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Saved By The Bell Actress Credits Motherhood For Teaching Her to Take Entrepreneurial Risks

People

You probably recognize actress and entrepreneur, Sarah Lancaster, from Saved By The Bell: The New Class, and you would be spot on.


We tend to look at people in the spotlight, especially ones able to get up in a room full of people as act their heart out, like Lancaster, and think that they are fearless in every avenue of their life - but that's not always the case. After growing up and having children of her own, she credits becoming a mother to be what drove her to write a screenplay of her own and star in a new film, The Stray.

Photo Courtesy of The Stray

Her acting career literally began with Saved By The Bell, which is a huge accomplishment in itself. “SBTB was a great experience. I was 14 when I started that show... it was a dream come true for me at the time. As well as a tremendous learning experience, I had never stepped foot on a set before that," she shared with me.

Her acting career has taken her through many more notable experiences such as the Warner Bros. series, Everwood, and ABC's What About Brian, but becoming a mother was something even more magical to her. “When I became a mother I felt like a superhero. I felt so empowered like I could take on anything. I've always wanted to write and produce get on the other side of things."

"Becoming a mother really freed me of any doubt I had. So I went for it, approached the author of a book I've long loved and started the process of adapting my first screenplay," she says.

“Superhero" is indeed the word to describe that experience. It's incredible the drive that becoming a mom gives women. Taking care of these tiny human beings create a confidence that is pretty much unparalleled by anything else in the world.

"Last year I optioned a book I've long loved. It is a female-driven coming of age piece. I reached out to the author personally, we co-wrote the screenplay together. Long story short I secured financing and we are currently prepping a top of the year shoot in NYC. We're taking meetings with directors, specifically looking to attach a female. I've wanted to be on the other side of the camera for years and years… something about having my two children gave me the courage to step up and start taking risks. So far so good," she shared with us.

The screenplay is something that resonated with Lancaster on a really personal level. “The story of is about a brother and sister who are very isolated from the rest of the world, they are largely left to their own devices. I began my career at a very young age which could be quite isolating in itself. My friends back home had a completely different teenage experience then I did."

Taking these huge risks with being on the other side of the camera has been completely liberating for her, “When this project began taking shape, anytime I'm working on it... I'm on cloud nine. It's my baby. We still have a long way to go. But the fact that we've gotten financing and a prominent production company behind it... I'm ecstatic."

Balancing all her accolades and being a mom isn't always easy though. In fact, “balance" seems to be that thing that all parents and entrepreneurs are reaching for every day and is a juggling act we're all looking to play a bigger role in our lives. Lancaster gets it, too, “It's not easy. I fumble all three on a regular basis! What I'm trying to work on is not making myself to feel so guilty about it! Remind myself that I'm doing the best I can. It's a work in progress."

But of course, working on the screenplay isn't the only project that she's been up to. Her newly released film, The Stray, came out on October 6th and is something she's so excited and proud of as well. “The Stray is a true story about The Davis family. They're a young family with several small children and when we meet them they're really struggling. Mitch, the dad, is working overtime, disconnected from his wife and kids. A stray dog happens to find them and without giving anything away is the catalyst for bringing them back together."

If she can offer one piece of advice to all the moms out there that are trying to start businesses and get back to work after stopping to have kids, she says to “be that squeaky wheel. Be bold. Take risks. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've heard "no" as an actress and now with my screenplay. Keep going!"

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Politics

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.


When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.