TED@UPS Speaker: Mark Modesti

Why brutal honesty and the fearless search for trouble can save a company


Mark Modesti

Professional troublemaker Mark Modesti uses examples from business, his personal life, and even Abraham Lincoln to explain why brutal honesty and the fearless search for trouble can save a company (and even a family and a country) before trouble hunts you down.

29 years ago, Mark Modesti was a driver at UPS.

Today, he uses 29 years of expertise from working within UPS’s walls to improve supply chains within other companies.

His professional responsibility to shake up organizational systems puts him in a constant collision course with the undeniably human resistance to change.

Yet, through this, Mark Modesti has learned time and time again that the greatest value always comes after the greatest trials, tribulations – and trouble.

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Q&A with Mark Modesti

1. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Airline Pilot. Maybe I should have picked UPS Pilot!

2. What was your first job?

I worked in a bicycle shop as a kid – I think I was probably 12 years old or so. The owner was a very smart guy, and someone I had a great deal of respect for. Still think of him from time to time.

3. Where do you get your best thinking done?

Preparing a TED Talk gives you the opportunity to learn this, and it’s very helpful to know. The ‘when’ is just as important to me as the ‘where.’ The best time is in the morning, after exercise.

4. What’s your favorite TED Talk?

It’s kind of cliché, because I think it’s the most listened to TED Talk to date, but I’d say it is Sir Ken Robinson’s first one. The content, the delivery, the use of humor; he puts it all together so well!

5. Favorite quote?

The leader’s job is to define reality, then give hope. – Napolean Bonaparte

The_Social_Animal_(David_Brooks_book)6. What book are you reading right now?

Too many – always too many! The one that’s most on my mind, and on the bed stand now is “The Social Animal” by David Brooks. It’s a fascinating look at the many influences and influencers in our lives.

7. Living or dead, who would you invite to dinner?

My Grandfather. I never knew him, but I’ve heard many stories about what a great man he was. He was an entrepreneur, and was a mechanic for a famous pilot named Jimmy Doolittle. Although he passed far too soon, my grandmother kept his memory alive for our family.

8. What cause are you most passionate about?

The next generation of leaders. There are some great ones in the wings!

9. What’s the best career advice you ever received?

Don’t take a problem to the boss without a solution.

10. Proudest accomplishment?

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After work I like to watch a good documentary, read a good book or have a stimulating conversation.

28 years of marriage… to the same woman!

11. Last weekend on earth – where would you go?

The Arizona Desert, where I grew up. I hope the last weekend is not in August…

12. What’s something you see happening 10 years from now?

That’s a tough one. I don’t know, but I’m eager to find out!

13. What is the best gift you have ever received?


14. Who would play you in a movie of your life?

I’m often told I look like Ted Danson, but the obvious answer is Brad Pitt or Hugh Jackman.

15. Favorite activity after work

Watch a good documentary. Read a good book. Have a stimulating conversation.




TED@UPS If there’s one thing every UPSer has in common, it’s that we have an irresistible desire to figure it out and get it done. And that leads to some amazing ideas. TED@UPS explores both the destination and the journey of ideas – big and small – that inspire us, challenge how we think or feel and even change the world.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.