Life Lessons

Alexei Orlov has been the chief executive of a global agency network (RAPP, a member of Omnicom Group, Inc.), the CMO of the Volkswagen family of car brands in China and a global executive for the Wunderman agency. But the richest experiences, he believes, come from being a perpetual student of life. Here, he shares his mantra for staying curious and living a better life.


I’m finally resolved that I shall always be one of life’s perpetual students — at first, in many ways, I allowed this to be a burden to me until I realized that even imperfection has a beauty about it. Particularly if it allows one to discover ways to do things better.

I’m not afraid to say there is so much more to learn. Indeed, the more I learn the more I realize how little I know.

Therefore I live by this mantra:

Wisdom means sometimes we must throw our knowledge away.

I have been extremely fortunate to meet some amazing people — and many of them certainly did not even realize just how gifted and special they were.

It is safe to say that most the people that have inspired me have not come with exaggerated business titles or indeed the glitter of social circumstance. Yet there they stood, with so much to offer.

I have lived a truly global life, and I have been so fortunate to count many people as my friends right across the spectrum of nationalism, color, creed, orientation and circumstance. My absolute and fundamental belief is that everybody has the right to live and everyone has the right to be heard and that success should come from nothing else than a person’s capability.

The power of social and digital media has allowed everyone and anyone a voice — the court of public opinion has become a moral compass regardless of whether such opinion is correct and based on fact. And with this power, the world needs to know its place. As they say, with great power comes great responsibility. And to my mind, too many of us simply do not have an understanding of how to behave.

My greatest disappointment is that kindness has fallen away from the term humankind. We have become too rushed. We offer opinions for the sake of being opinionated. We have forgotten one of the most important lessons — slow down to gather pace.

The life of business and the business of life are inexorably linked.

What we say is never as important as what we do.

And what we do defines who truly we are.