Fifteen Minutes of Shame:
How a Twitter Mob Nearly Ruined My Life
by Des Hague
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Pub Date 12 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 5 Dec 2023
Warren Buffet once said that all it takes is five minutes to ruin a reputation. For Des Hague, it only took forty-two seconds.
In 2014, Hague’s life was a bona fide rags-to-riches success story. After nearly twenty years of steadily climbing the corporate ladder, he had risen from living in the back of a fish-and-chips shop to becoming the CEO of one of the top hospitality providers in the world.
But when a video surfaced on Twitter of him kicking a dog in an elevator, everything changed. A mob formed on social media that spread like wildfire. Despite expressing deep regret for his actions, he was forced to resign from his job, and his family was threatened.
What the mob didn’t know was that the person depicted in the short video clip was the exact opposite of who Hague really was—a man who had survived a childhood of physical and sexual abuse, spent decades building a loving family and a high-flying career, and raised millions to fight child homelessness. Though ultimately there was little harm to the dog, his life was nearly destroyed in a few short days by thousands of people he had never met.
In Fifteen Minutes of Shame, Hague tells the inspiring story of how he overcame the odds to find improbable success and not only reveals the person behind the forty-two-second clip but makes a compelling argument against the dangers of embracing cancel culture.
“Des is a high-energy leader who thinks big, makes things happen, and has a wonderful combination of operating, branding, and innovation skills, along with a keen eye for talent—all of which are on display in this book.”—Brian Cornell, chairman, CEO, and president, Target Inc., and nonexecutive chairman, YUM! Brands
“Des is both an extraordinary thought leader and a high-impact executive. He has that special ability to make everything he’s involved with better. Fifteen Minutes of Shame powerfully demonstrates why.”—Joe DePinto, chairman, CEO, and president, 7-Eleven Inc., and chairman of the board, Brinker International
“Des Hague is the most spectacular leader you have likely never heard of, but after reading Fifteen Minutes of Shame, you are even less likely to forget him or his incredible story. It is a playbook of authentic self-reflection, of never allowing your worst moments to define you, and the importance of never losing hope for a better future. As Des says, ‘Onwards!’”—Melanie Steinbach, former chief people officer, Cameo and McDonald’s USA
“In a world which has been reduced to thirty-second video clips and 280-character tweets, Des has written an important and remarkably candid book that reminds us that people are so much more than our worst moments. Fifteen Minutes of Shame is much more than his story—it’s a story about our social condition in the digital age.”—Ian Troop, CEO, Toronto Pan-Am Games, and board member and advisor
“Fifteen Minutes of Shame is an exhilarating, authentic read. From the first page, the book underscores how Des thinks differently—unburdened by convention, inspired by the lure of possibility, and led by an unrelenting drive to help others excel. It’s a great read for anyone facing adversity and a lesson to never give up.” —Diane Ellis, former CEO, the Limited, and president, Chico’s FAS and Brooks Brothers
“In Fifteen Minutes of Shame, Des courageously bears his soul with such openness and authenticity that you cannot help but be drawn in from the first page. It is a master class for anyone facing adversity in how to own your mistakes but not let them define you.”—Monica Woo, former president, 1-800-Flowers
“Des is a compelling and courageous business leader who through endless pain and some significant mistakes has the fortitude to share his story honestly. His is a story worth telling and most importantly worth reading. There is not a single professional who has not made mistakes along their climb, but there are few who are willing to share them so openly. In a world more interested in ‘headlines’ than long-term values, Des reminds us to walk with our heads high and our hearts open.”—Bonnie Siegel, founder of ASE Group and former presidential campaign strategist
“I have known Des for over twenty years and seen how he faces adversity head-on and brings out the best in everyone. After reading Fifteen Minutes of Shame, my respect for him is even greater. The life lessons laid out, page after page, are profound, riveting, and delivered with an authenticity that makes Des special.”—Jeff Hamill, former senior executive, Starbucks, 7-Eleven, Smile Brands, and author of Taking Responsibility
“Des’s story proves it does not matter where you start in life but what you do with your life that counts. We all face adversity, but staying in the fight, no matter the odds, is critical. The book is filled with countless life lessons, but the most profound is that your worst moments do not have to define you. It is your will to learn, evolve, and your ability to grow that makes the difference. In Fifteen Minutes of Shame, Des illuminates that and so much more.”—Keith King, special advisor to president of OVG, former president of Centerplate International, and Team USA Olympic member
“I have seen Des’s impact firsthand. He thinks differently. Fifteen Minutes of Shame captures why and more with refreshing candor, self-awareness, and brutal honesty.”—Hal Handel, COO, New York Racing Association
“In Fifteen Minutes of Shame, Des lays out his life story with the kind of candor and honesty I have come to expect from him. Des holds nothing back and underscores how we are all better than our worst moment and that we all face adversity, but giving up is never an option. Des is the rare person who enables the type of adrenaline boost that we all dream about injecting into our lives. The learnings throughout the book, from one of the best leaders out there, are priceless.”—Johnny Custer, senior executive, advisor, and author
“I have worked with many great leaders, but Des has set the standard that I use to compare all others. Fifteen Minutes of Shame is an emotionally charged story that is both terrifying and inspirational. It is exactly what I would expect from Des.”—Roger Glenn, senior human resources executive, Safeway and Target
“Des has proved to be a great business leader—his empathy and emotional intelligence ensure that all who come into contact with him believe they are part of the solution and not part of the problem. Fifteen Minutes of Shame shows how these traits mean you are not defined by the lows but can be inspired to overcome them.”—Simon Cohen, former CEO, Leicester Tigers