Geoff's Open Road

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  • INTERVIEWED BY:

    The Original Roadtrip

  • INTERVIEW LOCATION:

    Chicago, IL

GEOFF FROST

Chief Marketing Officer
Motorola

“Growing up was like running as fast as you could until you lost your nerve, and then hurling yourself to the ground and hooking your fingers in. I remember saying to myself, ‘I’m never going to do that.’”

INTERESTS:

Technology

THEMES DISCUSSED:

Experience Fear

TAGS:

advertising, counterculture, curiosity, Europe, impact, making mistakes, marketing, revolution, travel

BIOGRAPHY:

It was 1968, and Geoff Frost was a high school graduate all set to take the path that had been laid out for him. But right before he was supposed to head off to Yale, he changed course. He met with admissions and suggested that he take a year off before college. Then he went to Europe. In Italy, he occupied a university with some engineering students during the ’68 protests. He spent the rest of the time bumming around Europe and participating in the revolution. After a year, he came home--but he never made it back to Yale. First, he talked his way into a copywriting job at an ad agency in New York City. On his first day of work, he went in “aflame with hunger and curiosity and new possibilities”; then he sat there and listened to his coworkers have the most boring, unenlightened, unaware discussion he’d ever heard and thought, “How hard could this be?” By the end of the summer, he’d gotten two raises and seen where his previous path would take him: becoming another one of the business guys he’d spent the summer with, with an MBA and a head full of rigid, unimaginative ideas. He figured that the training he’d get in school couldn’t be nearly as expansive as life itself. “I began to develop this kind of belief that if you got your degree, you’d think you knew something; whereas if I didn’t get my degree, I’d know I didn’t know anything, and stay curious and keep trying to make it up,” Geoff says. He hopped from vice president of advertising at Grey USA at age 26, to global director of Nike, to chief marketing officer at Motorola. And if he had to do it again, he’d do the same thing. “Poof! You’re 50!” he says. “So what have you done? Did you have fun? Did you have adventures? Did you live a brave life? Were you not afraid? Because I think mostly it’s fear, you know, ‘God, am I going to make a mistake?’ Well, you know what? Make a mistake.”

Producer’s note: Geoff Frost died in 2005, four years after this interview, at age 56.

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