The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company
"There have been difficult, even tragic, days. But for me this has also been, to steal from a phrase, the happiest job on earth."
THE RIDE OF A LIFETIME
A grand vision defined: The CEO of The Walt Disney Company shares the ideas and values he has used to reinvent one of the most beloved companies in the world, and inspire the people who bring the magic to life.
In 2005, Robert Iger became CEO of The Walt Disney Company during a difficult time. Morale had deteriorated, competition was more intense, and technology was changing faster than at any time in the company's history.
|Shanghai Disneyland (Courtesy of Capricorn Song, Unsplash)|
The book opens in June 2016, with Robert having made his fortieth trip to China in the past eighteen years. He was to open Shanghai Disneyland, which he states “was the biggest accomplishment of my career.” The park had cost a whopping $6 billion to build. At 963 acres, it was eleven times the size of Disneyland.
Not long after this, with Robert still in Shanghai, gearing up for the biggest event in his career, he received news of another tragic event, “There was an alligator attack in Orlando.” He soon learned that a young boy had been attacked, was missing, and that rescue teams hadn’t yet found the body. The boy’s name was Lane Graves.
The reason I included this part of the intro was because I thought about just how deeply affected Robert must have been and how he was able to convey that through his writing. Here he was, the biggest moment of his career, struck by two huge tragedies within days of each other. As CEO, he wanted to deal with them directly, but also states, “you trust your people to do their jobs.”
I absolutely love that Robert brings up Jiro Dreams of Sushi in the book. It’s one of my favourite documentaries, and it’s so nice to see Iger’s respect for Jiro. Robert loved the documentary so much that he showed excerpts of it to 250 executives at a Disney retreat. “I wanted them to understand better, through the example of Jiro, what I meant when I talked about “the relentless pursuit of perfection.” This is what it looks like to take immense personal pride in the work you create, and to have both the instinct toward perfection and the work ethic to follow through on instinct.”
|Miniature park design, Walt Disney Imagineering studios|
Another thing I loved about the book was the mention of Walt Disney Imagineering. I’ve watched The Imagineering Story on Disney+, which I also recommend. Stating Imagineering in simple terms, Iger says, “it is the creative and technical heart of everything we build that isn’t a film or TV show or consumer product. All of our theme parks and resorts and attractions, cruise ships and real estate developments, all of the live performances and light shows and parades, every detail from the design of a cast member’s costume to the architecture of our castles emanates from Imagineering. It is impossible to overstate the creative and technical brilliance of Disney’s Imagineers.”
|Courtesy of Wikipedia|
Robert Iger was the executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company and directed the company’s creative endeavours. He served as CEO from 2005 to 2020. He previously was president and COO from 2000 to 2005. Iger began his career at ABC in 1974, and as chairman of the ABC Group he oversaw the broadcast television network and station group, managed the cable television properties, and guided the merger between Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., and The Walt Disney Company.