My superhero is Steve Jobs. Saying that out loud makes me feel strangely disappointed, because it identifies me as just another sheep in the Apple flock. Since getting my first iMac in 2002 I followed Jobs’ every public utterance, watching every product launch online (including the classic iphone launch in 2007) before heading out to join the insanely long Apple Store queue. Actually, even uttering the word ‘insanely’ is walking in Jobs’ rhetorical footsteps. In short, I’m a classic fan boy. Whether you admire or despise Steve Jobs, his achievements are clear, so why not look at the world in the same way he did? I tried it for a week, researching some of the thinkers who influenced big Steve, and the results were diverse and surprising.
I’ve written a post about my outtakes from this exercise, and below I’ve listed my reading list from superhero week.
- Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda: I chose this title about real life Indian saints and yogic masters – reputedly the only book on Steve Jobs’ iPad – which was designated one of the most important spiritual books of the 20th century, as a jumping off point.
- The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton M Christensen: The second book I dipped into this week was another strong influence on Jobs (according to biographer Walter Isaacson). It couldn’t have been more different to the Autobiography of a Yogi, but the reason Steve Jobs liked it is pretty clear: focusing on the question of why new technologies cause big companies to fail, Clayton Christensen presents a compelling formula for how Disruptive Innovation can save big firms. His solution and Jobs’ Macintosh journey are eerily similar…
- Steve Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson: I read this a while ago but am putting it on this list because it’s a warts-and-all primer on who, how and why Steve Jobs was from someone who knew him well. The author also cites some of Jobs’ influences in here, so it was a useful stepping stone.
- Steve Jobs interviews, 1980-2010: I found this excellent collection of Steve Jobs interviews on allaboutstevejobs.com, spanning his entire career. Steve Jobs was forever drawing parallels between himself and his heroes when he spoke in public, so reading through these interviews was another useful starting point to find out who his influences were.
Reading this lot definitely drew me outside my literary and psychological comfort zones, like the architect of this particular exercise Austin Kleon promised it would, leaving my hero Steve Jobs far behind and asking me to explore new questions about business, life, the universe and everything.
If you’re looking for inspiration (as I am during this year of flux), you won’t find it in the same old places, yet finding new starting points can be difficult. Beginning with a source you really trust and finding out what inspires them is a great way to explore new pastures.