The Ride of A Lifetime – Robert Iger

I like autobiographies simply for the reason they chronicle a journey of both highs and lows in a person’s life. On a trip to Bali, I picked up this book The Ride of a Lifetime at a local bookshop and was mesmerised by the story of Robert Iger, a hugely successful executive and former CEO of Disney. I have always been fascinated by Disney as an organisation, and therefore, it was a spellbinding read on how to build and operate a successful organisation.

The book includes his insights and reflections and helps us understand the complex role of a business leader. Questions such as “Which thing am I not spending enough time on?” and “How do I effectively grapple with multiple tasks real time?” are ones that any business leader can relate to.

It is fascinating to learn how Igor ensured Disney’s acquisition of Pixar Animation from Steve Jobs and Lucasfilm from George Lucas of Star Wars fame. His experiences in dealing with iconic figures such as Jobs and Lucas and the way he built on Disney’s strengths while addressing its weaknesses make interesting reading.

While the book can be termed as a business autobiography, the book provides valuable insights on mergers and acquisitions, which are vital for the growth of an organisation. Performing due diligence as well as ensuring we are doing the right thing are on the mind of every business leader. Disney bought the most successful animation company Pixar. Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder, was the CEO and majority shareholder. It is engrossing to read the incident where Iger sounds out Steve Jobs about the acquisition saying, “I got a crazy idea,” only to find Steve Jobs responding, “There have been far more crazier ideas.” The intricacies of negotiating such a massive deal are described in simple and readable terms.

In addition, the book describes emotional highpoints poignantly, such as when Jobs disclosed the news about his pancreatic cancer to Iger just before the massive merger: “I am about to become your biggest shareholder and a member of your board,” Steve tells Iger, “and I think I owe you the right, given this knowledge, to back out of the deal.” Iger’s decision to go ahead with the acquisition turned out to be a huge advantage for Disney, making the company the world leader in animation.

His ‘lessons to lead by’ offers a valuable revisit to ideas that we have heard before, such as:

  • “Value ability more than experience and put people in roles that require more of them than they know they have in them.”
  • “I became comfortable with failure—not with lack of effort, but with the fact that if you want innovation, you need to grant permission to fail.”

I enjoyed reading the book and took away so many valuable lessons. Iger ran one of the world’s most successful and biggest companies, but these lessons are equally valuable to every entrepreneur, manager, and small business owner aspiring to greatness.