Lester Holt, the NBC Nightly News anchor and presidential debate referee, tells Men’s Journal about laughing with his wife, loving the Partridge Family, and the upside of melancholy, all in our Last Word life advice column.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Be prepared when doors open. Opportunities can present themselves when you least expect it. The door flings open, and there’s the opportunity, and you’re either ready to walk through it or you’re not.
Who were your heroes growing up?
My oldest brother was a huge influence in my life. He didn’t wait for things; he never had a sense that someone could tell him “no.”
How should a man handle getting older?
You have to accept the process. But you shouldn’t surrender to the stereotype of being old. It’s life and it’s a journey, but I don’t think you throw in the towel.
How should a man handle criticism?
There are times when you know you deserve it. You know that it’s based on something where you didn’t perform to your best. My feeling is, if it’s real, you deal with it, you confront it. You make the adjustments as necessary, but you have to let the other stuff roll off your back.
What is the secret to a happy marriage?
What role should vanity play in a man’s life?
I believe in the adage that to look good is to feel good. I’m not speaking of a huge, massive ego. But I think a fair amount of vanity makes us feel good about ourselves, and when we feel good about ourselves, we perform better.
What human quality do you most admire?
The capacity to forgive.
What human quality do you most deplore?
The need to dominate. It’s an ugly trait.
How should a person handle regret?
I tend to be very forward-looking. There are things that have happened that I regret or wish hadn’t happened, but there’s not a damn thing I can do about them today. What I can do is learn, hopefully improve, and make better choices.
What adventure most changed your life?
My 1992 trip to Somalia to cover the famine was a life-changing moment. To witness starvation on that level—it just kind of opened my eyes.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Keep a journal.
What’s the best cure for heartache?
Music and wine. I haven’t had a lot of heartache in my life, but with disappointments, sometimes a little solitude is the most important thing.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
I actually have a couple of songs by the Partridge Family on my iTunes. It doesn’t get more guilty than that.
Is it ever OK for a person to lie?
You’re asking a journalist, so the official on-the-record answer is no. Having said that, I think we all have confronted situations where the truth could be hurtful to people we care about, and so I suppose that there are moments where you would be probably less than candid for the sake of others.
How do you want to be remembered when you’re gone?
As somebody who treated everyone with equal respect. Somebody who laughed and loved and never took himself too seriously. That’s a lot for one epitaph, isn’t it? I’ll put a little note in my will, just to make sure.
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