones life. I want to be there for others. I want to encourage others. I want to cheer for others. I want to learn from others. I also want to create beautiful things that people can see. Things that bring a feeling of nostalgia or relaxation or wander. I just want to uplift people and work together to make each other and the world a better place.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is so easy. There is so much beauty all around us here. I would start by having a relaxing day around the South Bay. Starting up in Manhattan Beach, hitting up Simmzy’s for a burger (best ever) and Manhattan Beach Creamery (for some ice cream) then heading down the strand on a beach cruiser to check out Hermosa and Redondo Beach. Next day, you have to drive out to Joshua Tree National Park. Anytime anyone I know tells me they are coming to LA I tell them it is ABSOLUTELY worth your time to take the three hour drive out to Joshua Tree to check the place out. I would tell them to do my typical “Joshua Tree loop” hitting an easy hike at Barker Dam, then heading to Keys View for views, then off to hike Ryan Mountain for a couple hours, back down the mountain to get lost in Jumbo Rocks, little detour to see Arch Rock and the Cholla Cactus garden and then back anywhere in the park to just see the beautiful desert sunset and the milkyway once the sun goes down. Joshua Tree is a must anytime you are within driving distance! After those two things, we can do whatever anyone wants, whether that be drive the coast up to Malibu to check out El Matador State Beach, hike the Hollywood Sign, head to Disneyland in Anaheim, hike to the top of the world in Laguna Beach, go look for whales off the coast of Newport Beach there is so much beauty here in Southern California.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My daughter, Layla. She has brought so much color and positive energy into my life. I had a career working in the professional sport industry for 10 years, it was so time consuming but I loved it and wouldn’t change a thing about it. When I had Layla, I gave up everything to be with her. Since then, I have learned so much and have been able to be so creative and efficient with my time. Every second of every day has a purpose and meaning. Also, raising a daughter there are things I have had to do differently. I want her to be smart and strong and passionate about life. I want her to feel like she can do anything. So I have been spending the last three years trying to be an example for her, trying to teach her and also trying to let her be her own person, give her space to grow on her own. She has pushed me to be a better person in all aspects of my life. Better at work, better at being creative, better at time management, better at staying positive, better at being healthy. I am just all around better because of her. She is the best and I am so lucky to have her!