Archive for March, 2010

Ryan Seacrest - Just Lucky?
Sunday, March 28th, 2010

This blog is a slight departure from my normal topics and not something I would typically write about. I recently saw Ryan Seacrest on Oprah (you can watch part of it here). While I knew he is host of American Idol, I really did not know anything else about him. In fact I have never seen a single episode of American Idol. Nonetheless, a few things he said on Oprah really struck a chord with me. He can’t sing, he can’t dance, he can’t act, and he is not particularly good-looking, although he does have a nice dose of charm and charisma. So how does a person like this, with no particular talent, become host of one of the world’s all-time  most popular TV shows in history?

Many might say, he’s just lucky…

It would be easy to say that he landed this job by chance and that is what sent his career skyward. Well, after hearing him on Oprah for 20 minutes, one quickly realizes that this was not luck and no accident whatsoever. I have come to learn that whenever you see someone that is wildly successful, the chance of it being just plain dumb luck is very slim, and this is just another example. Ryan Seacrest has pursued a dream since high school. He worked as an intern on a radio show until midnight every night all through high school.   He had a passion for radio, TV, and entertainment. He started from the ground up, working wherever he could in this industry.  His idols growing up were Merv Griffin and Larry King. He now works 18 hour days, working about 7-8 different jobs simultaneously (hosting 2 radio shows, 2 tv shows, runs a production company, among other stuff). Ryan does not consider this work, its his passion. Its what he has dreamed of and worked towards since he was a little boy. This is not luck, its dedication and a lot of hard work. Was it lucky that American Idol turned out to be the craze it turned into? Sure. But Ryan would have found success with or without the success of American Idol.

Having recently read Seth Godin’s Linchpin, you can quickly identify Ryan Seacrest as a Linchpin. He has taken his passion and turned into an art form. As Seth explains, “Some people are hooked on passion, deriving their sense of self from the act of being passionate…the combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin“. He put in the time, the effort, the creativity and leveraged his career every step of the way. In fact, when Oprah asked him what he learned from Larry King, it was simply that Larry leveraged his position, experience, and showmanship to get even more important interviews and bigger and better jobs. Ryan has done the same. Leveraging his knowledge, experience, and success to get the next ‘big’ thing. He is now embarking on a new project with Chef mega-superstar Jamie Oliver. No luck, just leveraging his success and experience for the next big thing.

All successful people do this, and that is how they become successful. You may only see the end result and be quick to conclude they ‘got lucky’, but only when you see how these individuals turned passion, art, hard work, long hours, and a series of successes (and failures) to get to that point, do you realize that there was little luck involved. Ryan Seacrest is no different. No dumb luck, just a lot of passion and a lot of hard work.

Re-invent or Defend?
Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Watch this video:

Compelling, no? But my question is - why are these CEOs of multi-billion dollar businesses spending time, money and effort on this video? If they were busy creating, thriving, growing, as indicated, do you really think they would be so concerned with a few hundred bloggers, pundits, and critics that announce publishing is dead? Truth is, nobody really thinks publishing is dead - newspapers, books, and magazines will be around for quite some time yet. But there is a loud voice that has been warning everyone that the digital era changes the game. So what should publishers and other businesses in similar situations do?

Re-invent or defend?

Why waste time and energy on defense? Do you think this video is going to cause people to rush off and buy more magazines?  Do you think it will slow down the pace of change and digital delivery of content? I don’t think so. Instead of whining and defending the past, they should spend more time and energy on re-inventing. Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired isn’t wasting time, he’s re-inventing.

Other companies, like Blockbuster, have chosen to live in the past. I recently had a terrible customer service experience at Blockbuster and all I could think - here is a company that has a shrinking market and a business model that cannot survive, and they cannot even provide decent customer service? Blockbuster would rather defend their past and spend time on creating more convoluted and complex return policies. First stating  ‘no late fees’ with a complex set of rules/conditions and now the geniuses have decided to make a return to ‘late fees’? It is not a surprise to see them struggling. While wasting time protecting their existing business model, companies like Netflix and Vudu are whizzing by. Does anyone think that renting physical DVDs is an industry that will grow? Certainly not Walmart, who simply decided to purchase Vudu and enter the market of digital movie delivery. No whining, no living in the past, simply re-inventing. 

Same can be said for Amazon, the largest seller of books. It would be easy for Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, to sit back and whine about the book industry and try to defend publishers and the medium of the printed book. Instead, Jeff chose to re-invent the industry with the first commercially, affordable e-reader; the Kindle, with a simple cost-effective delivery mechanism. Just as Apple did with the iPod, Amazon has done with books, and now all other book retailers/publishers must play catch-up.

It will be interesting to see which companies will not only survive but thrive in this digital revolution. It’s an ongoing battle and ongoing opportunity. Which companies do you think are doing well or struggling in this transition?

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