16 Life Lessons from a Coca-Cola CEO

Hello, readers. I’m going to have some trouble explaining my three year hiatus, so I won’t bother. Instead, I’d like to share some pretty reasonable advice from a former Coca-Cola CEO, whose name I believe is Neville Isdell. (I could have his name completely wrong. I received this advice from an email forward.) If you don’t like Coca-Cola or large companies, I promise that the advice is still sound, at least to me. Enjoy.

  1. Define the 5 roles you play in life and commit to the most important aspects of each. People, on average, fall into 22 roles, but it is really only possible to do 5 very well at any given time. Make sure to notice when one of these roles changes (i.e. you become a mom, etc.).
  2. Use one schedule (calendar) for everything. (i.e. don’t use google calendar and a work calendar) When there is a conflict, you will choose work, and you won’t be happy about it.
  3. On defining moments: choose FAMILY. There are roughly 6 really important events each year. Make it a point to be at ALL of them.
  4. Take real vacations. Most CEOs don’t take a computer or Blackberry on vacation. If the company can survive without them for a week, what makes you think you need to be plugged in the entire time? Chances are, it can wait.
  5. Master writing and other job fundamentals early (it will make you able to accomplish much more later).
  6. Practice 80/20 (when applicable). When incremental time investment isn’t worth it, don’t do it.
  7. Train your people (never say “I don’t have time to train people”).
  8. Exercise 30 minutes every day. This helps you get into REM sleep sooner and will lower your required amount of sleep by an hour and you will feel much better every day.
  9. Keep relationships well-fed. Much like a plant, without active care they will wither and die.
  10. Leverage technology, but be smart: leave everything on silent and call back later. It takes an average of 16 minutes to resume concentration after an interruption.
  11. Make a bucket list with 100 things you want to do before you die. It may take months or even years to complete the list. Do your best to cross off 2 items each year.
  12. People rise to your highest expectations or sink to your lowest. Trust others and delegate.
  13. Use the “mother rule”. (i.e. would your mother think it is good enough? If it doesn’t have to be perfect, don’t force it.) Be decisive. Innovations don’t come from focus groups. (Steve Jobs didn’t ask people what they wanted, he told them.)
  14. Eat the “China Way” via The China Study. Favor things that grow. Ideally very little or no meat at all. As a start, “Take half the meat and twice the plant.”
  15. Integrate work and life.
  16. Give back.