Monday, February 6, 2012

Work harder. Then work harder. Bounce back even after you’ve been knocked down. On his desk, he has the saying: “Either lead, follow or get out of the way.

Over the years, Ted Turner has been scrutinized in multiple biographies, autobiographies and documentaries. There really aren’t many secrets left about him.

But if you want a quick, selective overview of the Atlanta mogul, Turner’s offering a “Master Class” Sunday at 10 p.m. on the OWN Network. It’s part of a series created and hosted by Oprah Winfrey in which celebrities, in their own words, offer life lessons.

“Ted has gone with his gut but has always done his homework,” Winfrey said on the show, which I previewed today. “That combination never let him down.”

While the 72-yaer-old’s story is fascinating, his life lessons are not too surprising. Work harder. Then work harder. Bounce back even after you’ve been knocked down. On his desk, he has the saying: “Either lead, follow or get out of the way.

Do research and seek holes in the market. That’s why he created TBS Superstation, bought the Atlanta Braves for $10 million to fill TBS with content, then started CNN in 1980.

“If Alexander the Great could conquer the known world, why couldn’t I start CNN?’ he said with that classic twinkle in his eye.

He also said to follow through on promises. He announced in July, 1979 that he’d launch CNN June 1, 1980 and he pulled it off. “If you piddle around,” he said, “someone else will beat you to it.”

Turner takes pride in being ethical. “I’ve never been indicted or accused of anything,” he said. “None of my previous partners, nobody would tell you Ted Turner took advantage of them or pulled a fast one.” He then quotes Shakespeare:

Mine honour is my life; both grow in one; take honour from me and my life is done.

Turner recounted his time in competitive yachting, reaching the pinnacle of winning the America’s Cup. He compared running a boat to running a business. “You have to ride it out the best you can,” he said. “If you panic, it’s a good way to lose. You have to stay in control.”

He also likes to try to turn enemies into friends. He cited buddying up to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in the early 1980s as CNN was in its infancy. Later in the decade, he created the Goodwill Games as an alternative to the Olympics, which was not really a financial success but a moral one in his mind.

One interesting lesson: his dad had reached his material goals when he was relatively young and ended up committing suicide. He told Ted to reach for goals well beyond what he could do in a lifetime. The would keep him striving. So Ted wants world peace (thus, the $1 billion donation to the United Nations) and complete nuclear disarmament.

He of course is best known for his environmental work. He prides himself on saving the bison. In the program,h e describes creating a huge ranch without using pesticides and allowing predators like grizzly bears to roam. (Interestingly, his bison restaurants are never referenced.)

“He may think of himself as mainstream,” Oprah said at the end of the hour. “But to us, Ted’s a trail-blazing master. He revolutionized the way we watch television and the way we see the world.

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