The Ride of a Lifetime – Bob Iger

Ride of a Lifetime is easily one of the best business books one can read and relate to. The most fascinating thing about the book is that Robert Iger started at the bottom, worked in the same company for over 30 years, and went on to become the CEO.

Humble beginnings: Robert Iger started at the bottom. His dad switched multiple jobs and considered himself not so successful. In his early days at school, Bon did part-time work at schools, cleaning gum from the bottoms of thousands of desks (This builds character). Bob is an early riser. He wakes up at 4:15 am in the morning every day. 

Compartmentalize: Not all days are good at work. You have good meetings and bad meetings. It is important to compartmentalize your work and not get carried away by the not so good meetings or happenings that are not in your control. Bob’s example of him working more than a decade to open a Disney park in China and on the same day, he learns about shooting near the Disney park in Orlando and a boy being killed by a crocodile in the Disney park. He needs to compartmentalize and not let his emotions ruin the opening of the Disney park in Shanghai. 

Innovate or Die: Roone Arledge was one of his first bosses at Disney and he learned relentless pursuit of perfection and no detail was too small for Rooney. Bob went on to become Rooney’s boss later. Innovate or Die is another great thing Bob learned from Rooney. Owning up mistakes (it builds character and respect), creating an environment where you do not tolerate mediocrity and a leader is only as good as the people he/she surrounds himself with are other great lessons from the book. 

Respect: Bob in his book The Ride of a Life Time stresses the importance of treating everyone with fairness, empathy, and respect. Respect is also free. 

Betting on Talent, Costs, and Decentralization: Tom Murphy and Dan Burke were his bosses during his ABC days. They bet on him. Robert Iger did not have the relevant experience however they bet on him that he will learn, figure things out, and get it done. They bet more on his ability than experience. Tom and Dan were also generous with their time so everyone was working in tandem. Tom and Dan were one of the best investors or managers and they were hypervigilant about controlling costs and believed in decentralized operations. Decentralization, hiring the best possible people and giving them autonomy and imposing rigorous cost controls  – These were the mantras of Tom Murphy and Dan Burke.

Get Help: It is important to know what you do not know. You will have to assemble a group of talented people to produce at the highest level. Do not play it safe and do not pretend as if you know everything.  

Patience: One of the things you will learn reading this book is Patience. Bob waits a lot of years with patience  (not knowing if he would rise to the top). Even becoming the CEO of Disney was not an easy process. Bob was not sure if he would get the approval of the board. He inherited a lot of Michael Eisner’s work and the Disney board was not super thrilled with Michael’s work. Bob did not want to disown Michael and at the same time, he needed to make a case for him to be the CEO. This part of the book is a great read where he presents a plan for the future. Till the very last minute, he was not certain if he would be hired for the top job. The board could have easily chosen an outsider for the position.

Pixar, Marvel & Lucas Films:  The second half of the book talks about the role of Bob Iger as CEO of Disney. Bob reveals what led up to each of the acquisitions and how it helped Disney. His friendship with Steve Jobs and Steve joining the board of Disney and supporting Bob Iger were great to read. The acquisition of Pixar led to the transformation of Disney Animation. John Lasseter was one of the key hires that came with the PIXAR acquisition and Bob was excited to have him on board. However circumstances changed and after a few years, he had to let John Lasseter go following sexual harassment complaints. Letting go of people is one of the hardest things one can do and as a leader, he had to do it. However, he always ensured to treat everyone with respect. These brands have served Disney well.

Appendices: In The Ride of A Lifetime, Bob Iger documents all his learnings in the last few pages of his book. The appendices by itself are great learning for anyone looking for business lessons.

This is a great business book and a must-read for anyone looking to progress in their career. 

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