University of Southern California

‘Make It Happen’
Executive Producer Mark Burnett on how to succeed
February 8, 2013 • by News at Marshall

Emmy award-winning producer Mark Burnett shared some of the secrets of his success with students at a Jan. 30 event sponsored by the USC Marshall School of Business, the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Burnett, the creator and executive producer of top-rated reality TV shows including “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “The Apprentice” and “Shark Tank,” spoke about his motivation, offered advice to students and emphasized the importance of taking risks.

“If I had been less naive and more responsible, I never would have pitched ‘Survivor.’ I literally just did it,” said Burnett. “Analysis can be paralysis.”

David Belasco, entrepreneurship professor at Marshall, led the conversation with Burnett as part of his class, a series called “Taking the Leap.”

Burnett, raised in an industrial town in England, immigrated to Los Angeles at the age of 23 with only a few hundred dollars and no connections to the entertainment industry. He served as a nanny for wealthy families and launched a profitable T-shirt business in Venice Beach before coming up with the idea for “Survivor” and successfully pitching it to CBS.

Burnett says he learned valuable lessons selling T-shirts on a rented portion of a fence, including the knowledge that every customer is different.

“You have to adjust what you say to people based on what speaks to them. You have to know their language,” he said.

Describing his own quest for success, Burnett urged students to take action and cultivate their own forward momentum.

“You going to have to make it happen,” he said. “Step out there and take some massive action and pay attention to what’s happening from the action. Have some vision and keep moving forward.”


About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.