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  • Writer's pictureYumi Choi

Yumi reads: "The Ride of a Lifetime" by Robert Iger

Updated: Jun 17, 2021

Fascinating insight into the world of US Entertainment and Media. Just realising how much I am influenced by films, series and shows Robert Iger was responsible for as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. We have him to thank for Twin Peaks, the Jamaican Bobsled Team of the 1988 Winter Olympics, Black Panther, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Roseanne (and then its cancellation) and much more. Robert Iger looks back on his 40+ career. He started as a lowly runner at ABC Studios and worked his way all the way up to CEO of the Disney empire. His work ethic, human qualities, courage, foresight, innovative spirit and strategic genius are legendary. He is responsible for the 4 most sensational acquisitions in the entertainment industry: Pixar, Marvel Universe, Lucasfilm (Star Wars) and 21st Century Fox. The numbers make you dizzy, you can anticipate the million details and intricacies that are not in this book.

He describes his first visit to Pixar and through his eyes we experience the equivalent of visiting the elf kingdom from Lord of the Rings, I exaggerate, but he is so in awe for the campus-like, futuristic and productive and above all creative togetherness at Pixar that it really is like visiting another, better world. He paints a very different picture of his first visit to Marvel. A barren room, the owner a former Israeli secret agent whose thriftiness is notorious and who never shows his face in public. And George Lucas? He is so emotionally attached to the Star Wars world that the deal almost fell through because of it.

One of his main insights at the beginning of his time as CEO was that he needed to break down the roadmap for the big ship Disney in 3-goals and 3-ways and campaign them. He had to win votes from the Disney Board with his vision for the company, but also from the many investors in Disney stock. As with a political campaign, the message must be simple, plausible and repeatable enough that every employee of the global colossus understands it and can identify with. Iger repeatedly emphasizes the human side of the business, his friendship with Steve Jobs, who was a major shareholder in Disney through the Pixar purchase, family tragedies, respect, personal conversations and trust, it's people you work with and it's people and their talents you buy in through acquisitions. He established decency, respect, kindness and fairness as a common denominator in the company culture and exemplified it himself in all his humility. He gets up at 4:15 a.m. every day (so if memory serves, so does Howard Schulz of Starbucks) and I am truly awed that such inspiring individuals exist. Oprah Winfrey has said if he were to announce as a presidential candidate she would personally campaign for him.

At the end of the book he gives 45 "Lessons to lead by." If we all lived by them, the world would be a better place, guaranteed. Most notable lessons for me personally : Innovate or die, the relentless pursuit of perfection, true integrity, avoid getting into the business of trombone-oil manufacturing, good leadership is about helping others be prepared to step into your shoes, optimism is faith in yourself and your people, no to pessimism, repeat your priorities clearly: This is where we want to be. This is how we're going get there, focus on the Future not the Past, if something doesn't feel right to you it won't be right for you, most deals are personal, be humble.

Absolutely recommended reading, reads down quickly, I would have liked to have more details and explanations, but you notice, he is used to limit himself to the essentials and so he steals no time, but tells concisely the most important. He resigned as CEO shortly before the global pandemic.

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