Oprah’s MasterClass with Ted Turner – A Lifetime of Lessons & Insight

“Set your goals so high that you can’t achieve them in one lifetime!”  – Ted Turner

When you open yourself up to life, the best teachers are the ones who are right in front of you.  Each Sunday, OWN is bringing us those teachers and their amazing lessons in MasterClass.  This week is no different as Oprah’s MasterClass team brings us lessons from Ted Turner of CNN, AOL  and Jane Fonda fame.   Not knowing much of Turner except from the few stories I’m read over the years, I was taken in by his insight and passion for life and the world.  In this amazing hour, OWN takes us on a journey with Ted through the years and how he has inspired himself and others to change the world.   The lessons are full of  inspiration to take out into your own world. Here are the notes…

  • Life is like a class.  We live to learn. Spend your life learning.  Life is a Class – MasterClass
  • “Either lead, follow or get out of the way” – from Ted Turner’s desk
  • “Life is about hard work and dedication and putting your best foot forward and making the best effort you possibly can and having tenacity…never giving up.  Stick with it.” – Ted Turner
  • What’s the secret of success?  “I worked harder.” – Ted Turner
  • A lesson from his father.  Ted says his father was “tough but fair.” His father told him,”  The reason I’m being so tough on you when you are little is because it will be easier for you when you are older.”   Ted says, “He was right.” 
  • Always have personal integrity and honor. Always put your best foot forward.
  • Ted talks about a personal quote that he has remembered from William Shakespeare.  Here it is:
    “Mine honor is my life, both grow in one. Take honor from me, and my life is done. Then, dear my liege, mine honor let me try; In that I live, and for that I will die.” – William Shakespeare, Richard II (1595)
  • Always put forth maximum effort. – MasterClass
  • Ted talks about wanting to do sports.  “I wanted to be good in sports…I tried everything…but I wasn’t really that coordinated or fast…I was ok but could tell that I didn’t have the ability to be a champion in regular contact sports.”  Ted talks about taking lessons in sailing and realizing, “This is something that if I worked hard at, I could be good at.”
  • A life lesson in sailing –   During a competition in 1979, there was a big storm.  Many boats were lost or abandoned.  “Out of the 300 boats that started only 70 finished and about 15 people passed away,” Ted says. “In a storm you have to ride it out the best you can. If you panic, that’s a good way to lose. You have to stay in control.”  This is a mantra and a lesson to take into life.
  • Aha moment from MasterClass – In life you have to ride it out the best you can. If you panic, that’s a way to lose control yourself. You have to stay in control and do the best you can…always.
  • “I learned humiltiy from my first attempt at the America’s Cup.” – Ted Turner
  • World Cup Lessons – Ted says that the “principals of victory as opposed to defeat are the same.  You have to go in with the right attitude. You can’t give up.  You may not reach championship level in life but you’ll get a lot further by having put forth maximum effort.”  This can be applied anywhere in your life.
  • “There is more to success than just making money.” – Ted Turner
  • Lessons on Television and Baseball- Ted was excited about television and had a station in Atlanta.  “The reason I bought the Braves is I was concerned they’d leave Atlanta and we were running their games,” Ted says.  “I bought it as a programming source.”   He paid $10 million for the team and had no idea about the game of baseball.  He fired the 2 best managers in baseball and had no idea what he was doing.  After a few years, the team turned it around.  “We started as the worst and ended up the best,” Ted says.  “You can’t let it destroy you. You have to play on.  Just like a baseball player, you might strike out but tomorrow, you may hit it out of the park.”
  • A lesson from CNN – Ted Turner started CNN so he could watch the news without waiting up unitl 11pm. He decided that an all news station was the way to go.  “NBC and ABC were about 1000 times bigger than us,” he says.  “The left an opportunity for some entrepreneur to take a shot at it….we had 1 employee and no equipment when we started and after I announced it, we were on the air within 11 months.”
  • For CNN: First went on the air on June 1st, 1980 at noon…” The first day we were on the air for 24 hours.  We didn’t go on for 30 minutes and then go 30 more, we started out 24/7…” Ted tells us.
  • “Once you decide to do something and you’re pretty sure you’re right then you’ve gotta go ahead and do it because if you piddle around somebody else will beat you to it.” – Ted Turner
  • You can turn enemies into friends. – MasterClass
  • Lesson from your enemies – Fidel Castro was a viewer of CNN and wanted to meet Ted Turner.  From this experience, Ted found that “if you treat people with dignity, respect and friendliness, you can turn enemies into friends.  An enemy is just a friend in disguise.” 
  • “Why not be friendly.” – Ted Turner 
  • “We need to build bridges with each other…” Ted believed.  So when the USA boycotted the Olympics and then, the Russians boycotted the Olympics, Ted created “The Goodwill Games” to bring the world together with sports.  “Sports is better than war.  You get all the thrills…except in sporting events you can go home instead of being buried because you’re dead.”
  • Lessons in Using Your Influence – “Use your influence for good.” – Ted Turner.  Ted talks about first meeting Gorbachev during a meeting about The Goodwill Games he said he gave him some advice.  “I told him, you should take the lead in ending the Cold War. It was the beginning of his administration and I said Reagan can’t take the lead and you can. He said, “Why can’t Reagan take the lead?” and I said because we have free press in America…but over here you can control the media…and you have to take the leadership.”  Ted told him, “If you do, the greater glory will go to you because everyone will know that you are the initiator and you’ll probably win the Nobel Peace Prize….and he did, 20 years later he did win the Nobel Peace Prize and he did take the lead.”  (What an AMAZING story that I never knew…thank you MasterClass!
  •  When Gorbachev went into the talks, Ted says that he approached it by saying, “We won’t say no to anything and we will say yes to everything.”  “When you approach a negotiation like that, you’re gonna make a teal.”
  • Grit your teeth and make a comeback. – MasterClass
  • CNN was Ted’s most exciting, challenging and satisfying business accomplishment.
  • A big lesson in mergers – Don’t go into anything half cocked and unprepared.  During the AOL, Turner Broadcasting merger, Ted says he lost “80% of my money, I lost my job at CNN and Turner Broadcasting.  At the same time, Jane Fonda and I got a divorce and I lost a grandchild that passed away…I had two choices.  I could either go down…or come out of this…and I said, “As God is my witness, I’m gonna get through this and make a comeback.”
  • A lesson on the world – While Ted Turner believe in “My country right…” he says that if he’s not happy about something that his country is doing, that he feels he needs to say something about it.  “It’s time to put bombing behind us.  We aren’t making it better over there…we’re making it worse….it’s not what civilized, educated, decent human beings do…drop bombs on each other…”  and on  nuclear weapons…”We sure don’t have to have any weapons to blow ourselves us.  We have enough troubles without blowing ourselves up.”
  • Always take the route that leads to peace.
  • Set your goals TOO HIGH to reach – “Set your goals so high that you can’t achieve them in your lifetime,” Ted Turner’s father told him.  Set them HIGH! Please set your goals so high that you can’t achieve them in your lifetime.  This will keep you reaching HIGH!
  • It is our job to make the world better.  “You’ll be a lot happier than just trying to make the world better for yourself.” – Ted Turner
  • and finally, MasterClass ends this lesson with Ted talking about the world…and his own take on rewriting the Rules.  Here is a link to Ted’s full list of initiatives and a video from OWN’s Oprah’s MasterClass.  Ted’s Voluntary Initiative…his rules to live by.

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