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THE BIG IDEA OF SELF-EMPOWERMENT AND CREATING YOUR OWN REALITY

By James McCue, Jr.
Monday, October 22, 2012
The members of the Portrait Project interviewing Donny Deutsch
The members of the Portrait Project interviewing Donny Deutsch

MANHATTAN - On a rather casual mid-September evening with temperatures topping out at an unseasonable 80 degrees, the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation (CBTF) office routinely prepares for a larger than life guest speaker – television personality and former advertising executive Donny Deutsch; clad in casual clothing, the structure of the night’s discussion is certainly a mixture of the manylike Donny himself.

In a relaxed and cozy setting Mr. Deutsch, who comes from an advertising background because of his father, recounts to a group of young adult brain tumor survivors how his early foundation has provided him with training, lessons and talents that have spanned across every aspect within his life and helped him succeed. “Both are really important tools to who I am today. When I am on television there is a tangible, visible mixture of my advertising and television personas. But the key to success - in whatever you are doing in your life – is doing what you love. It has to come from the heart”.

Doing what one loves is a staple to personal success and a sense of fulfillment, however, success comes after one has overcome unique obstacles and adversity. Being a well-known television personality does not make Mr. Deutsch immune from such life experiences which he admits has also contributed to the man he is today, “Some obstacles that have shaped me are mostly my mistakes and stupidity,” Donny blushes and chuckles when asked by Morgan Sobel, a young lady who is also a brain tumor survivor and has her own dreams of going into the advertising industry.

Seconds later Donny briefly pauses and with a serious undertone, leans forward and continues, “But I don’t regret making the mistakes I made or the decisions which in hindsight were stupid. Failures are an important component in any obstacle - understanding, learning and essentially growing from them. Our fear of rejection shouldn’t hold us back”.

Failures allow progress and give an individual a better understanding of the things one does right and the things one does wrong. Theses failures or successes could turn into your next “Big Idea”, the same way in which “Discovering” Donny Deutsch arrived at a meaning for his same-name television show. “The ‘Big Idea’ is really a path forged by examining a particular moment or need at a certain point in your life. The best creative force for bringing this idea forth into the world is paying attention to reality and remaining vigilant, always keeping your eyes open for that next great idea.”

Like every genuine, feel-good success story there has to be slabs of granite for which the cornerstone of Donny’s identity was built upon and for which he attributes his success to. Donny gives the rather popular reply of his parents being his inspiration for doing what he does today but adds an element that often gets lost in the fray on the nightly broadcast news programs society watches, “My mother was a teacher and like I said before I broke into the advertising business because my dad was an advertising executive himself. I cite my parents as my inspiration because they nurtured my special talents and fostered my interests from a very early age. The basics and structure of my life come from the prominent pillars of proud parents.”

Even in a world that is becoming more digital, the things that keep Donny Deutsch going and allow him to press on is his interconnectedness with the people who watch his programs and the teeming fans he has across the country sans social media, “I am not driven by how much money I am making. My goal is to make a difference in the world by reaching out to people and touching their life in some way with a reaction to what I am doing.”

Donny was asked hypothetically what he would be doing if his life unexpectedly took a different course and with a sense of industriousness he revealed he would still like to retain a sense of interconnectedness and influence the people and things around him, “Well I’m 54 years old [or young!] but if I could I would love to run for mayor of New York. If not that, thenI would love to have my own show and be a provocateur”.

Looking back at the richness and fullness of his career, Donny lists his personal favorite and most memorable interviews of his career while also trying to catch amnesia for the worst moments, “I’d have to say the best person I interviewed on my show was Bill Gates followed by these young entrepreneurs who overcame obstacles to reach their success, a rags-to-riches story.”

“My favorite and successful advertising campaigns that I have been a part of consist of two: the Bill Clinton advertisements we did and the Ikea furniture spots we made. The big reason for the success of both these television ads was because of the broad breadth they were able to connect to. They addressed different lifestyles from the mainstream. That was great that we were able to touch upon that.”, Donny remembers sporting a smile when sharing with the room.

Saving the worst for last, Donny gets to the horrible mad scientist gone wrong experiment of Domino’s Pizza. Like a sticky goo, he retells the creative process of the campaign and how it went wrong, gesturing with his hands, seemingly shaking off the invisible aforementioned goo, “We did a campaign and we had a series of commercials. Do you remember the ‘Bad Andy, Good Pizza’ monkey for Domino’s?”, he asks the room to no one really in particular, “It didn’t work out too well because it was a stupid mixture of the everyday and really there was no connection between the two. It really was memorable for all the wrong reasons.”

But what is Donny’s own “Big Idea” and how does he approach and understand the setbacks life gives him? “I don’t think I’ve had my big idea yet, I haven’t reached that mountaintop yet. When I look at my career from a cumulative perspective, I want my Big Idea to be something timeless. It has to be something that resonates with a lot of people and has a lasting impact not just a spur and style of the moment type of thing.”

But a big looming question was how people succeed who have an absence of the foundation of guiding parents to which Donny emphasized a point of not-taking things too seriously, “The best coping strategy I’ve adopted when dealing with life’s challenges is to look at it like it’s a board game, another hurdle for you to jump over.”

Once in a while there will be those hurdles Donny Deutsch says that will really frustrate you and find one cursing just like any person would under extreme duress and here at the CBTF office one person coined a phrase appropriate for that exact moment. Sometimes a person just has to say “[CBT] F it!” and move on. Let’s get to it!

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