The Ride of a Lifetime

I recently finished reading Robert (Bob) Iger’s memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime. The Disney CEO takes readers through his experience of acquiring powerhouses like Marvel Entertainment, Pixar, and LucasFilms and how he encourage his team to continue innovating while Disney struggled to remain relevant in the ever-changing digital landscape (early 2000s) His insight on professional success and leadership is valuable, and he conveniently outlines his most important learnings at the end of the book. Here are a few paraphrases that stuck with me:

Don’t let ambition get ahead of opportunity. By fixating on a future job or project, you become impatient with where you are. You don’t tend enough to the responsibilities you do have, and so ambition can become counterproductive. It’s important to know how to find the balance – do the job you have well; be patient; look for opportunities to pitch in and expand and grow; and make yourself one of the people, through attitude and energy and focus, whom your bosses feel they have to turn to when an opportunity arises.

It’s easy to be optimistic when everyone is telling you you’re great. It’s much harder, and much more necessary, when your sense of yourself is on the line.

If something doesn’t feel right to you, it won’t be right for you.

Optimism goes a long way. Pessimism leads to paranoia, which leads to defensiveness, which leads to risk aversion. Optimism emerges from faith in yourself and in the people who work for you. It’s not about saying things are good when they’re not, and it’s not about conveying some blind faith that things will work out. It’s about believing in your and others’ abilities.

Long shots aren’t usually as long as they seem. With enough thoughtfulness and commitment, the boldest ideas can be executed. Keep in mind: this is where we want to be. This is how we’re going to get there.

“The relentless pursuit of perfection” is a mindset, or more specifically, a set of rules. It’s not about perfectionism at all costs. It’s about creating an environment in which people refuse to accept mediocrity. It’s about pushing back against the urge to say that good enough is good enough.

Managing creativity is an art, not a science. When giving notes, be mindful of how much of themselves the person you’re speaking to has poured into the project and how much is at stake for them. Furthermore, don’t start negatively, and don’t start small. People will often focus on little details as a way of masking a lack of any clear, coherent big thoughts. If you start petty, you seem petty.

Take responsibility when you screw up. In work, in life, you’ll be more respected and trusted by the people around you if you own up to your mistakes. It’s impossible to avoid them; but it is possible to acknowledge them, learn from them, and set an example that it’s okay to get things wrong sometimes.

True integrity – a sense of knowing who you are and being guided by your own clear sense of right and wrong – is a kind of a secret leadership weapon. If you trust your own instincts and treat people with respect, the company will come to represent the values you live by.

Value ability more than experience, and put people in roles that require more of them than they know they have in them.

Ask the questions you need to ask, admit without apology what you don’t understand, and do the work to learn what you need to learn as quickly as you can.

Become comfortable with failure – not with lack of effort, but with the fact that if you want innovation, you need to grant permission to fail.

Don’t be in the business of playing it safe. Be in the business of creating possibilities of greatness.

Do not invest in small projects that would sap my and the company’s resources and not give much back.

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