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Shaun Harris | Award-Winning Marketer
Shaun Harris is most well-known for his recent role as MD for Futurelife, which he helped become the fastest growing cereal brand in SA as well as market leader in its own new segment, increasing it’s revenue tenfold and in the process leading the brand to win numerous national and international awards along the way. Below he very generously provides us with insight into the inner makings of such an achievement and how it has changed his life.
My Definition Of Success | The definition of success has changed for me over the years. When I graduated from university I had a burning desire to prove to myself (and others) that I could be success. At that point in my life success meant a big job, a flashy car, owning a townhouse or apartment and generally being “ahead” of all my friends and peers. In the pursuit of this goal I worked really hard with almost a “tunnel vision” focus (not stopping to look left or right) over the next 20 years of my life and along the way (at least on the surface) I become a “success”.
But over the past 5 years in particular my outlook on many things including what it means to be successful has changed dramatically. This change has been brought about through my experiences – the most notable of which have been getting quite ill (having to be confined to bed), the birth of my son and finally the experience I gained from working with other successful wealthy people – many of whom I initially respected (because of their external success) but later came to realize were people – with frailties, faults and insecurities just like the rest of us. I realized that (sadly) many leaders today are still managing their companies (and perhaps also their lives) where the desire for greater money is the primary driver for almost all decisions and “doing the right thing” (when its not financially the best outcome) is overlooked. As we move forward into this new century this narrow view of managing our companies and our lives needs to change.
Today I would define success as living life on your own terms (not being the person others expect you to be), being genuinely happy inside yourself (and knowing what are the things that make you happy), living a more simple life and realizing that you don’t need “stuff” to make you happy.
I Am Driven By | I believe ones motivation is different at different times of ones life. When I was younger the fear of failure and not being better than others was my primary driver. I always feared being “ Mr Average” – for me that was the worst thing in the world. Now I am driven by the desire to be meaningful (to my family, friends and others who I can help) and the desire to give something back. I want to ensure that when I die I have left something “good” behind and that my journey on this earth ended with the world being better off (even in some small way) for the years I spent here.
My Highlights | Having a child is certainly the biggest highlight of my life. I used to believe that being “free” to travel and do all the things I wanted when I wanted to do them would be infinitely more fun than being trapped with all the responsibilities of a family. And fortunately I have spent many incredible years doing just that. But recently at the “old” age of 50 I had my first child and he has literally changed my life. One smile from him and nothing else in the world compares.
Other highlights have been my travels to many countries around the world. I love exploring, seeing new places, trying new foods and meeting new people. So far I have visited around 60 countries and one of my future goals is to reach 100 before I die.
In my career I am really proud to have been on the team that launched Unilever ice cream (Ola) into South Africa. This was an incredible experience for me and made even more special by the fact it was one of the most successful Unilever ice cream launches in the world. I’m also proud of the work I did in the UK when I re-launched an ice cream brand across Europe and along the way won a few awards for best TV commercial and best new product launch. More recently I am proud of the role I played as Managing Director of Futurelife where we grew the company by a factor of 10 fold in 5 years – again receiving numerous industry awards along the way
The Difference Between good And Great | I believe all people are born with unbelievable talent and ability and that all of us can pretty much achieve anything we want to.
The difference between those who are “great” and those who are just “good” comes down to just one thing – desire and passion for what you do. If you can find your passion and love what you do – there should be nothing stopping you from being “great”
A Key Talent | Discipline and hard work are two key criteria for success and both have been instrumental in my own journey. (In my mind these go hand in hand with each other)
If you want to be a success at anything in life you have to recognize that it takes hard work to get there. That’s where discipline comes in. Discipline is the “invisible force” that keeps us going even on those days when we don’t feel like it. Becoming a success is about doing the right things day after day after day. It’s the little steps every day that lead to greatness. I personally learned about disciple and hard work from my father – but also built on this foundation by reading books about others who have also faced enormous challenges and yet overcame them and went on to achieve greatness. I find great inspiration in these stores. As one of my personal mentors (Jim Rohn) said “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.’
The Characteristics Of Success | I believe that anyone who wants to become a success in life needs to develop a core set of personality traits (which are pretty much universal) to help get you there. These universal traits are hard work and discipline, goal setting (in writing), action plans (set of steps that show how the goal will be reached), not being scared to fail (no matter how many times you fail), having a strong and unshakable belief in yourself (even if others don’t share this belief) and an attitude where you become a “continual learner” throughout your life.
Principles I Live By | I believe that having strong personal principles are essential if one wants to live a successful and meaningful life. For me these are honesty, integrity, respect for others, compassion, respect for the environment and an underlying spiritual faith.
Critical Skills I Develop | I believe to be a good marketer it is essential you have a strong creative side to your personality. I constantly read books and watch videos on creative topics like design, new product ideas, innovative packaging, etc. I also have a natural curiosity for new products and make it my business to find out more about them and the story behind how they started. TED talks and SLIDESHARE are great sites where a variety of subjects can be learned.
How I Use My Mind | I am a very positive person and strive to only think positive thoughts. I imagine and visualise my future goals in my head and believe to my very core that they will become a reality. I do not allow myself to ever think negative thoughts or to let self-doubt drag me down. Thoughts are very powerful, and more importantly are in our ability to control. Its vitally important to master this aspect of life.
Lessons I Have Learnt | I think my biggest learning has been that all of us are capable of so much more than we think or believe. We tend to believe that others are somehow better/cleverer than us and often this belief holds us back. The fact is however that the world is made up of people no more clever than you or I. Once you fully realize this you will understand that noone is inherently better than you and you will believe that you too can be anything you want to be. Remember never to fear failure. Like most people I too have had my share or failure and success.
Dealing With Doubt | I think this is a wonderful question and would like to share with others my experience in this area. For much of my life I always felt I was “not good enough” and to make matters worse I thought I was the only one who felt this way. But along the way I learned a very important lesson – that is that EVERYONE feels this way to a greater or letter extent in their lives.. The difference between the ones that succeed is that they keep going despite feeling like this on the inside. Just knowing this can makes a difference because you understand yourself and others better. I used to fear public speaking (this a pretty common human fear) but I realized mastery of this skill would help me immensely in my career. I read books on the subject and used every opportunity I could to speak (even though I was very scared). Eventually it became second nature to me and I even started to enjoy it.
Performing At My Peak | Its obvious that to maintain a constant state of high performance one needs to be physically and mentally well. But in my opinion to really succeed in the long run you need more than just that – you need inspiration, your need support and you need a sense of purpose.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I love to read – typically business books or biographies. I also watch educational videos (like TED) and I subscribe to a few websites that constantly provide interesting, educational and inspirational content.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I want to be a great father and role model to my son and teach him the skills and competencies he will need to succeed in the world.
I want to reach out and help others and make a significant difference in the lives of others.
I want to travel and see the parts of the world I have not yet been to.
Finally I want another business challenge to keep me focused and sharp.
Balancing High Performance With Happiness And Contentment I I have fortunately always been a very happy and contented person. But one lesson I did learn was how closely our own self image and self worth is linked to our jobs. Let me explain. When I was in my mid 30’s I left a big job at the multinational company I worked for and started working for myself in a small start up food company. When people asked me who I was or what I did I could no longer explain that I was a senior executive at a multinational company and for a while it really hurt. All I could say was that I was a part owner of a small start up food company. It took me a while to realize that who I am is not what I do. I am no less than who I have always been just because I don’t have the same job title. The same thinking would apply if one day I was rich and the next day I was poor. All of us are who we are and its not linked to what we do or how much money we have.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | Here are a few of my top quotes from Jim Rohn
If you will change – everything around you will change. All change starts with you.
If you want to have more – you need to become more. (Success is not something you go after, its something you attract by the person you become. Its not so much what you need to do but who you need to become.
Don’t wish it were easier – wish you were better (and then go about the task of making yourself better)
Advice On Building Wealth | I would first of all ask why this was their goal. Money in itself does not bring happiness and we all know that there are many rich and famous people who are very unhappy. I think a better goal would be to do something you love and are challenged to do and if along the way you become rich – then that’s just the cherry on the top.
On Inspiring Others |First of all I strongly believe that in order to build a great team you need to surround yourself with great people. The way you then keep these people performing for you and being happy and productive is that you treat them well, you pay them well, you set high standards for them, you recognize and reward success and you help them achieve their own goals and desires.Being an inspiration to others and helping them grow is one of life’s great and humbling experiences.
I Am Inspired By | I’m inspired by anyone who is a great success in their field and yet still has the grace and wisdom to be genuinely humble. I have been influenced by the works of the following business leaders and speakers.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I’d like to be remembered for being an honest and God-fearing man who put his family first and who also found the way to help and inspire others.