I hope you will allow me a few extra words in this space to talk about today’s Life Lessons subject, Amy Montalvo. When Amy was a high school student, she called me to see if she could come shadow me at the TV station where I worked. We spent an afternoon together and developed a fast friendship that has lasted more than a dozen years (how old AM I?). After graduating, Amy spent a summer with me while I was anchoring at CBS and she was going to Yale and we stayed close after she  got her first TV job. But something happened there; she wasn’t doing enough to feed her soul and moreover, to give back to the world. So, she quit her job, talked her parents into underwriting her fledgling business and VOILA! ONEPASS Productions was born. I could not be more proud of this woman and am thrilled to call her my friend. More now on Amy and remember, we’d love to feature you too! Drop us a line here and we’ll get the questions right out to you!

Are you happy at the moment?

I’m definitely happy, and I feel very blessed to be so. My production company, ONEPASS Productions, is starting to gain traction, and I feel like I’m really on track to do exactly what I want to be doing for a career and to be making a positive impact in the world at the same time.  To be able to do those things simultaneously has always been my dream, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to achieve that.

If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?

I think I would tell 16 year-old Amy that no life plan is concrete, so there’s no sense in getting discouraged/stressed when things don’t go according to what you think at the time, in your all-knowing wisdom, is the perfect plan.

When I was laid off from my first reporting job, I was devastated. “But… but this was my dream!” I thought. “And it’s already over?” But the job loss turned out to be quite providential, as it landed me at my 2nd reporting job, a wonderful and educational experience that gave me so many of the skills that I use in my business today. After 2 years in that job, however, I started realizing that news reporting wasn’t, in fact, what I wanted to do forever. And once again, the familiar words: “But… but that was my dream!”  It was a little scary, a little unnerving to really think about the fact that what I had ‘wanted to do forever’ had somehow evolved into what I wanted to walk away from. But coming to grips with this revelation was the best thing I could have ever done. It’s what pushed me to start my own business, to embrace my passions for both journalism and service, and to give it a real shot doing something I absolutely loved. So far, it’s worked out…

So, 16 year-old Amy… sometimes in life, you realize that your dreams and your plans will change, and that’s okay.  Don’t be scared. In the end, it’s probably for the best.

(Who’s to say my plans won’t change again? In a way…I hope they do. Keeps life interesting.)

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

I think the most important thing I’ve learned (within the past year) is that you don’t have to pretend that everything is perfect all the time… because it’s probably not.  It’s so easy to project a certain persona – that you’re always happy and everything is always wonderful and nothing can get you down. But I think it’s unrealistic to think that life will always be like that and that you will never have any problems. Letting your guard down is difficult, but I’ve realized that if you’re just willing to share with those close to you, they’re more than willing to support you through the tough times. It’s just a matter of realizing that it’s actually okay to feel something other than ‘wonderfully happy’ all the time and then opening up to those who care about you.  You can be real with people.

What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

In the next year, I’d like to make ONEPASS Productions a truly profitable company, something that is sustainable as a career, and provides me with enough income to make the move to Washington, DC. There is such a huge market of non-profit organizations in DC, and as I shoot promotional videos mostly for non-profit organizations (focusing on “positive news”), it’s the most logical next step for me to be based there.  And I would love to shoot overseas again – anywhere!

What’s your secret to happiness?

What a question!  To be perfectly honest, it’s recognizing what makes me happy, pursuing that, and then, through that, giving back and trying to make a difference in others’ lives in whatever way I can.  I wasn’t happy doing news reporting, but I knew I loved telling stories and focusing on human interest pieces. Thus, I started a production company in which my vision is to create “productions with a purpose,” to tell the stories of good being done all over the world.  I think that if you’ve been blessed in life, there’s absolutely no reason for you to keep that to yourself.  You must give back, and when I’m helping someone less fortunate or making someone else happy, I am truly happy. This year I’ve done things like mentor a middle-schooler, given Thanksgiving baskets to an underprivileged family and donated my time to help a church promote their efforts to raise money for an organization that rescues children from sex trafficking.  I promise you that whatever you do, whether small or big – if you’re making an impact in someone else’s life, if you’re making someone else smile…it will make you happy.

What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

Two things (sorry!) come to mind, each playing a different role. Physically, I try to exercise, whether I’m at home working on a project or on-site somewhere shooting a video.  If I can start the day with a run or a workout, it really helps me focus the rest of my day. Secondly – and this is to keep me grounded both mentally and emotionally – is to make time for friends. They always help me to calm down, refocus my energy, and enjoy life.

What’s your biggest regret?

Wow, this is a tough one. I feel fortunate to not have any major regrets yet, but at this point, I think it would have to be entering into and staying in relationships that were detrimental and damaging to me as a person. It’s not necessary to be in a relationship to have self-worth, and I think sometimes over the years, I’ve lost sight of that. Thank goodness we can learn from our regrets.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

No kids yet!  But if I do have them, I think one of the most important lessons is to always strive to do your absolute best, no matter what it is that you’re doing.  It’s something my parents always stressed to me, and something that I’ve held onto throughout my life.

What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

My awful procrastination habit. Often when I have a lot of work to do, I find myself coming across a million other things I “need to do” that are, of course, totally unrelated to my actual work! Checking email, Facebook, my favorite blogs, getting snacks, chatting to people – I can always find something.  It’s an unfortunate habit I’ve always had, from papers in college, to stories in news, to editing videos now. I always get it done in the end, but there can be some nerve-wracking moments there.  That said, I’m days ahead of schedule on my current project, so perhaps I’m making a change for the better!

Aside from motherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

Well, I haven’t done either of those things yet (!), but I’m most proud of being an entrepreneur and starting my own production company. It’s given me the opportunity to take risks, to travel internationally on my own, to meet so many new and incredible people, to test my strength as a person, and to use my skills in a new way.  I have loved it all, and I am not only proud of doing it, but I also feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to make it happen, and to have the amazing support of those around me.

When were you happiest?

Right now! See #1. I’m traveling the world, loving the work I’m doing (which is truly key), meeting amazing people, and I feel like there’s so much to look forward to.  I’m not exactly sure where the next year will take me, but the unknowns are all part of the fun.

What ten words best describe you?

Adventurous, determined, passionate about helping others, passionate about loving life.

Amy Montalvo is an entrepreneur, a journalist, and an avid sports fan. She’s based in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, but tries to set up her ‘office’ in as many international locations as possible. She’s playing reporter, photographer, editor, writer, and producer at her company, ONEPASS Productions and loving every minute of it. She loves traveling, dancing, meeting new people, and catching up with old friends. She always wants more stamps in her passport but will forever remain Texas loud and proud.