I live my adult professional life by the principles of the late-90s reboot of Zoom. Yes, the PBS children’s show. This wasn’t intentional. In fact, I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I sat down to write a post about Zoom, at which point I discovered that the show had leached into my subconscious and bled all the way through to my working life. Sure, I’ve learned a lot from higher education and on-the-job experience — but everything I really needed to know, I apparently learned from Zoom.
1) Always cheer for your friends.
Remember how every time they were playing a game, all of the kids would cheer for everyone who was competing? They’d be all “Go Zoe! Go Jared! You can do it, Zoe! You got this, Jared!”. At twelve, I thought that no real kids actually did this — you picked who you wanted to win, and that was that. There was a lot more smack talk in my childhood.
Now that I’ve grown up, I realize that I take a Zoom approach to other people’s success. As long as it’s one of my people getting ahead, I’m happy. That’s not to say I won’t work like crazy so that I’m the one getting the good project, or the promotion, or whatever. But, if a friend or colleague is recognized, that’s almost as good as a victory for myself. You aren’t in competition with your friends or even your co-workers, is I guess what I’m saying. It’s good to be happy for people. ZOOM Games taught me that.
2) The zip code in Allston is 02134.
True story: I had to mail something to Boston a few months ago, and didn’t have the exact address. I was able to look it up on Google maps because I had an approximate zip code, thanks to that damn theme song that is still in my head after 14 years.
3) Sometimes you just need to learn something by watching people.
I’m talking about ubbi-dubbi. I could lapse into ubbi dubbi this second. But ask me to explain how to do it, and it would be super confusing. However, if you watched a few clips of the Zoom-ers speaking it, you could ubbi-dubbi with the best of them. This definitely happens in the adult world — when long, step-by-step instructions fail you, sometimes the best thing to say is “hey, can I watch you do that once?” and you’ll get it.
4) If someone has an idea, you have to listen to them for instructions. If you’re giving instructions, you have to make people listen to you.
I wish someone had told me that 90% of being an adult with a professional job was just being kind of pushy so that people would do what I need them to do. Since Zoom was a kids-only show, one of the Zoomers would be the one to explain the rules of a game or how to do a craft. Unlike real children, the other Zoom kids listened with rapt attention. I definitely try to do that when someone’s telling me something important. But when you’re the one giving orders, you have to speak loudly and clearly and look the other people straight in the face, just like Keiko and Buzz did – unless you’re working over email, and then you have to do the email equivalent of that.
5) Positivity And Perseverance Will Keep Your Team On Track
While the “being pushy so people do what I need them to do” thing does come up a lot, I much prefer it when people just respond to teamwork. It’s not a cool trait at all, but I’m plucky, like an adult American Girl doll or a character from a Haley Mills movie. No kidding, one of my higher-ups praised my “can-do attitude” when I took over a book series. Well, you can thank PBS afternoon television for that. Zoomers didn’t give up, even when they were losing or really, really struggling. And when you’re working with other people – whether a production staff or the other kids on your balloon toss game – your positive attitude translates to everyone else. My work is deadline heavy, and as the editor in charge, I can’t say “this is awful, we’re running so late, and by the way it’s your fault because you forgot to do part of your job.” It works much, much better to let everyone know that we can do this, and that as the one responsible, you’re going to do everything you can to get the job done.
6) Crowd-Source Your Content
PBS knew that adults couldn’t always come up with fun kid activities, so most of the games and recipes were sent in by kids. I can’t prove this, but I feel like it was almost always Stephanie M. from Toledo, Ohio. This is definitely the way to go in most real-life professions, too. I mean the “getting feedback from your target audience” thing, not so much the Stephanie M. thing.
7) Sometimes People Way Older Or Way Younger Than You Have Really Great Ideas
When you’re a kid, the difference between an 8 year old and a 12 year old is HUGE. Zoom spanned a pretty wide age range — you know those kids would not have been hanging out together in real life. Still, everyone learned from each other. If you’re starting out in your career and are way young compared to everyone else (that’s me!), or if you’re working with people half your age, don’t just write off those youths or fogeys. Caroline’s ideas weren’t always bad, you know.
8) Always have a healthy snack after school
Or after work, whatever. Or in the late afternoon, if you keep healthy snacks in your desk drawer. 9 times out of 10, when I hit that mid-afternoon slump, it’s some sort of blood sugar situation and a handful of almonds or an apple perk me right up (sometimes the only answer is caffeine. Zoom didn’t teach me that one. Also you know who couldn’t have nuts? Zoe. She was allergic). Thanks, Cafe ZOOM.
Whatever, it was a good t-shirt.
10) Learning is cool.
My mom was an elementary school science teacher when I was a kid, so my childhood was all dissecting owl pellets and growing crystals. Although it was no Bill Nye or Beakman’s World, Zoom helped emphasize that learning new things is cool. When you’re working, that means jumping in headfirst to learn about a new task, field, or emerging technology. Props to Zoom Sci for that one.