The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Bob Iger — CEO and Chairman of Disney (#406)

Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Robert A. Iger (@RobertIger), Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company.

Iger is the steward of one of the world’s largest media companies and some of the most respected and beloved brands around the globe. Since becoming CEO in 2005, Iger has built on Disney’s rich history of storytelling and innovation with the acquisitions of Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009), Lucasfilm (2012) and 21st Century Fox (2019), and the landmark opening of Disney’s first theme park and resort in mainland China, Shanghai Disney Resort in 2016.

Always one to embrace new technology, Iger has created an ambitious direct-to-consumer strategy that leverages Disney’s unparalleled creative content across new platforms, including the new Disney+ streaming service, ESPN+, Hulu, and Hotstar.

He serves on the boards of the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum and Bloomberg Philanthropies. He is a graduate of Ithaca College.

His new autobiography is titled The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, which offers stories and lessons about dealmaking, leadership, and much more.

Transcripts may contain a few typos—with some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it’s difficult to catch some minor errors. Enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

#406: Bob Iger — CEO and Chairman of Disney


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Tim Ferriss: Bob, welcome to the show.

Bob Iger: Thank you very much. Nice to be here.

Tim Ferriss: I have been studying the path that you have traveled to get to where you are and it’s such an embarrassment of riches—from an interviewing perspective, it’s hard to know where to begin. But I was taking a look at a few different chapters in your life and in your book, and I thought we might start with—if you could tell the story of your whiteboard session with Steve Jobs and the pro and con list, and you can give context however you think is best.

Bob Iger: Sure. I called Steve Jobs with a crazy idea, the idea being that Disney should buy Pixar. And one of the things I learned: when you mentioned to Steve you had a crazy idea, he needed to hear it right away. So even though I wanted to wait and tell him in person, he forced me to tell him on the phone. But instead of either laughing me off the phone or rejecting it summarily, he invited me up to meet him at Apple to discuss it further. And some time after the phone call that I had made, I found myself sitting in the boardroom at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, alone at a long, long table with a whiteboard on the wall that was almost as long as the table itself, so many, many feet.

And Steve said we needed to have an exercise to discuss the pros and cons of Pixar being bought by Disney. As I probably should have expected, Steve was the one that held the writing instrument and stood at the board. So he was kind of the conductor of the session in more ways than one. And he said something like, “You go first,” and I didn’t really have the guts to go first. I said, “No, you go first,” and he wrote pros and cons, just as you expect, and started listing a set of cons that seemed like a mile long to me. They were so numerous, so much so that I said to him at some point when he had said to me, “Why don’t you name a few pros?” I said, “It hardly seems worth it. You’ve listed so many cons that I don’t really see how we go forward.”

And he said, “No, no, you’ve got to come up with a few,” and I did. I suggested a few. Actually to his credit as I recollect, he had a couple as well, but by the time we were done with the exercise, the list was still far more tilted in the con direction than the pro direction. So I reiterated to him my pessimism about doing anything, basically saying, “Given the fact that the cons are so more numerous than the pros, maybe this is just futile.” And he said, “No, not at all. Just sometimes a couple of really big pros far outweigh many, many cons,” which I thought was quite interesting. He was able to look at this list and not count the sheer number of items, but tally up the kind of the relative importance or lack thereof of the items.

And that led to him saying something like, “Let’s keep the door open. We should continue to talk about this. What do we need to do next?” And that led to me saying, “I think I need to visit Pixar. I think the way I put it, “To see what’s under the hood,” suggesting that I look under and take a really close look at the engine that was Pixar, and see where I could get at, whether the value was there for us to buy.

Tim Ferriss: And some of the cons that Steve put on this board were seemingly so strong that you couldn’t possibly overturn them or outweigh them or counterbalance them in the sense that some were “Disney’s culture will destroy Pixar.”

Bob Iger: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: “Your board will never let you do it.”

Bob Iger: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: And “Distraction will kill Pixar’s creativity,” all caps.

Bob Iger: Thank you. By the way, you’re quoting from my book. I don’t have it in front of me, but yes, those were all things that he said. Of those three—by the way, I think we both felt that it was not a foregone conclusion that the Disney board would let us do this. But that was not the biggest deterrent, at least not that day. He had really, really, strong feelings about the culture of Pixar and the need to protect and preserve it. And his experience with Disney, well, it might’ve been good at one point, had turned horribly bad, and he viewed Disney as an overly bureaucratic, overly process-oriented, not overly collaborative culture. And he thought that if we owned Pixar, that type of culture would obliterate the culture that was at Pixar, and he felt that Pixar culture was more responsible for their creative success than any one thing or any one person.

And this actually played out in great detail as the negotiation wore on, his desire to make sure that even in a full-blown sale to Disney, that Disney would not, in effect, impose its culture on Pixar to the detriment of Pixar. And that was a theme that not only dominated the negotiation, but actually once we went forward after the deal was done, we took a lot of steps to see that that didn’t happen.

Tim Ferriss: I have a few questions about this specific meeting and also your orientation going into a meeting like that. I recall watching an interview you did some time ago, this was a few years ago, with Kara Swisher and Marc Andreessen on stage. And you were talking about how at one point, as it relates to earnings calls and so on, speaking publicly about the challenges and the, and I’m paraphrasing here of course, but the difficult perhaps obstacles or threats, gives you increased credibility than when you’re talking about the things that you’re excited about or optimistic about.

And when I was reading this description of the meeting, I had to wonder what your read of Steve was in the room as he was writing down all these cons, and was he playing the reluctant seller to hide enthusiasm about possibly getting the deal done? Or how did you interpret the feeling in the room at that point?

Bob Iger: I never detected that Steve was ever acting or trying to act or saying anything or trying to communicate or convey anything to me other than what was really true or what he really believed, that this was not a charade in any way. I think he was intrigued with the notion of selling Pixar, which is not something he had been thinking about very seriously, but he hadn’t yet come to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do. He came to the conclusion that it was the right thing to seriously consider. And so I felt that everything he was putting on the table in front of me or on the board in front of me were things that he genuinely believed or was concerned about. And so authenticity was to me very apparent that day, and actually it was always the case with him as I came to both learn and appreciate.

Tim Ferriss: I had read in a separate profile, and please correct me if I’m getting this wrong, that Steve used to call you—now it says Saturday mornings. I don’t know if it was limited to Saturday mornings—but when he thought a film was a dud. Is that true? Could you elaborate?

Bob Iger: Steve, I sense while he liked his quiet time and he liked to be still, never allowed himself to be quiet or still for too long. And weekends sometimes I think got a little quiet for him. And so he would call me on a fairly regular basis on weekends and actually say, “I was just bored, so I called you.” I don’t think I said that; I don’t think I wrote that in the book. So the calls were often not about anything, just about things. In other words, “Hey, let’s talk.” It’s Saturday morning. It was usually late Saturday morning or late Saturday afternoon, “Let’s just chat. Like, what are you doing?” And what I loved about those calls is he was generous too. I could easily ask him the question, “Well, what are you doing?” And there were times he’d go into a dissertation about some product he was developing at Apple, for instance. So it became like almost this private lecture series that I was participating in. I came to really appreciate those calls.

And there’s one particular one that you mentioned, he called Saturday with something specific on his mind. It was actually I think on Sunday that time, and he said, “Hey, how are you?” Which was very quick, often. “I went to the movies last night with my son Reed, and we saw Iron Man 2, and it sucked.” Like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Not even giving me a chance to say, “Oh, you saw Iron Man 2? That’s nice.” No, it was like, right—stream of consciousness, no pause, “I saw Iron Man 2 and it sucked.” “Oh,” I remember saying to him, “That’s interesting. I respect your opinion, but it’s not consistent with the opinion of many others. It did extremely well. The audience voted, and they liked it.” And he chuckled, he said, “Well, I just, I thought it was terrible and so did Reed.” And that was it. That was it. And I think I said at that point, “Well, you’re entitled to your opinions.”

One of the things that I loved about my relationship with him, and I give him all the credit for this, is he quickly brought our relationship to the point where he could say things to me that were honest and sometimes, well, harsh in a way, but without meaning to harm anybody. In other words, I never felt threatened. He challenged me, but I never felt threatened or abused or criticized to a point of it damaging me or my reputation or my relationship with him.

Tim Ferriss: I’d love to hop backwards in time, although I suppose the recollection of this is present tense, but for people who don’t know the name and I looked up some video to try to ensure I’m pronouncing this correctly, Roone Arledge, that name came up very close to the whiteboard story that we were discussing in the following context. “One of the things I’ve always instinctively felt,” I’m quoting here, “And something that was greatly reinforced working for people like Roone and Michael is that long shorts—long shots, excuse me—is that long shots aren’t usually as long as they seem.” Could you describe what you mean by that and how that was taught to you or how you absorbed it from say Roone in this example?

Bob Iger: Roone Arledge was president of ABC Sports when I started at ABC Sports in the mid ’70s, and someone I worked for, for 10 years. He worked for me for 10 years as well. And then he also became president of ABC News. And he established a reputation in both places as being a gigantic risk-taker, a showman, an innovator, and someone with an incredible eye for a great story. And he’s given credit for basically being the father of modern day television sports coverage, and one of the—and which he deserved by the way—and one of the reasons he gets that credit is that he was willing to try a lot of big things, things that had not been done before, and go places that no one had ever gone, tell stories that no one had ever told. Just generally, he was quite an innovator.

And one of the things that I quickly learned from Roone is he had a lot of big ideas that he would turn then to his team, which I was a member, and ask us to implement them. And it’s very easy sometimes when someone brings a big idea to you, to say, “Well, that’s almost impossible to do,” or “This’ll never happen,” or “I don’t know how I’ll get that done.” But working for him, you quickly learned that he didn’t take no for an answer and he expected you to pull out all the stops. Never, by the way, forcing us to suffer a loss of integrity or do something that wasn’t morally correct, but he certainly believed that all the energy in the world should be applied to getting a tough task done, or all the ingenuity.

And I loved, particularly in my 20s when I started working for him, I loved that lesson because he didn’t take no for an answer, and I think there’s a lot of value in that. So he could ask us to do things. I remember once he asked me, when I was a lowly programmer for a program called ABC’s Wide World of Sports, to get the rights to the World Table Tennis Championships, which were going to be taking place in Pyongyang, North Korea, as a for instance. Not the easiest thing in the world to even figure out how to do, but it resulted in meetings in Beijing and with the North Koreans and ultimately getting the rights, and then having to deal with the US State Department, who wouldn’t let ABC Sports pay the North Koreans directly because of sanctions, and having to pay World Table Tennis Federation out of Wales, the money that would then go to the North Koreans, and so on, and so on.

A near-herculean task that in Roone’s mind was never particularly herculean, it was just something he felt we should do. And we got the rights through tremendous amount of perseverance and ingenuity, and sent a crew in to Pyongyang, North Korea, in I think 1979. What I remember is that it was the first US crew of any kind, television crew of any kind, that went to Pyongyang since before the Korean War.

Tim Ferriss: You strike me, and have always struck me as I’ve followed much of what you’ve done in the world as an exceptionally good and creative dealmaker, and I would love to know how that, if that’s—I mean I’ve taken it to be true—but where that was cultivated, or who helped you to develop that skill to think through something that others might give up on, like this task you were given, and to find the workarounds, to look for the possibilities, instead of just staring at the obstacles? Who helped to cultivate that in you or teach you that ability to deal-make?

Bob Iger: Well, as I think back on this Odyssey of a career, and I’m often asked kind of, “How did you get where you are?” I will answer the question directly, but three things come to mind in terms of contributing to my success. Two are not relevant to this question: hard work and luck. The third one is mentorship. I worked for some incredibly talented people, talented creatively, talented from a pure business perspective. And they either consciously and proactively taught me a lot or I simply learned by watching them, learning from them through observation. And one would be the ability to negotiate, and Michael Eisner was great at that, Roone Arledge was great at that, a few other of my bosses at ABC Sports. A man named Jim Spence was particularly good at it. Just people that were constantly kind of going head to head with some entity that was selling something that we wanted to buy, knowing that they had to buy it because it was important to the organization, they needed to get it fast so that no one else did, and they needed to get it at the best possible price.

And so I watched people do that, and not only how to get the best outcome, but how to get the best outcome the fastest or how to even convince someone who wasn’t even intent on selling something to sell it to us, which was the case with Steve at that point and it was the case with George Lucas a number of years later, it was Lucasfilm, was the case with Ike Perlmutter and Marvel. These were businesses that were not necessarily for sale that we first convinced—I guess I did in all three cases—them to sell, and then convinced them to sell at a price that made the most sense, not only for us, but for them as well. But I worked for great people and, for over a long period of time, I was in the business for 30 years before I got the job as CEO of The Walt Disney Company. 30 years, that’s a long education.

Tim Ferriss: It’s a long education, and I would say that you seem to have done a very good job of learning lessons and then implementing skills along the way. I mean, there are people who make the same mistakes for 20 years or 30 years or more, and you’ve evolved over time. When you look back at, whether it’s say, Jim Spence or the other people that you named, or your own experience, what are some of the things that separate a good negotiator from a great negotiator? Because the criteria that you mentioned for some of these negotiations, getting the deal done quickly, getting the best price possible for what would seem to be a pretty difficult cocktail. What in your mind separates the A players from the B players, from a negotiation standpoint?

Bob Iger: Well, I think first of all, the thing that sets a good negotiator apart from a bad negotiator is one that gets a deal done! It starts there, in a way that I think is satisfactory to both sides. I’ve always been a big believer, and this is sort of cliche, but negotiation should work both ways. The buyer and the seller should come away both feeling good about it, or maybe not both not feeling good about it, I’m not sure. But I happen to believe that a good negotiation is one that is conducted efficiently and effectively. I don’t think it’s something that should be necessarily protracted, because it takes a lot of time and energy. It should be one where the value that is seen by the buyer is delivered through the transaction by the transaction, which means that the price and the circumstances ought to, in some form or another, conform to the value proposition. That’s really important.

I like being very honest. I like getting to the heart of the negotiation fairly quickly. I like putting my cards on the table instead of keeping them completely close to one’s vest. There are times though in a negotiation where I found you do have to get up and walk away from the table if the terms that you’re looking at just do not make sense and be willing to lose a deal if you can’t get the right terms. I’ve done that a number of times. That’s, I think, just good, honest negotiating. I don’t approach negotiations with the need to win, I approach with a desire to close a deal. I guess that certainly contributes to winning—closing a deal. When I mean winning, I mean winning on all points, on all terms, et cetera, it’s not necessary to me.

Tim Ferriss: What do you say to your team or, at different points, your bosses or other people within your organization, who are hoping for a deal to get done that you’ve rejected because you could not get the terms that you wanted? Is there any way that you’ve learned to communicate that to other people who are part of a team who may have had more of an emotional attachment to a certain outcome? Or is everybody just on the same page from the get-go and you don’t have to have that conversation?

Bob Iger: No, I usually like to have a conversation with some member of my team who is entering in or embarking on a negotiation to get something. I usually like to have an understanding about what the expense of the—whatever the acquisition is—will be. In other words, set parameters. Go out and get it, provided it’s within a certain guidelines or expectations. And if you can’t get it at that, walk away or let’s have one more discussion. I like those that are negotiating on our behalf, things that matter to the company to the point where they’re brought to my attention, to know at what point walking away is acceptable, at what point, in effect, not getting something is okay because it’s no longer affordable or it’s no longer justifiable from an economic perspective.

Is that what you’re trying to get at here?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, that’s I think what I’m getting at. And I think what I’m also kind of tip, not tip-toeing, but moving, circling around, is a broader topic of risk-taking. You mentioned that Roone was a risk-taker. You have a reputation as a risk-taker. But from at least what I can see, you strike me as also very systematic, very calculated, in the best possible way. 

What was your first or any early exposure to risk-taking, whether your own or someone else’s that you learned from? Does anything come to mind as early influences in that regard?

Bob Iger: Well, I saw a lot of risk-taking at ABC Sports, but it was—like looking back, they were kind of quaint risks, or modest risks. I have to think about what some of those were, but I mean like Roone was one who stepped up early on and spent big money on buying rights to the Olympic Games and to covering sports, say the Winter Olympics, that were not necessarily sports that America was that familiar with and there were athletes who were not in any way household names, but he believed that he could turn the Olympic Games into, or find the stories in the Olympic Games, that would be of great interest to people throughout America regardless of what country the athlete was from, regardless of what sport they were in, as a for instance. I just watched that happen time and time again with them.

Tim Ferriss: Looking at the picture that the headlines paint of your various mega successes, I’d love to go all the way back to the very beginning at ABC, and correct me if I’m getting this wrong, but I want to say that you’ve mentioned that your first boss at ABC said you weren’t promotable. Is that true? And if so, why were you looked at as unpromotable?

Bob Iger: It turns out he was a thief, and he got fired. Actually, I think he was led out of the building, I’m told. I wasn’t there when it happened, but I think possibly with law enforcement people present, because he had been caught embezzling. But at the time, we were covering an event in New York and we had to get some pickup trucks for the event, and this is really kind of obscure, but this is how it happened. And I joked to someone, that was a coincidence, that I was moving apartments in New York that weekend, wouldn’t it be great if I could use the pickup truck over the weekend to move my furniture? I was actually just joking. They—because the pickup truck wasn’t even in my possession—they passed that along to this particular boss who was threatened by me already because I had been reluctant to carry out some of the orders that he had wanted carried out, mainly using company property for his personal gain, and so he already saw me as a threat. And when he heard this, he called me into his office.

He never challenged me at all on the pickup truck issue at all, but he simply said, “I don’t really believe you have a future here. In fact, Iger, you’re not promotable, and I’m giving you two weeks to find another job in this company or I’m going to fire you.” And it wasn’t until later that I found out that what had sparked this was someone spreading a rumor that I was potentially going to use the pickup truck, which was just silly.

Tim Ferriss: So what then happened in the subsequent two weeks?

Bob Iger: Well, I took him very seriously and there was a job posting system at the company—it’s kind of funny how quaint it was then; this is 1975—where there was a clipboard in the lobby, or near the lobby of most of the buildings that ABC was in. And on the clipboard were postings of open jobs of the company in various divisions. So I literally left his office, went down and looked at this clipboard to see whether there were other jobs at the company that I might see myself doing, so that I could get out of harm’s way.

And lo and behold, there was a job at ABC Sports. And what was coincidental about that is that I had been assigned to work on a Frank Sinatra concert at Madison Square Garden, and it was produced by Roone Arledge, who was head of ABC Sports. So Roone brought a lot of his ABC Sports production executives over to help produce the Frank Sinatra concert. So when I saw this job, ABC Sports, on the job posting system, I called people I had worked with on the concert, they immediately said, “Well, come on over and we’ll talk about it.” And because they knew me from the work I had done on the concert, they hired me on the spot.

I talked about luck contributing greatly to my success; it was just a matter of luck that I had worked on that show and that Roone had produced it and that the very people who would save me from this boss who would deem me unpromotable were people that I had worked with some months earlier and were willing to take me in, which proved to be just fantastic. I worked at ABC Sports for 13 years, 10 of them for Roone Arledge, and worked my way up to the point where I had been senior vice president of programming at ABC Sports, which then led me to other big jobs at ABC. All coming from that one moment of one, being called unpromotable, and going to a job posting system and finding a job.

Tim Ferriss: So wild how the little things, the seemingly little things, coalesce at these points.

Bob Iger: I think that’s true in life in many respects. You know, our lives in a way are a collection of little things, little occurrences, that loom larger and become much bigger as life goes on, and turn basically, completely change the direction of your life, based on something you never would have expected could or would.

Tim Ferriss: It’s really remarkable. And it also brings to mind, reading about many of your experiences, and I’m blanking on the attribution of this, but I read an essay not too long ago that talked about something called the luck surface area. So, not to discount luck as a factor, but that there are things you can do to increase the surface area on which luck can stick if it happens to cross your path. And I do like to explore habits in this podcast and there are a number of habits that come to mind as it relates to your life.

One is exercise, and it seems to be something you take very seriously. And I’m wondering if you could speak to what role you feel exercise and fitness has played in your trajectory or in life, I suppose broadly speaking. I can dig into more specifics, if helpful, but I’d love to just—

Bob Iger: No, I’d be glad to describe that and respond specifically, but I also want to come back to that whole notion of, can you increase the incidence of luck, or can you position yourself in a way that takes better advantage of luck than others, perhaps? So on, specifically regarding exercise, I exercise really for three reasons. One is health. The second is vanity. And the third is sanity.

The health part, my parents both had heart attacks at 40.

Tim Ferriss: Wow.

Bob Iger: And I learned at an early age that a healthy lifestyle could ultimately save my life. They lived till they were 85, by the way, both of them, but they didn’t live healthy lives, and I wanted to lead a healthy life and a long life. So I changed my diet and exercise at pretty much an early age, I’d say at 20 or—certainly under 25 years old.

Second, I like to look good. Maybe we all have a little bit of vanity in us. I guess you could argue that maybe looking good is a contributing factor to success, at least research suggests that it is. I’ve never really thought of it that way, but I’m keeping myself fit so I just look better. Makes me feel better.

And then the third is actually just as important as the first and that is, I need quiet time. I need alone time. I need a time to be still with my thoughts, and exercise provides that for me. It’s solitude except for one day a week when I take a bike ride with friends, I pretty much exercise alone. I have a trainer who comes in a couple of days after I’ve exercised alone, but I exercise alone six days a week and it gives me the time to dream, to think, to create, to organize, to prioritize, to reflect, you name it. And I find there’s an energizing quality to all of that, but there’s also a calming quality, and it has served me extremely well almost to the point of being a savior of sorts, meaning in the most, I don’t know, pressured times and the busiest times and times of either the most uncertainty or the most concern, I have that quiet time to exercise and give me a chance to either rejuvenate or put things in perspective. So huge value to that.

Tim Ferriss: What, for instance this week, you can pick any day, yesterday, today, tomorrow. What does your regimen look like? Distance in terms of specifics, like what time of day, how long, what type of exercises, what do the details look like?

Bob Iger: Well, today is slightly abnormal but not very, because I flew to New York from L.A. late yesterday afternoon, so last night would be my first night on the East Coast time this week. But I got up at 4:30, and 15 minutes later I was on what’s called a VersaClimber, which I have in my apartment in New York. It’s my go-to cardio exercise during the week; I ride a bike on weekends. And it’s not necessarily for the faint of heart; it’s something I’ve been doing since maybe 1991 or 1992 and it simulates climbing. It’s a post that goes into the air maybe about 10 feet and it has handgrips and foot pedals and you raise your arms and your legs in coordination, as if though you’re climbing up either a ladder or stairs inside of a building. And I listen to music when I do that. I have a television on, but with no sound.

And I like listening to music every day too. So I have numerous playlists or I’ll just listen to an artist or an album and sometimes I can close my eyes because I’m basically tied into this thing in some form and I can’t—it’s not easy to fall off. You don’t have to have your eyes—you’re not going to run into anything because you’re in one machine. So I did that for 45 minutes and did a little bit of stretching and some ball work afterward. Had a cup of coffee and read and looked at the newspaper and then got on with my day. The obvious needs, shower and shave and put on your work duds, and out the door I went at about—this morning—about 7:30.

Tim Ferriss: What do you put on the television that you have on mute?

Bob Iger: It’s either a local news show or one of our TV stations if I’m in the States, or ESPN. If I’m outside the country typically, and there’s a TV in the gym that I’m working out in, then it’s typically not within my control. I’ve watched many a Chinese television news program or soap opera that time of day.

Tim Ferriss: Boy. Yeah. Another time we could talk, I know you’ve spent a lot of time in China. I actually went to two universities in China a long, long time ago and we ended up, the students in this dorm at Foreign Experts Dormitory, they called it, would watch these kung fu soap operas effectively to pick up the language, which was turned into a really pleasant routine. On the—

Bob Iger: By the way, I think that at one point there was a Foreign Experts Hotel in Beijing. I don’t know if that still exists, or a Foreign Experts Building in Beijing.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. It was very flattering term to have applied to us out while keeping us conveniently separated from the rest of the student population.

Bob Iger: That’s very funny.

Tim Ferriss: But it was a fascinating time. This was, not to digress too far, but this was back when the, and I’m sure you remember these days, when the bicycles, I mean the sea of bicycles was still a phenomenon and I remember buying—

Bob Iger: Through the late ’90s, basically.

Tim Ferriss: That’s right. Yeah. I was there in ’96 and it was still when, as a poor student, we would buy these long, green People’s Liberation Army jackets for the winter, and what a trip! Yeah. 

Bob Iger: What I remember most about China then was that the bicycles would be on the top of the list, the fact that people wore no colored clothing, really. They were either black or gray or dark green.

Tim Ferriss: Very drab. Yeah.

Bob Iger: There were no colors. And in the winter, people would stand on street corners with either pieces of charcoal or burning things or either cooking or burning to keep warm. So there was a smell of charcoal in the air throughout Beijing in the winter, but you know, it’s changed a lot.

Tim Ferriss: It has changed tremendously. Back then, not a Gucci or Prada store in site—

Bob Iger: Or Mercedes or Ferrari.

Tim Ferriss: Or Mercedes or Ferrari.

Bob Iger: Or Nike for that matter, or Disney.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah, things have changed a lot. But before I totally lose the thread because I’m so interested in this particular facet among others, on the exercise front, you mentioned that you do your solitary working out and then have a trainer come in at least a few times—

Bob Iger: Yes, twice a week.

Tim Ferriss: Twice a week. What do you do solo on those days and what do you do with the trainer?

Bob Iger: I limit myself to only 30 minutes on the VersaClimber, and he comes in afterward and we lift weights and stretch. At the ripe old age of 68, lifting weights alone could be just a little dangerous.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Bob Iger: So he helps me. First of all, he motivates me. He’s actually a friend too, so it’s nice interaction. He shows up at the house at 5:00, twice a week. He’s a nice—he’s a good friend, and he makes sure that I don’t kill myself. He pushes me enough, but then he keeps me within some guidelines to stay safe. And I like that.

Tim Ferriss: I’ve read from a diet perspective that you don’t eat much in terms of carbs, but that you do love pizza. Is this accurate?

Bob Iger: Yeah. I don’t eat bread or pasta, save for the very occasional. It’s a holiday, so I allow myself a bowl of pasta, but I gave up all bread. I’ll never have a sandwich. I had a turkey burger for lunch today without the bun—that’s sort of typical. But I am a pizza devotee and it is one of my vices—there aren’t many. And I allow myself a good pizza meal maybe once a month. Maybe sometimes I stretch it to two. Those are my carbs.

Tim Ferriss: Do you have a favorite pizza? Is there a specific pizza that is your go-to favorite pizza?

Bob Iger: I try to find a good pizza any place that I go. There are many, but no, I’m—not really favorite in the sense that I’ll—any pizza is a good pizza to me.

Tim Ferriss: Well, there’s of course just an ocean of fantastic pizza in New York. There’s a lot of good pizza in many places. Austin, where I’m sitting right now, also has some really good pizza, surprisingly, Home Slice and a number of others. So the next time you’re here, that can be allocated to the sanity bucket.

Bob Iger: What I do, though, is I find myself—because there’s also a lot written about food lately—whenever I see an article about great pizza in a city, I save it. So the most recent one was a New Yorker article, which is about the slice renaissance in New York, meaning pizza by the slice. It appeared maybe two or three weeks ago in New York. They listed a place called Norm’s in Downtown Brooklyn that I’m destined to try out this holiday vacation. But, so I guess a renaissance of pizza by the slice.

Tim Ferriss: How do you, when you find something like that at this New Yorker article, how do you save it? What is the actual process of saving something like that?

Bob Iger: I’d say, I read The New Yorker on its app. I copy a link or I copy the whole article, and I put it on an email and I send it to myself. So I literally said that I’ve shared The Slice Renaissance with you from The New Yorker, where the link that said something like probably Gee’s Pizza By the Slice or something like that, in the link, and that sits in that—I’m now looking at it. I just pulled it up and I sent it to myself on November 18th.

Tim Ferriss: November 18th.

Bob Iger: And so here I am in New York and I will refer to that link, and my sons who are 21 and 17 and like pizza will come in, and the three of us on Friday or Saturday, we’ll put our cold weather coats on and head out into the cold New York air looking for a good slice of pizza.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, that sounds perfect. That sounds so much more appealing than, like, warm and sticky plus pizza. Like, the cold actually really lends something to it.

Bob Iger: I think that’s right!

Tim Ferriss: That’s right.

Bob Iger: It’s funny, I think I’ve had pizza in Austin, but I don’t remember from where.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. There’s a decent selection. I mean it is a food town. Do you limit yourself to—do you have a hard cut off at one slice, or do you allow yourself to let loose? What’s—

Bob Iger: I let loose. If I’m sitting down having a pizza, it’s a special moment! And one piece, one slice would not do it. I see there’s an Eater Austin, we’re of course totally off track here, but I’m now looking! DeSano Pizzeria, Little Deli Pizzeria, Pinthouse Pizza. Any of those familiar? Tony C’s—

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Bob Iger:—Coal Fired?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Pinthouse is right next to a paleo restaurant. So you could go to Picnik, P-I-C-N-I-K, this is on Burnet Road, for your paleo meal in the morning and then walk 50 feet after a coffee to have the pizza at Pinthouse. So that—

Bob Iger: Right, I see it’s on Burnet Road. Yeah. It’s funny.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Bob Iger: That’s one thing, by the way, thanks to the internet—oh, DeSano is on Burnet Road too—is you can pretty much find good pizza in any town in the world, thanks to the internet. Just, all you have to do is “best pizza in…” and you get a pretty good list.

Tim Ferriss: Shazam! I’d love to ask you about preparation. I was texting with Adam Grant, who’s been on this podcast, and you recently spoke on stage and—

Bob Iger: At Wharton.

Tim Ferriss: At Wharton, and were very generous with students, which Adam really appreciated. I was texting with him, asking him what he thought might make a good topic or question to explore. And one of the things that he mentioned, I’ll just quote here, I don’t think he would mind, “He prepares,” this is he, meaning you, “Prepares a lot more than most CEOs for meeting new people. Maybe partially because he’s an introvert, which he mentioned on stage. What’s his prep process?” Do you have a prep process for first meetings with certain types of people?

Bob Iger: Yes, I don’t have the time to prep for everyone. I’d say 75 percent of the time I do. And it’s actually quite easy. I’ll just go to the internet and type someone’s name, and I’ll often first look at a Wikipedia page just to get a general sense and then I’ll see some things, like for instance, you know, in your case I went to look at things that you’ve done. I’ll try to look at work, I’ll try to look at news to see if there’s something particularly new about you. My recollection about you that stood out is you—either you were born in East Hampton, or you grew up there.

Tim Ferriss: I was a townie with a rat tail in the Hamptons!

Bob Iger: I was a Long Island boy after I was born in Brooklyn. So that struck me as interesting. And then coincidentally the person who helps me manage my money, when he heard that I was writing a book, said many, many months ago, that if I’m going to sell books, the person I should ultimately sit down and talk with is you.

Tim Ferriss: Well, please thank him for the kind words.

Bob Iger: Yeah. He did that because—was it Tim Geithner? I can’t remember what—he was someone that you interviewed, that he had heard. Anyway, but I typically will do nothing, it’s not overly interesting research I think, but I try to just get a feel for somebody whether they, sometimes it’s a small thing, whether they have kids or not, where they’re from, how old they are. Even every once in a while I’ll find out someone may have the same birthday as I do or, I don’t know, there’ll be something that’ll stand out that just enables me to connect with that person in some more meaningful way than just sort of a rote interview.

Tim Ferriss: Well, a little bit goes a long way. I want to jump from the micro to maybe it’s macro, but I’ve certainly read numerous instances of you talking about the importance of optimism as a leader. And I think I read a quote that you mentioned, “Nobody wants to follow Eeyore,” right? Oh, bother. And I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently for a whole host of reasons, and you mentioned your sons are 21 and 17. How have you, if you’ve thought about it, consciously taught your kids to see the world through a lens of optimism. Are there, I hate to use this word, but mantras, are there books that you recommend? How do you cultivate that in your kids if you’ve thought about it?

Bob Iger: No, I have thought about it. I don’t know if it’s the first lesson or the most important lesson that I’m teaching them, and some of—I find what you do in educating your kids is you teach by example or you lead by example, and I talk about optimism often. But I want to make sure that people understand what that means. I think it’s important to be a realist, so I’m not one of these that believes that everything will work out fine all the time. But I do believe that making sure that the possibility of something working out fine is very apparent, is right there, instead of the opposite—“This will never work out,” or “There’s no way we will accomplish this,” or “There’s no way we can do this.”

Part of it is, I hate to use the word stick—or the term “sticktoitiveness.” It’s being able to be persistent, I guess really working hard, trying hard, to get something done or accomplished, instead of just kind of what I talked about earlier even with Roone, instead of immediately concluding, “Well, this can’t happen,” or “This won’t happen.” So I guess that’s in part aimed at being productive and getting things done. But I think it also applies to outlook on life or aspects of your life. I think if you look at everything through a dark lens, meaning dark and gloomy lens, then you tend to—I think it becomes a deterrent to having the energy to be happy or having the energy for things to actually work out right. It just creates a negative energy as opposed to the opposite. I think you need a positive energy for your life to be positive.

So it’s not accepting the negative in a variety of different ways, but instead accepting the possibility of things being positive, turning out all right.

Tim Ferriss: Right. The conversation so far with the exception of the first boss at ABC and the truck fiasco, I have focused on some of your successes and it’s a long list, but some of your successes have—to try to flesh out the picture of you as a human being, would you be open to describing a more challenging time that you’ve gone through and how you have navigated your way through it or out of it? And I mean, any example would do, but would you be open to sharing for people who might otherwise be intimidated and think, “Oh, this guy hits a home run every time he steps up to the plate. That’s not me, therefore…” whatever conclusion they might come to. Is there a difficult experience or a difficult time that you could talk about navigating?

Bob Iger: Yeah. First of all, I have no problem whatsoever talking about such things. Interestingly enough, I don’t see myself as a person that hits a home run every time he steps up at the plate, maybe because I’m not convinced that the next time I step up at the plate, I’m going to hit a home run or that every time I step up, I will.

Tim Ferriss: Right.

Bob Iger: I think of the—I said a few minutes ago—I always think there’s a possibility, but I never believe that it’s a given, ever. And so I don’t really view myself as someone that succeeds at everything I do because I don’t know that I will, and I’ve been fortunate that I’ve succeeded in a lot of what I have done, but it doesn’t mean that I will succeed at everything I try to do. Fortunately in my adult professional life, I’ve faced challenges but not much adversity. What I mean by that is, I don’t really remember any particularly dark period of time where—other than I want to talk about the succession process, which I wrote about at length, but other than that, I haven’t really experienced that.

While I was trying to become the next CEO of The Walt Disney Company, there was a conventional wisdom that it existed and was very, very apparent to me that I would not get the job or that I was the wrong person for the job. And so I faced a significant number of naysayers that—and even some cases that tried to convince me that I shouldn’t even try, because I was not going to get it, I was not going to win. And I never gave into that. But I will say that for a considerably long period of time, meaning well over a year, I faced a lot of doubters that, if there was a struggle, it was making sure that those that were doubting me did not cause me to doubt myself.

Even though the outcome was thoroughly uncertain, I never got to the point where I felt it was completely uncertain, and as long as it wasn’t, or as long as it was open, I was going to continue to try really hard to get the job. That was one, and then we can talk further if you’d like about the adversity I faced with a father that was suffering from severe manic depression, which was more of a, that was a childhood experience that I had versus an adult experience.

Tim Ferriss: Well, let’s talk about if you’re open to it, thank you for putting that on the table, the challenges or your experience with your father. I had a conversation not long ago with Ken Burns, the documentarian who also had a father who I think in this day and age would probably be diagnosed with bipolar or manic depression or whatever the current DSM diagnosis is. Could you speak to that experience and what that was like for you?

Bob Iger: Yes. I recognized from a very early age that my father had severe mood swings, meaning he did not present himself consistently to us as a family, and that was manifested in a variety of different ways. But the example I use to describe it is, he would come home—he commuted to New York City, to a suburb that we lived in that was about an hour away—I could be up in my room on the second floor of our house doing homework or something and I could hear the door open. I would always anticipate him coming home because it meant that we were going to have dinner together, and I looked forward to seeing him most of the time.

But I could typically tell what kind of a mood he was in by how he walked up the steps, sometimes passing my room completely because he was not in the mood or sometimes opening the door and expressing some frustration about something, and sometimes not. Sometimes showing interest and love and giving me time and being just generally upbeat about things. But it was very, very inconsistent, and I remember that from an early age.

I also witnessed him lose his temper in ways that never made us feel like we were in harm’s way or that anything bad was going to come to us physically, but he could angry very fast and he did so very often, and the anger was not particularly pretty to look at. This was not just someone getting mad at something and then getting over it, this was like a deep-seated anger at someone or something expressed in pretty dark ways. Meaning, again, not abhorrent behavior and not something you’d say, “This guy’s a psychopath,” but you could clearly see him be in or go to a very dark place.

Tim Ferriss: How do you relate to anger after all of that experience if you feel anger arise in you? How do you relate to anger? And I know that’s a very broad question, but this is something that I also can think about for my own sort of personal navigation of life. But how do you relate to anger?

Bob Iger: Actually, I think it’s a good thing to think about. I know when I was really young that I had a tendency to lose my temper like him, and as I got more and more in tune with his issues, I became more and more capable of controlling mine. And I was able to suppress my expression of anger in a very, very effective way, and that has served me well and lasted pretty much a lifetime. I feel, sometimes, it building in me, but I am able to recognize either what it is or where it could go and take the necessary steps to contend with it in a healthy way. It sometimes means letting it surface, but letting it surface in ways that are, I don’t know, not as either aggressive or as potentially harmful to me or to others.

I learned, I definitely learned, to contain my mood, my anger, maybe even how I express my mood because of him. I did not—there was a picture I was seeing of someone’s behavior and even before I had an ability to understand exactly what the root cause of it was, that I did not in any way want that, I did not want that picture to become my life or to have basically me be the center of it.

Tim Ferriss: Anger has been an emotion that I struggled with for a very long time. I think I’ve improved quite a bit for I think some very similar reasons with similar origin stories. And I was reading a profile in The New York Times, and I’m chuckling because this is sort of déjà vu all over again for me as well. So here’s the quote. It says, “You know, I’m very organized and neat. If I got into the kitchen and Willow’s been in”—that’s your wife—“and she leaves a cabinet open, there was a time when I would actually get mad at that. You’ve got to be kidding. Why would I get mad at something like that? It’s pausing for a moment, thinking, does this really matter?” So I’m curious too, I’d be curious to hear from you because I think this will sort of ring familiar for a lot of people listening, what changed between the—it used to upset you and now you are able to kind of digest an experience like that that previously would have maybe thrown you off in some way or just irritated you? What has changed?

Bob Iger: Well, I think some people improve with age—not everybody! But maturity, having the ability as you get older to recognize what is important about life, understanding sometimes the hard way by losing people you’re close to, that life in fact is not endless and in fact it’s short, and understanding that because of that, that there are things in life that just are not important enough, don’t rise to a level of causing anger, sorrow, conflict, or whatever, and keeping cabinets open in the kitchen is one of them.

By the way, I’m borderline at times. My wife likes to keep newspapers that have piled up for a week and there used to be a time when I would just, like a Wednesday, I’d throw out Monday’s and Tuesday’s just because I didn’t like the clutter. Now, I just see them, I pause for a moment thinking, “Why do we really need those newspapers piled up?” and then I realize, “What the heck do I care? What’s the difference? Why does that matter?” Walk away.

Tim Ferriss: Right.

Bob Iger: It’s the same thing that sort of, walk away and do not allow things that really don’t matter to matter. Make sure that the things that really do matter in fact matter. It’s kind of that simple. And I don’t know, I think part again, it’s age, it’s trying to be sort of self-reflective, your own behavior and what it can mean to others and sort of the old “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” It’s very true. I know we’re all human beings, we all can, and there’s still some things that I say, and I don’t like being late, I get very anxious about that. It’s just, again, I think a lot of it comes from not only maturity, but there’s a cruelty to growing old in a way because the end is near, but there’s also a lot of value in growing old.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I would imagine. I’m certainly, I don’t feel old, but I’m 42 or 43, I always forget, my girlfriend reminded me the other day, so that may not be a great sign!  

Bob Iger: How old is she?

Tim Ferriss: She’s 10 years younger, so she’s got a leg up in more ways than one, but she reminds me of how old I am, but I’ve noticed that even compared to say, my 20s, that I have to be more aware of energy expenditure. And I do exercise, I do everything that I can to maintain fitness, but I would imagine as you get older also, like if you do let the small stuff sweat you, you’re just going to kind of brush off all of this extra energy that would be better allocated elsewhere. And maybe it’s more obvious, I don’t know, just thinking out loud.

Bob Iger: Yeah, I think that’s—yes, it’s completely wasted energy when you think about it, both physical and emotional energy.

Tim Ferriss: When we were talking about optimism and I asked you about your kids, one of the comments you made was, I’m not sure if that would be the most important lesson or something along those lines. What do you feel some of the more important lessons might be or character traits that you are hoping to instill or have instilled in your kids?

Bob Iger: Well, big one is—well, there are a bunch of big ones. Being humble, keeping things active, really important, and we try always to help them understand that we lead an extremely special life, privileged life, that it didn’t happen by accident, and they shouldn’t expect that it will happen to them. That they have to want to appreciate it, to work for it, and simply not take things for granted. It’s really important. Let’s say that’s one.

I’m a big believer in being true to oneself. Until you’re true to oneself you can’t be true to others. We try to teach that to the kids in various ways, but it has to do with being sort of self-honest, which is not easy to teach teenage boys, by the way.

Tim Ferriss: What would be one of the approaches that you take with that of one of the various ways that you might try to teach that or coach that?

Bob Iger: Well, that’s a very tough question. I’ve got to think about that a little bit. We tend to be quite transparent with the boys, in that we don’t want them to see a life that is pain-free or glossed over, or not without anxiety or challenge or whatever, even though there’s a lot about our lives that is anxiety-free and challenge-free, and we like admitting to one another if we’re pained, if we’re chagrined, if we’re in some form or another not in a good mood as a for instance, we just—

Tim Ferriss: Right.

Bob Iger: I guess. Which is again, it’s really trying to be honest with one another. I’m not sure all parents do with kids, I don’t know. And that way, it’s hard, I think as children it takes a long time for you to understand that your parents are human beings and that they have their faults. I think one of the reasons that happens is that parents often try to hide their faults from their kids because you don’t want your kids to see you in some human form. We try not to do that. We don’t necessarily talk that way to one another, “Hey, let’s show our faults to our kids today.” I think it’s just the way you behave.

Tim Ferriss: What do you think, looking at 15 years as CEO of The Walt Disney Company and having had many conversations, certainly about the stories and learnings in your book, are there any particular lessons or stories that you think and wish people would pay more attention to?

Bob Iger: I think more than anything, what I want people to come away with is that from the outside looking in, this looks probably like a straight line up from bottom to top. You know, it’s sort of one step after the other, each step, a step higher in responsibility, authority, compensation, whatever, but it doesn’t really happen that way. It’s hard work and facing unknowns and rising to challenges and getting lucky. And what I’m trying to impart there more than anything is, even if it looks easy, it’s not, it always takes all sorts of other elements, including hard work, to succeed at something.

I think I’m not sure that I had anything else in mind, and that it also is not necessarily part of a plan. I don’t think life is as planned as young people think it is, you know?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Bob Iger: That’s another thing you learn in your 60s. And so I’m struck often when people say, “When did you want to be CEO of The Walt Disney Company?” Or, “Did you always want to be CEO of The Walt Disney Company?” Well, I say, “You’ve got to be kidding me! Of course not!” I didn’t know I was going to be CEO of The Walt Disney Company until the board called me and told me I was getting the job. And I didn’t really want to be CEO or expect that I could be until we were bought by Disney in 1995 and I thought, wow, I’m now part of a company that, since I was at or near running the company I was with, maybe the chance existed that I could ultimately run the company I was now owned by. It wasn’t until then; it wasn’t something I grew up thinking about.

By the way, one thing you brought up that—you mentioned luck and people increasing the opportunities for luck?

Tim Ferriss: Right.

Bob Iger: Where we talked about exercise, but one thing that strikes me there, I don’t think this is necessarily about creating more opportunities for luck, but I have found that oftentimes doors open on opportunity for people and not everybody is able to walk through them for a variety of reasons. I’ve always been really fortunate that whenever a door opened, meaning a door to opportunity, I walked through it. I never walked away from it. And I don’t know whether that is tied to putting yourself on the line, taking a risk, allowing yourself to be challenged by new responsibilities and maybe different form of scrutiny or being a fish out of water, I don’t know, but, or even things as simple as being willing to move. I’ve found a lot of people when doors open, they’re not as capable of walking through them for whatever reason. Sometimes just, by the way, self-doubt.

Tim Ferriss: And by move, you mean just move forward, or physically move?

Bob Iger: No, I was even talking physically. I moved from New York to L.A. and from L.A. to New York and from New York back to L.A., and I said, “Okay, put me in. That’s an opportunity I’m going to take advantage of, but I have to move to get it.” Now, that’s easier said than done. There are families at stake and I guess you could argue that maybe I was selfish in that regard, although the decisions were never made unilaterally, I had willing spouses, but I’ve also met a lot of people that just say, “No. I’m going to do that. No, too risky for me to move or—” And I was lucky in that regard.

But what I’m also talking about is people who are reluctant to take on something new simply because they’re not sure of themselves and whether it’s sort of whether they’ll finally be discovered.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Right.

Bob Iger: I never worried about that, “Oh boy, maybe I’m being tested, it’s something else. What if I’m not good?”

Tim Ferriss: Are there any books or philosophers or leaders who you’ve not necessarily directly but leaned on to develop? What strikes me as a very, and I mean this is in the most positive sense, very sort of stoic philosophy. When I was reading, for instance in your book about meetings with the board and talking about inability to change the past and looking forward to the future, a lot of it resonates, at least for me, is very practical and stoic, very kind of Marcus Aurelius-like. Are there any kind of leaders or philosophies or books that you’ve leaned on to help you stay the course in this way and walk through these doors of opportunity?

Bob Iger: I’ve never really read a business book in my life. I read autobiographies; they’re a little different. Though I read and studied Churchill carefully over the years and he faced a tremendous amount of adversity and doubters along the way, and also unlike me, he was involved in some really colossal mistakes, including the tragedy of Gallipoli in the pre-World War I era, for instance, where he was secretary of the Navy, and the onus was on him, the major Naval disaster. But that’s just one. But I think the specific time that I thought was interesting, he ran for and won and ran for and lost more elections than anyone else in the history of Great Britain. It says a lot.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. He’s like the Babe Ruth of British politics.

Bob Iger: Yeah. So I always was struck by someone who from the outside or at least history kind of shows him to be this immensely successful world leader when he wasn’t always that way. He got thrown out of office actually, as the prime minister and came back, and he got unelected at some point and he came back and saved Great Britain, and maybe you could argue the world, from the throes of Nazism, was thrown out again when the war ended. Actually, he was voted out when the war ended and then came back again. Anyway, I took a lot from him. I’m not sure if there are others, really. I’ve read a lot over time, a lot of biographies, a lot of novels as well. Churchill would be the only one I could think of that stood out. Saying Churchill is a role model can be a little bit over the top unto itself. I mean, what the heck, right?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Well, you got Churchill and then I suppose back in the day, Ian Fleming novels. Am I getting that right? Did you read any Ian Fleming?

Bob Iger: I did. I read most of his Bond novels starting junior high school, which would have been the early ’60s.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

Bob Iger: 63, ’62, ’63, ’64, ’65, that era. Yeah, of course. From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice. Sure, yeah.

Tim Ferriss: And now you have chronicled your own adventures in The Ride of a Lifetime, which I really recommend to people. I think it gives a window into, as you said, the nonlinear path that you have traveled and how it—you’ve been very, very good at capitalizing on doors opening to opportunities, but it hasn’t necessarily reflected a grand, 60-year master plan for life, but you have been really willing and able to step through doors and take what others would perceive as large risks.

Do you have any quotes? I’ll just ask a few more questions. Do you have any quotes that you think of often or try to live your life by? Do any quotes come to mind? And if not, that’s okay as well.

Bob Iger: Yeah. Well, the great one is the Teddy Roosevelt quote about failure: “If you’re going to fail, fail daring greatly.” You know that quote?

Tim Ferriss: I do.

Bob Iger: I can read it to you if you like. If you really want.

Tim Ferriss: Yes, please.

Bob Iger: Again, I just want to make sure I’m now calling it up because I know it, but I don’t want to screw up on any part of it. Okay. “It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best in the end the triumph of high achievement—I’m sorry—who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

It’s that last part, “If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Tim Ferriss: So fantastic. Thank you for reading that. That is also what LeBron James has kept in his locker since beginning his career. It is a—

Bob Iger: Really?

Tim Ferriss: It is. It is.

Bob Iger: I did not know that. I gave that inscribed to all senior management at the company many years back.

Tim Ferriss: Oh, what a great gift.

Bob Iger: It is a mantra of mine and I think it says a lot about what I’ve done, at least if you’re going to fail, fail daring greatly.

Tim Ferriss: Well, I think that’s a fantastic place to wrap this up, and I also think that could be the very, very long subtitle, the option B, for The Ride of a Lifetime, this book that I’m holding right in front of me. And this has been a lot of fun for me, Bob, I appreciate you taking the time, and is there anything else you’d like to say or suggest to people? Any parting comments? Anything at all that you’d like to add before we come to a close?

Bob Iger: No. I enjoyed this thoroughly. I think you covered some really interesting topics. I think you got under my hood a little bit—in a good way! Not in a way that made me uncomfortable at all, but I think some things I haven’t talked about as specifically, but I enjoyed it completely.

Tim Ferriss: Well, thanks so much. And for people listening, we’re going to have show notes, links to everything that we’ve discussed, including the book, and everything else in terms of resources, at And until next time, thank you for listening.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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