The Big Life

March 17, 2009

Presentation Summary

The road to success is built on ideas. Ideas are flames of the imagination. Ideas light up the world. In Kevin Roberts’ recent lecture to students at Ripley St. Thomas School, he outlines five big ideas to put them on the path to the Big Life.

Big Life

If you are going through hell, pin your ears back and keep on driving right through to the other side!!

I left school believing in an idea, believing that a kid from the streets of Lancaster could win the world.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about today, how to live the big life, no matter who you are, no matter where you’re from, whether you’re brainy, sporty, nerdy, crazy, some or all of the above.

My road to success is built on ideas. Don’t confuse ideas with knowledge. Knowledge is only a click away. Ideas are flames of the imagination. Ideas light up the world.

Here are five ideas I believe in:

Idea #1 – Dream

It all starts with a dream…

Martin Luther King did not say I have a business plan. Nor did JK Rowling, Bill Gates, Posh Spice, Steve Jobs, Paul Potts, Lily Allen, Freddie Flintoff or the kids of Slumdog Millionaire….

Don’t count the stars, reach for them!

President John F Kennedy challenged Americans in the 1960s with the seemingly impossible dream: “To put an American on the Moon and return him safely by the end of the decade.”

This dream set off a whole lot of planning, investment, hardcore science, endless experimentation. And they got to the Moon, and back again.

Once it was spoken, JFK’s dream could become reality. But without the dream all that practical stuff in the world doesn’t add up to enough.

Dreams are all about passion. Follow what you have a passion for!! Don’t get sucked into following the herd, your peers, the norm or other people’s expectations – or worst of all, your parents!

I’ve been poor and rich – rich is better!! Being poor takes up all your time. Money gives you choices, and sets you free. So follow your passion, then start figuring out how to make loads of dough doing that!

Walt Disney said: “If you can dream it you can do it”. And don’t be afraid to celebrate when you do.

Don’t pull back from the passion. Turn it on full force.

If you love something, you’ll bring so much of yourself to it that it will create your future.

Idea #2 – Avoid Moderation

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the common place, the slaves of the ordinary.” – Cecile Beaton.

Don’t wait for your “real” life to begin. News flash! Your real life has already started, fueled by your attitude. The right attitude launches you like a rocket.

I’ve always ignored warnings against enthusiasm. Nothing succeeds like excess. Avoid moderation. Be hot, or cold, but not lukewarm.

My first job was with fashion legend Mary Quant. Mary made skirts shorter than your attention span. Audacity got me that job. Mary hired me when I said I’d go anywhere, do anything, for half the price of anyone else, and double her sales.

The best results happen when you zag while everyone else zigs. If you go on doing what has always been done, you stay in the same place.

Mary Quant zagged the direction of hemlines when she invented the mini-skirt. Women loved this. Men loved it even more!!

Just don’t blow it by getting into the wrong car or inhaling the wrong air. Life’s got too many highs for that rubbish. Attitude!

Idea #3 – Pursue Failure

When I took over as CEO at Saatchi & Saatchi I was 47, I’d never worked in advertising before and we were facing bankruptcy. I was skating on thin ice, but as ice hockey champ Wayne Gretsky said: You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.

Failure is the ultimate reality check. Be in over your head. Don’t be afraid to lose because only then will you know what you’re made of. You discover your limits when you crash up against them.

Your ability to overcome daily setbacks counts. Experience failure, bounce back harder and smarter.

When I ran Lion Nathan, my last job – at a beer brewery, I brought a live lion to a meeting. It helped the analysts develop their understanding of risk!!

When the Wright Brothers flew for the first time it was only after seventy attempts. They understood that someone who never makes a mistake, never makes a discovery. Seventy opportunities to learn and perfect.

Ask dumb questions. If you feel a question is too stupid to ask, you’ve probably stumbled on something everyone needs an answer to!!

The dumb question cuts to the heart of a problem. “Why are we sailing into an iceberg?” would have been a good one to ask on the bridge of the Titanic!

If you obsess about your mistakes, you’ll keep making them. Learn from other people’s mistakes as well. You don’t have time to make them all yourself!

“Pursue failure”, doesn’t mean “keep on failing”. It means push as close to failure as you dare. And learn from it when you push too far. A genius is a person who makes the same mistake. Once!

Idea #4 – Be an Inspirational Player

I wrote a business book called Peak Performance. I teach Peak Performance at Cambridge. It’s being taught at the very highest levels of global companies like Procter & Gamble and Toyota.

It boils down to being the best you can be. I’ve wanted to be the best I can be since I was a kid.

Being average can get really boring later on. Being the best you can be, in your mind not in anybody else’s, is a cool thing. It means you don’t get frustrated, you don’t get bitter, you don’t get cynical and you don’t get jealous.

If you know you’re giving it all you can give it feels great. No-one can ask for more. You feel upbeat, positive, optimistic and seriously happy.

To be the best you can be takes a higher road than leadership. It takes Inspiration, which unlocks your potential, and the potential of everyone you touch.

The greatest thing you can do with your life is to be an inspiration to others. To help them do the things they thought were just beyond their grasp. Your parents, favorite teachers, your best friends lift you in this way.

That takes courage – but in turn transforms your life with fun and adventure, passion and commitment. None of us is as strong as all of us.

Adults have messed up the planet, so it’s down to young people, it’s down to you to change things.

Philosopher Dan Dennett on happiness: “the secret is to find something bigger than yourself and then devote your life to it.”

Idea # 5 – Think With Your Heart

Everyone knows that the lead husky has the best view. But to get out front you have to learn to trust your instincts and follow your heart.

The head is fine for calculations, and even better at coming up with explanations for why you did something. After you’ve done it!

Trouble is most of the decisions we make aren’t rational at all. They are emotional. Once you figure this out the world changes shape.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask your science teachers. People have been awarded Nobel Prizes for this stuff.

Brain scientist Donald Calne says: reason leads to conclusion; emotion leads to action. He’s right.

Your heart is the compass that points to your happiness, Make the small decisions with your head; the big ones with your heart.

When my head has bullied my heart, I’ve made mistakes. Be clear about what you value in life. In your heart, you know – or you will know – what will make you happy. Take responsibility for getting there.

I see a lot of bright futures out there. You’ve got the world at your finger tips, at your thumb tips in this Age of Apple, so no excuses!

Remember to dream, remember to “zag”, to pursue failure, to be an Inspirational Player and to think with your heart – and the Big Life will be all yours.

Our spirit at Saatchi & Saatchi is Nothing is Impossible. Nothing!

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