Finally Back/meeting reality tv producer!!

By: Chenyu

Feb 25 2011

Category: Inspiration

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always look for the purple giraffe in life

Wow! Time flies! It’s almost end of Week 6 at Oxford and 2 weeks till China….

Haven’t updated my blog for almost 3 weeks! Last few weeks have been quite hectic with interviews – my philosophy was that regardless of results, i shall give my best try and do the best I can on what I can control, and other things will be out of my control. also, being an intl student, i almost couldnt do non-profit to start a career if i want to stay in the US for a few years….

so apologize for being a huge nerd, hibernating in my dorm and disregarding the party invitations, indulged in listening to audio of cases while walking around campus, or videotaping myself answering the behavioral questions( they turned out quite funny to rewind and watch), or drawing all the frameworks on paper and post them on the wall…still i didn’t do well in my cases and need a lot more practice… but then i also realized sometimes, there are just so many talented/qualified people that hard work may not necessarily pay off and that sometimes we have to go where life leads… 🙂

so last few weeks i have been through a lot of ups and downs, excitement and sadness, jumps and tears….but i guess it’s not over yet! – but I did enjoy the process and all the interviews, i feel that i learned so much and i also realized sometimes being genuine may not be the most important factor, i think there is a sense of business-smart and that being able to be confident in front of questions we don’t know is quite important.

okay, now moving away from this seemingly heavy topic, back to my journey in Oxford.

I went to a lecture by the producer of NBC’s hit reality show The Apprentice as well as the Survivor (forgot which channel) Mark Burnett – a British TV producer. It was literally one of the MOST INSPIRING, ENGAGING, ENERGETIC talk I have ever been too.

Mark started with his story in the British army and how he ended up in LAX without any job after promising his mom to not touch gun any more in the U.S. (which he said was one thing that he was good at). He luckily called up ONE guy he knew in LA who was a chauffeu in Beverly Hills. Mark then look through newspaper ad and interviewed for the position to be a NANNY. The rich family at first thought he was crazy as his competitors were all women in their 40s, but he was 22 year old retired from British army.

They asked him to leave, but after he talked for a few seconds. the Family was like “wait you have an accent” Mark: “Yes, am from London.” Family: “We love London and English accent.” English accent seems to really work. Then they asked Mark if he can clean. Mark said “Look i was in British army where they have inspectors wearing white gloves to inspect the tables. I will be the best cleaner you’ve met.” The family then asked “can you cook? ” Mark was honest: “look, am British. even my mom cannot cook.” I laughed out after hearing his humor.

2 hours later Mark got the call and got the job. He then was the Nanny of this super rich family for 1.5 years. His first day work was to empty a dishwasher and it was his first time seeing a dishwasher. he joked “at home, my mom was the dishwasher.” That experience really taught him that he has the ability to pitch and he needs to be price sensitive, even the rich family cut coupons from brochures and go to generic store brands then the super expensive ones to save money.

Mark then worked another Nanny job, but the owner detected his talent and gave him an insurance job. he worked hard to catch up but hated actuary work. He then started to sell nice tshirts that did not pass screen process on the beach for $18 (he bought for $2) on weekends and he found himself making more money on weekends then his insurance work. He also really enjoyed pitching to people on the beach and realized everyone needs a different pitch and it is interesting to detect people who need the salesman make them sound like smarter than they are, or need some extra nudge to lead them, the engineering/logical customers and the artsy ones. I found this part of the talk super engaging.

When Mark apologized to the insurance guru that he may have to leave for t-shirt business. he was so surprised by the American way to help raise people up – basically his boss said” fantastic. how can i help you to make it run better?” that was totally unexpected for Mark as he thought his boss would be upset. however, the “freedom’ to pursue his “American Dream” was an unusual experience”.

One day, he was able to cover his carpet with green dollars and walked on them barefoot. Thinking back about the Nanny days, Mark said that that experience showed him it was nice to be rich.

Later Mark had an idea to provide credit card service to Latin Americans who don’t have credit history to get normal credit card due to illegal immigration status. During the saving-loan crisis, he then bought some bank to issue some special credit card, which is completely operated in Spanish and accept $100 bill for a $100 credit card to make sure to get paid back.

Afterwards he participated in Eco-challenge, the French survivor because of his army background and training. He then had the idea to bring that to the U.S., he paid $40k for the idea from the French and in turn got all the French footage, then he pitched to a Entertainment network and got the deal to film the US version of Eco-challenge and in return give the network all the French footage. the program really took off – that was called The Survivor. Mark said he was interested in human’s psychological responses in a abnormal situation and in the survival mode – he said the most homophobia old guy became best friend with a flamboyant gay, which would not have happened if they were not throwing together on an island. in some sense, every human is interconnected.

For the finale of THe survivor, Mark pitched Donald Trump to let him use the Trump Skate Rink in Central Park to host the audience. He learned that Trump likes his name to be mentioned and then he went after that and Trump remembered him as the “survivor guy”. Later, Mark’s child called him saying “Dad, i don’t remember what you look like.” because Mark was working abroad in Amazon or Thailand for 7/12 months.

He then thought about how to make a show in New York and what do people want to see if the show is shot in NYC – he thought that job interviews are quite important and Trump left him a note about interest in collaboration for good ideas. He called in Trump’s secretary to schedule appointment in 2 weeks, however to his surprise Trump picked up the phone and said to meet in 20 min. Mark thought about hanging up the phone but he did not. 🙂 He pitched to Trump and Trump shook hands with Mark asking “so what’s the deal?” ’50/50″. Trump was fast.

Without going too much details, I wanted to capture a few important lessons I learned today:
– be smart is important but not enough, you have to have the DRIVE, DESIRE and PASSION for what you do
– always sell yourself, be brave
– be sure that you want to start business when you are 25%-30% sure, don’t wait till 100% then that is just a format of procrastination
-jump in the pool even if you don’t know how to swim, you will figure it out on the way
-have results in a foreign country, started as a Nanny
– adjust everyday
-be flexible on your journey, clearly laid path is not your path
-don’t work with ENERGY SUCKERS
-work with the right people, what can bring you down are unresolved human conflict
-choose your companion before starting your biz
– have the right vision with the right team
– be aware where you are going
– keep energy
-it’s all about STORYTELLING, the psychology of how to make people tick
-never take NO as an answer, does not know what “NO” means
– let people know your vision/desire/drive (Important to know your outcome, know what you want

Always be the person who looks for purple giraffe
the person who keeps going with high energy and being proactive and able to laugh at oneself and move on.

NEXT POST BRITS and AMERICAN comparison with the purple giraffe


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