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How Many Balls Can You Juggle? 30 Seconds of Impeccable Sense from Brian Dyson

September 3, 2010

Updated July 29, 2014

A while ago my wife, Sue, forwarded an email to me that was circulating around her office. The subject line, which said “Shortest Speech by CEO of Coca Cola–Very Impressive,” caught my attention so I quickly opened the file. Now, I know very little about Coca Cola, nor do I wish to to. However, the leadership content of what I received captivated me.

It was actually not the current CEO of Coke who made an extraordinary and wise set of remarks, but the former CEO, Brian Dyson. Back on September 6, 1996, Dyson, as retired head of Coca Cola, spoke at Georgia Tech’s 172nd commencement.

What Sue had forwarded to me was called the 30 Seconds Speech by Brian Dyson. In fact, Google this and you’ll be inundated with results on the topic. But I wanted more than the 30 seconds. You’ll find below Dyson’s remarks at Georgia Tech. They’re very insightful and even now are more relevant than when he uttered them 14 years ago.

Dyson joined Coca Cola in 1959, becoming president of US operations in 1978, president of North American operations in 1983 and then president and CEO in 1986. In 1991 he became vice-chairman, retiring in 1994. He’s now President of Chatham International Corporation, a consulting and private investment firm with a focus on South Africa. In addition to his corporate achievements, he has written short stories, with his novel Pepper in the Blood being released in 1996.

So folks, here it is. Some incredible words of wisdom from a former corporate head. I hope you find them meaningful and of assistance to your personal challenges and aspirations.

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit … and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or evenshattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for Balance in your life.


Don’t undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

Don’t set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

Don’t take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life, for without them, life is meaningless.

Don’t let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live all the days of your life.

Don’t give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.

Don’t be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us to each together.

Don’t be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be pave.

Don’t shut love out of your life by saying it’s impossible to find time. The quickest way to receive love is to give; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly; and the best way to keep love is to give it wings!

Don’t run through life so fast that you forget not only where you’ve been, but also where you are going.

Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.

Don’t be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.

Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.

–Brian G. Dyson
President and CEO, Coca-Cola Enterprises during his speech at the Georgia Tech 172nd Commencement Address Sept. 6, 1996

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Juan Rodolfo Bianchi permalink
    November 21, 2014 10:22 pm

    I’m 79, a retired CPA.
    I knew Brian Dyson in Buenos Aires, where we studied at the same University. I have not any doubt about his outstanding talents. As far as I know, he was an excellent person, from whom I learned a lot of things that helped me in my own life.
    I would like to send him a letter. Would you be so kind to let me know his present address in the USA? Many thanks.

  2. Sagar permalink
    March 20, 2014 5:50 pm

    I think this is more philosophical than realistic. I am a person in my mid 20s and feel this does not apply to us (average person). A person like me, in today’s economy, cannot afford to lose his job not matter how much I dislike it. I would like to spend more time with my friends and family, follow my heart and travel but because of down sizing the work load per person has increased tremendously, and I have to cater to the increased demands of work, otherwise I stand the risk of losing my job in the next “down sizing season”.
    People write about taking risks, but if I were to take a risk to follow my passion and realize a year later that I that I need to go back; its the same companies that wont even pick up my resume because there is a 6 month or 1 year gap.
    I wont refute all the points made by Mr. Dyson however, I personally have been; and know many people who were refused jobs because they were over qualified.

    The point I am trying to make here is that I think its different when you are the CEO of a company and have enough money in your bank to sponsor you passion, but if you are an average person like me the perspective is totally different. Passion, or no passion bills need to be paid.

    • March 20, 2014 6:18 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I hear what you’re saying; however, Dyson’s comments are important as a reminder of the need to pause and reflect on where we’re at in our lives, examine opportunities that present themselves and figure out where we are heading as individuals. The turbulence of change, a mean job market, unpredictable events, etc. make it that more important to stop periodically.

  3. September 6, 2010 3:35 pm

    It’s a keeper, Mary.

  4. Mary permalink
    September 6, 2010 1:37 pm

    Wow! I printed out this speech. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. September 3, 2010 7:42 pm

    Oh, the skeptic in you, Susan 🙂 That’s actually a good point. I still know little about Dyson; in fact, couldn’t find a more inclusive bio. His message is excellent, but as you note from what was it born?

  6. September 3, 2010 6:51 pm

    I would love to know if Dyson’s remarks were born of personal success or failure in each of the five categories he names — work, family, health, friends and spirit. Most likely, both.

    It is somewhat ironic to hear the CEO of Coca-Cola place a value on health. Maybe his next job will be selling V8.

  7. September 3, 2010 12:36 pm

    My pleasure, Bret. As soon as I discovered Dyson’s remarks I knew I had to share them…J

  8. bretsimmons permalink
    September 3, 2010 12:27 pm

    This is excellent, Jim. Thanks for sharing it. Bret


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