Ride of a Lifetime (Book Summary)

August 20, 2020

Book Summary: Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

The book starts with Iger opening Disney Beijing at the same time as the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and a boy killed by a gator at one of the hotels. Iger has a chain of command—some information comes right to him but some doesn’t. There’s a defined escalation framework.

Ten Principles from his career

  1. Optimism
  2. Courage
  3. Focus
  4. Decisiveness
  5. Curiosity
  6. Furnace
  7. The fullness
  8. Authenticity
  9. Relentless pursuit of perfection
  10. Integrity

Thin margin in his home life, dad struggled with manic depression and parents were worriers. Decided he was going to be an optimist.

Learned ethics and work ethic from parents. Worked as a janitor in the summer in high school, scraping gum off the bottom of desks.

Went to Ithaca College and worked most weeknights at a Domino’s. Started out as the weatherman in Ithica and learned to give bad news. Started at ABC as a production assistant. Worked on a live Frank Sinatra show in Madison Square Garden. Had a corrupt boss, so moved to ABC Sports. Boss at ABC Sports was a perfectionist, he learned how to get things done no matter what and pursue perfection. From Rune (his boss) learned to give people second chances while still holding high standards, rather than making people fearful and playing them off each other like Rune did.

ABC was acquired by Capital Cities. In the ‘88 Olympics, Iger impressed the new owners and got moved up to VP and then eventually became head of ABC Entertainment.

ABC Entertainment

  • Innovate or die: Twin Peaks
  • Biggest lesson first year of running prometime: be comfortable with failure. If you want innovation you need to give permission to fail (example: Cop Rock). Own your own failures
  • Makes a habit of connecting with everyone at a table

Disney acquires Cap Cities/ABC and Iger is hired to oversee the ABC part of the company.

COO hired in over him from CAA, conflict between COO and Eisner. Openly bitter and COO not showing Eisner respect.

How to manage ambitious for people? He’s asked this a lot. Be eager for people you manage to want more responsibility. However, have to balance that with doing a good job at your current job. Dreaming about future job shouldn’t distract from the present. Can’t let ambition get too far ahead of opportunity. Tend to responsibilites you do have. Do the job you have well. Be patient. Look for opportunities to pitch and Expand and grow. Make yourself one of the people, through attitude, energy and focus, that your bosses feel they have to turn to when a new opportunity arises. If you’re “a boss, nurture those people.

Good leadership isn’t about being indispensable. It’s about getting others ready to step into your shoes and being honest with them about why they’re not ready.

Roy Disney - revered the past rather than expecting it. Didn’t like anything new. Comcast takeover bid. Roy vs Eisner.

Succession process - only thing you can control is your behavior. Try not to be impatient.

Lesson from the deal with Roy - don’t let ego get in the way of making the best possible decision.

Life Lessons Appendix

  • To tell great stories, you need great talent
  • Innovate or die
  • Relentless pursuit of perfection - mindset, not perfectionism, refuse to accept mediocrity
  • Take responsibility when you screw up
  • Be decent to people, treat everyone with fairness and empathy - second chances for honest mistakes
  • True integrity is a kind of secret leadership weapon, trust own instinct
  • Value ability more than experience
  • Ask questions you have to ask and admit when you don’t understand
  • Giving notes, be mindful of how much person has poured in to the project; don’t start negative, don’t start small
  • If you want innovation, grant permission to fail
  • Dan Burke - avoid manufacturing trombone oil (don’t invest in small projects that won’t give much back)
  • When people at top of company have a dysfunctional relationship, the rest of the company will be
  • Have to be attentive as a leader
  • All of us want to think we’re indispensable, give access to your own decision making
  • Company is the sum total of the actions of its people and the quality of its products
  • Micromanaging is underrated
  • Don’t lead from a place of fear, difficult to cannabalize your own business
  • Can’t communicate pessimism to people around you, optimism is from faith in self and people that work for you and their abilities
  • Longshots aren’t usually as long as they seem
  • Need to articulate priorities often and clearly, you can do a lot for morale by taking guesswork out of people’s lives
  • Tech advancements will make older business models obsolete
  • Should be about the future, not the past
  • Treating others with respect is undervalued currency when negotiating, a little goes a long way; have to do homework and be prepared
  • As a leader, you’re the embodiment of the company
  • When firing, give clear explanation and avoid corporate talk
  • In any negotiation, be clear about where you stand from the beginning
  • Avoid projecting your anxiety on your team; there’s a difference between communicating you share their stress and you need them to deliver to alleviate your stress
  • Most deals are personal, even more true when negotiating over something the other person has created
  • If you’re in the business of making something, make something great
  • Decision to disrupt current business model takes courage - deal with uncertainty by going back to basics: lay out priorities, remain optimistic, and be accessible and fair-minded with employees whose work lives may be upended by the innovation
  • Not good to have power for too long; don’t want people to be afraid to disagree with you
  • Approach work and life with genuine humility
  • Hold on to awareness of self, even if you become big and powerful. If you only see a title when you look in the mirror, you’ve lost your way

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