RIP Mike Wallace (of 60 Minutes Fame)


My favourite movie of all time is the Michael Mann classic The Insider. It features Christopher Plumber in a defining role as CBS’s 60 Minutes anchorman Mike Wallace. Sadly Mike Wallace passed away at the weekend and amongst the written tributes and video clips were these 5 golden nuggets of advice from a great posts over on Forbes.com. Here they are verbatim:

1. If you don’t wake up in the morning excited to pick up where you left your work yesterday, you haven’t found your calling yet. We all have a calling in life. For some of us, it’s to play professional tennis; some it’s manage money; and for others it’s to seek out truth (with a capital T) in their investigative work. A person’s calling only has to be to them; it’s not for others to judge its importance. Mike believed passionately that his job was the most important job in the world. Just imagine what kind of world this would be if we all woke up feeling that every day.

2. When a new medium comes along, embrace its possibilities. Mike decided at the University of Michigan that he wanted to be a radio announcer – much to the chagrin of his parents. He started out as the voice of the Green Hornet on the radio serial. He even announced some wrestling matches to get by in his early days. However, he was there right when television started. No one knew about TV news yet. It was a blank slate. He got in on the ground floor and got a chance to shape how the world would come to think of TV news, first at Night Beat, then at The Mike Wallace Interview, and finally at 60 Minutes. If you’re in advertising today, you embrace mobile instead of hanging on to the status quo. If you’re in the newspaper world, you embrace the 100% digital approach. Be a leader in where the world is heading. Don’t hang on to stay a radio announcer when a new world is opening up in front of you.

3. If you aren’t breaking the rules a little in your profession, you aren’t going far enough. There is always a norm for what’s acceptable today. Acceptable writing, journalism, business practices, competition. If you’re not tipping over the apple cart and trying something new, someone else is going to in your industry. Why not be that agent of change yourself? There was no one asking the tough questions when Mike Wallace started. That’s why people couldn’t stop watching him.

4. How would your life be different if your epitaph read “Tough But Fair”? Mike said he wanted that phrase to be how he was remembered. It will be. But how would your life have to change for people to associate those kinds of words with you? Some of us don’t think we could chase down people for interviews the way Mike did. But there’s more to being tough than chasing or shouting. What if you challenged someone at your office when they gave you an answer that – in the back of your mind – you thought was B.S.? What if you called that person on it? And what if that person was your boss? How would your life start to change if you began doing that? And, by the way, don’t forget the “fair” part. You can be tough with someone trying to embarrass them – or you can ask them a tough but perfectly legitimate question. That’s what Mike did. What if you questioned your employees, or your customers? What if you fired customers or clients who you didn’t respect?

5. Face your demons head on. Most of us have demons of some kind we grapple with. For Mike, it was depression. He suffered several severe bouts and even once tried to take his own life. But, he faced these, and later went public with his battles in order to try and help others. Some of the most successful people in their professions whom I’ve met suffer from some dark secrets. We don’t have to go on 60 Minutes to face up to them, but we all have to face our own issues… whether it’s gambling, drinking, drugs, or depression.

Here he is in action interviewing Ayn Rand:

…and here is the wonderful Christopher Plummer playing Mike Wallace in The Insider:

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