Ron Burgundy is a titan of ignorance in and outside the newsroom in all that he says and does. But what are some of the key lessons his story can teach us about ‘staying on top’ in our respective professions and general career management? Maybe if we are able to heed them, we too can make sure we stay ‘classy’…
Ahhhh Ron Burgundy – arguably Will Ferrell’s greatest on-screen incarnation (his character in Old School deserves a very honourable/dishonourable mention depending how you look at it) and a living, breathing illustration of some of the ignorance and inequalities that once dominated industries some decades ago.
Surely not someone to be held up as role model for positive behaviours in the workplace? No, the Ron we first meet would never win an employee of the month award in any modern-day office that put any value equality of opportunity and respect. Yet there can be no doubting he does go through something of a journey over the course of the movie, eventually reaching some kind of enlightenment.
So might there be something to be learnt from this? I think so – and if I had to pick up some learning highlights, I would suggest the following:
- Wilful ignorance benefits no one, especially you
By all accounts Ron begins his journey as – to put it bluntly – a bit of a tool.
He finds it difficult to not offend anyone he comes in to contact with, mainly through his selfishness and wilful ignorance to the feelings of others. An example of this is the pool party scene in which he has a series of small talk conversations when he seemingly takes no notice peoples responses and just moves on to the next empty, meaningless interaction.
Do not buy in to your own hype to the point where it stops you listening and being ignorant to what is going on around you. Take pride in your craft but never forget to take pride in listening effectively. You will never learn anything when you are listening to the sound of your own voice, so embrace opportunities to listen and do so with sincerity and minimum ego.
Alternatively be ignorant like Ron was. Why not go a step further and take his approach to drinking on job while you are at it: “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes, down into my belly…”
- “Go fuck yourself San Diego“
You need to be taking control of your career and not just taking the script as it is given to you by life.
Ron struggles with this – and how! At different points the simplest changes in grammar on the telecaster with his script have him experiencing all sort of difficulties, with the addition of a question mark causing him to finish a show with the philosophical statement/life question “I… am… Ron Burgundy?”.
Sure, we all take some things for granted which can catch us out but it cannot become a habit as it did with Ron or it has dire consequences. His nearly cost him his career, with him declaring live on air later on in the movie: “And I’m Ron Burgundy. Go fuck yourself, San Diego”.
Analyse and evalute what is put in front of you – whether it be information, opportunities, challenges – and don’t just accept it at it’s their superficial level. Dig a bit deeper so you can begin to not only understand what is going on but also how you can change it – or better yet, improve it. It will also help you avoid telling people in specific states or cities to go fuck themselves. This is never well received.
- You never know when your network will dig you out of a hole
A friend in need is a friend indeed and you can never over-estimate the value of your personal and professional network in giving you a helping hand when you need it most.
That well known guru of management Ronan Keating (yes, that Ronan – this is what sets Boyzone apart from Westlife) once said the best advice he was given “Be nice to everyone on the way up, because you are bound to see them on the way back down”.
The same is true of the people in your network who help you along the way at different stages in your work life. Sure you might not see them through every stage of your career cycle but you need to make sure you acknowledge how they have helped you and be grateful for this. Do not simply get in contact with your network with the intention of being the only beneficiary – aim for it to be a win-win/two way street in this regard.
Because you never know when you will be down and out and in need of their help. Ron learnt this when having to deal with an angry bear in a zoo enclosure, with the only result seemingly being torn to shreds by this huge beast.
It is at this point Baxter, his Spanish-speaking pet dog and friend, comes to the rescue reasoning with the bear that he is a friend of his cousin and so Ron and the other members of the news team should be allowed to live, which they are. A great example of a network helping when you least expect it.
So remember, next time you are caught in a bear enclosure, or are too tired to listen, or are even just about to tell a whole region to go fuck themselves, just think “What would Ron do?”