Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mark Burnett's larger-than-life experiences will inspire

Jump In! Even If You Don't Know How To Swim
By Mark Burnett, published by Ballantine Books (2005)

Mark Burnett is a famous television producer who is credited with introducing the reality TV genre to audiences around the world. His shows – Eco-Challenge, Survivor, The Apprentice, Shark Tank – have revolutionized the medium.

In his 2005 autobiography, Jump In!, Burnett chronicles his rise from obscurity to the top of the entertainment industry with honesty and candor.

This rags-to-riches story is inspiring. After arriving in Los Angeles in 1982 with $600 in his pocket, Burnett soon found employment as a nanny for a wealthy couple. He sold T-shirts on Venice Beach, founded a marketing company and eventually got involved in producing the Eco-Challenge series for Discovery Channel.

Clearly, Burnett has a passion for the outdoors and for embracing the unknown. His personal philosophy of jumping headlong into a project, despite his naiveté or lack of experience, didn’t deter him from tackling bigger and bigger challenges. With a sheer determination, chutzpah, courage and creativity, Burnett embarked on a journey to produce exhilarating TV according to his unique vision.

His story is most compelling when he describes the various trails and tribulations in filming Eco-Challenge and Survivor episodes. His descriptions of exotic lands, from the primitive cultures of Borneo to the snake-infested jungles of the Amazon, make for some fun reading.

Burnett recounts his many adventures in a plain, engaging style presents nuggets of wisdom and lessons learned in adages, which appear as sidebars throughout the book.

Here’s a sample:

  • Choose your companion before you choose your road;
  • Always be brave enough to change your mind when you know you should;
  • Jumping in is all about having conscious faith in your own abilities;
  • Little victories: When setting long-term goals, benchmark your progress. 
Disclosure: I’m not a big TV watcher. I’ve seen one episode of Survivor 1 and half of an Apprentice episode (I can’t remember which season). That’s not to say that the programming that Burnett has produced has not had tremendous value for the shows’ legions of fans and advertisers over the past 14 years.


Jump In! provides a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a modern-day TV pioneer, along with enough thrills and chills to qualify as a page-turner.


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