As one of the former founders and CEO of Pixar, and then the indelible CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs wore many entrepreneurial hats within each space he graced. Not a perfect person, he is still widely praised, and rightly so, for the advancements in technology he provided while paving the way for many generations to work with similar streamlined processes to his. His work as a public speaker, leader, and representative of the companies he innovated within really gave a new perspective to the tech world, but much of what he spoke about can be applied to multiple industries and in many situations.
Much of the influence he had was built on advice given to him. Yes, he had mentors and yes, he was very popular in the networking world, yet the power a good book had over him was palpable when he spoke about his favorites. Over the years, it may have seemed like he was never not producing something, but in the moments he had to absorb and learn, he took advantage of the time and maintained his curiosity. Improve your leadership and slake your own curiosity by diving into one of the following books that Jobs recommended during his tenure. They all pack a punch that will better prepare you for growth within your career.
1. Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company by Andrew S. Grove
Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company is an anecdotal book from the genius mind of Andrew Grove, a Hungarian-American businessman, engineer, philanthropist, and author. As the third CEO of Intel, he helped them to become the world’s largest chipmaker, and his success has since made him very influential in the electronics manufacturing industries. Jobs admired him for the specific ways in which his work related to the technical work he was doing with Apple and valued Grove detailing his failures as well as his successes as an important leadership trait. (Something he would later go on to do as well.)
As he detailed in his editorial review, Jobs really saw the need to learn about ebbs and flows in business. “This book is about one super-important concept. You must learn about Strategic Inflection Points, because sooner or later you are going to live through one.” Change is already difficult to deal with, but there are so many obstacles you can encounter within an organization and it’s important to be mindful that you will have to grow through a few of them as you grow with and within your company.
2. 1984 by George Orwell
A book on many high school and college course reading lists, 1984 almost seems like it could be part of our history books already. Another one of those “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” books where you truly see a physical manifestation of the worst. Written in 1948, Orwell looks at what the year 1984 will bring if society continues in the way he sees it going. How much of it is actual belief based on trends versus depictive imagination we may never know, but in 2021, it seems like we are still tracking slowly in that direction.
Overarchingly, the book serves as a warning of what dangers lie ahead if people are complacent. While the book is about one man’s struggle against an infallible government – which could make it feel like it holds a bit of a god complex for its reader – it inspired Jobs to pivot as he did with Apple over the years. He didn’t crave an Orwellian society, and it drove a sense of community within his companies. It even specifically inspired the “1984” Super Bowl commercial that teased Macintosh.
3. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
Considering the links that have been made between mental health and productivity – and the noticed improvements in minds that meditate — Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is actually a very basic and important manual for all career-minded people. First published in 1970, it was the western world’s first in-depth glance at Zen Buddhism and outlined the method of meditation Steve Jobs used to maintain balance and productivity. Its impact is perhaps most felt in the way it humanizes everyone who reads it, humbling them in realizing how important the simplicity of a zen mind is.
Meditation has been observed to improve work ethic and improve workplace performance. Regular practice can even reduce stress, which would affect the workforce massively as most company leaders and 34 percent of entrepreneurs reported having anxiety or anxious feelings. Learning to silence the mind is just as productive an aspect of your life and the way you approach work as continuing education, networking, and attending conferences on any given topic, often more so.
4. Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass
Steve Jobs was famously spiritual and led a clear movement of mindfulness in tech. While Be Here Now details Dass’ own yogic journey and the spiritual transformation that resulted, it served as a bit of a road map for Jobs. As a former wealthy professor at Harvard, Dass had seen the pitfalls and pleasures of two very opposite lifestyles. His experiences gleaned some very specific guidance for Jobs as he navigated his own purpose while growing one of the biggest companies in the world at an insane rate. He visited India after reading this book and even opened his mind to experience the psychedelic euphoria of LSD several times between 1972 and 1974 because of it. He also continued to practice yoga with this in his back pocket, a practice that helped him develop into one of the greatest leaders known to mankind.
However you choose to look at it, Steve Jobs innovated in many industries without even having to touch them. His influence has allowed many tech giants to soar, and has inspired people around the world. Dip your toes into a productive, mindful, genius mind by taking a page out of any one of these books, and don’t forget to upgrade your career choices while you’re feeling inspired!