Beautiful Minds are Free from fear: Robert Grant at TEDxOrangeCoast (Transcript)

Following is the full transcript of Founder and Vice Chairman of ALPHAEON Corporation, Robert Grant’s TEDx Talk: Beautiful Minds are Free from fear at TEDxOrangeCoast conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the full bio here.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “If there were any one period in time one would desire to be born in, is it not the age of revolution, when old and new stand side-by-side and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are surged by fear and by hope; and when the historic glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of a new era?”

This time, like all times, is a very good one if we know what to do with it. If we know what to do with it. Which reminds me of a story that happened 17 and a half years ago for me.

I lived in Sydney, Australia and I had just started a new job. I was asked to go to a national sales meeting because I was the general manager of the operation and I learned that the national sales meeting was actually on the date that my wife was due to have our child.

So I was very concerned, I went home and told her about it, I said “Look, first children are never born on their due date. So I’m going to be gone just one night and I’m going to Cairns, Australia and I’m going to be there for one night for this meeting. I gotta give a speech and I’m going come back and everything is going to be fine and very likely the doctor told us anyway that you’re not going to have the baby for about two more weeks.”

I went up there and I was still negotiating the bonus plan for the year. I was talking with my new boss, who is a Swiss gentleman named Rodo, and Rodo had this very, very heavy thick Swiss accent and he always smoked cigarettes. We’re going through this tough negotiation and right in the middle of the negotiation, at 11:45 at night, as we sat at the bar, the phone rings. That’s my wife and I said “Is everything OK?”

She said, “I just had my water break.”

And I thought, “Oh no.” I’m in Cairns. There’s no way that I’m going to be able to get back down to Sydney in that amount of time because the doctors always say it’s about 4 hours to make it from the time the water breaks until the baby comes.

I went to my boss. I knew he had a plane, and I said “Is there some way that you can fly me down to Sydney tonight? My wife had just gone into labor.” and he said, while smoking his cigarette, “Give me 10 minutes. I’ll prepare a flight plan and we’ll go.”

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So I run back to my room, I take everything off of my bed. I threw it in a suitcase. I remember I still have the remote control that actually went flying into my suitcase. I ran downstairs. I’m standing by the elevator waiting for him, and about twenty minutes later, he finally leisurely walks out of the elevator and he looks at me and says, “Can you believe I lost the key to my airplane?”

So we run, literally run. We get in a taxi, we got to the airport. I learn then that the airport lights, this is in Port Douglas, turn on when you actually have a little radio button inside the plane. So you hit the button, and all the lights turn on, and he says, “Okay, I need you to check the wing, I need you to check the oil, I need you to check the condensation..” and I’m like “I don’t know anything about this stuff, are you kidding me?”

So I was really afraid. The people that work with me know that when I get afraid or stressed, my heart rate really drops and my blood pressure drops. I kind of have an opposite effect. In all my companies, my management teams know this. So when things get really rough and tough, they usually buy me a pillow because I fall asleep. So we get in the plane, we take off, and I’m thinking, “I’ve got to make it to the birth, I’ve got to make it to the birth, I’ve got to make it to the birth,” and I completely fall asleep.

And I’m in the cockpit, I’m the co-pilot. So we’re up in the sky, and all of a sudden we’re bouncing around. I wake up, and I look at the dashboard where everything had been well lit before, and now it’s completely black. And he says to me, “Robert, can you see the coastline?”

I said, “No, there’s too many clouds.”And he says… He’s talking really loud, its a prop plane it’s piper-chipped and he says, “Are you sure you cannot see the coastline?”

And I said, “Yeah.”

He says, “To add to the drama of the situation, all of our navigation and instrumentation is inoperative. Can you see the coastline?”

So, they actually have to close down Sydney International Airport to find us. We had flown off-course towards New Zealand, and that was why he was asking about the coastline. We only had enough fuel to make it to Sydney and I was really “I’ve got to make it to my daughter’s birth, I’ve got to make it to my daughter’s birth now. I’m just thinking, now I’ve just got to make it.

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