Monthly Archives: March 2012

Steve Jobs Focused on Network Intelligence

I read Adam Lashinky’s new book Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired–And Secretive–Company Really Works on my flight to Doha, and I picked up a bunch of nuggets. Here’s one section that jumped out:

An unsung attribute of Steve Jobs that Apple also will miss is his role as a masterful networker and gatherer of information…He furiously worked the phones, calling up people he’d heard were worthy and requesting a meeting. No one turned down the chance to meet with Jobs, of course, and he used the opportunity to soak up information. His uncanny insight into trends in business and technology weren’t a fluke. Jobs worked hard for his market intelligence.

It follows with a story of Jobs hearing that Lytro was a cool company, calling the company’s CEO and inviting the Lytro CEO over to his house to discuss cameras and product design. According to the Forbes cover piece on Dropbox, Jobs did something similar with the founders of Dropbox. And surely countless other entrepreneurs.

Some of these conversations are of course driven with M&A in mind, but I follow Lashinsky’s point that much of this is Jobs’s instinct to always be pulling intelligence from his network about what’s happening in the world in order to be a more effective and informed professional.

Jobs took advantage of the density of Silicon Valley. He could summon the best young entrepreneurs, like Drew Houston, to his office on a day’s notice. He went on walks with Mark Zuckerberg. This is probably one reason he evangelized the region so much–increased density equals increased network intelligence for those living in the density.

Jobs was tapping networks inside Silicon Valley but outside of Apple corporate–and this was crucial. Lashinsky writes, “The rest of the crew at Apple is either too busy to schmooze or was always discouraged by Jobs from doing it, lest they get too big for their britches or too distracted from their Apple work.” Jobs once said he didn’t want to let exec Scott Forstall “out of the office” — which is great if someone needs to just put their head down and execute, but tunnel vision is not super helpful for fresh ideation.

Lashinksy asks who at Apple will be gathering this outside-the-company network intel with Jobs gone. It’s a good question. Meanwhile, we can all be asking ourselves a similar question in our careers: How are we pulling network intelligence from diverse sources in order to be better at the job we already have or to find a new opportunity? That’s a key theme of The Start-up of You.

Free Webcast Thursday Night

This Thursday March 29th at 6:30 PM pacific time — join Reid Hoffman and me for a live, free webcast to discuss the Start-Up of You and hear us answer your questions related to careers and the future of work. You should join the webcast if you’ve read the book or are thinking about reading it.

There’s a limited number of spots, so be sure to click here and then click “Register” to claim your spot. (If you’ve already submitted contact info on a Wufoo form via another blog, no need to do anything more.)

Look forward to talking to you on Thursday evening.


At SXSW the other week, an artist drew an illustration of our presentation as we were talking. I’ve pasted it below. Click to enlarge. I’m amazed it was done in real time.

Photo of the Day

How many of them are living in the moment? What’s the smartphone to digital camera ratio? How many people whip out their camera in a crowd because everyone around them is? Questions on a rainy Saturday evening…


Build On Your *Underlying* Strengths When Adapting

Play to your strengths. It’s common advice, and it makes sense. People go farther by figuring out what naturally comes easy and organizing their activities accordingly, instead of working overtime to compensate for weaknesses. The problem is that when people think about making career moves they often interpret “strengths” in a narrow industry context.

For example, say you’ve spent a decade in finance. You’ve developed serious experience, expertise, and industry connections. If you’re trying to build on your strengths, the right next career move would be to leverage these abilities into some other job in finance.

Yet, you might not like finance. You may not be thriving. Perhaps your calling is elsewhere. But because you want to leverage the soft assets you’ve built up over time, you stick with it. This is how many people end up working the same industry for years on end. In part, they were “building on their strengths.”

In the book, we talk about why evaluating your existing assets–of which strengths are one part–cannot be done in isolation. You should think about them in the context of your aspirations, and in the context of what people will pay for. All these things change over time.

If your aspirations or values are shifting, and you want to pivot to Plan B, better to think about your underlying strengths and focus on the transferable qualities of your most recent experiences. Project management is project management. Relationship building is relationship building. Some expertise is context specific. But not all of it is. Zoom out and think about the more universal characteristics of what you’re good at. Then match that to the market realities.

We feature James Gaines in the book, who pivoted from head honcho at Time Magazine (where he interviewed dozens of heads of state) to running a digital media startup. He saw his strength as “telling good stories”–not being editor of a print magazine. Storytelling was the underlying strength that enabled the pivot out of print journalism.

Bottom Line: You can still build on your strengths even if you are adapting your career into new industries, geographies, networks.

To Live Unseduced by Media Sirens and the Gleam of Envy in Others’ Eyes

Algis Valiunas penned an essay about David Foster Wallace last month that, for its relative brevity, is remarkably comprehensive. Here’s an excerpt from the section on “Moral Beauty” that spoke to me:

We are a nation of addicts, Wallace insists, in a chronic state of denial, craving the wrong kinds of pleasure and undone by the wrong kinds of pain. Purification is called for. By no means, however, does Wallace condemn all activity that is not undertaken purely for its own sake; that would be to condemn almost everything people do. What he does condemn is gross self-seeking ambition that cares only for the prizes and the gleam of envy in others’ eyes. In the absence of a genuine calling, which does not exclude honest ambition, whether one happens to be a lawyer or a businessman or an athlete or a writer, success is a corrosive illusion. Wallace updates Tolstoy, who labored all his life against the insidious collusion of sensuality and amour-propre. To live unseduced by media sirens or the longing for celebrity or fatuous simulacra of love or the urge for simple obliteration is the aim Wallace sets for the reader; it is the aim he set for himself as a recovering addict and mental patient and as a writer serious as he had never been before. However the world might have damaged you or you have damaged yourself, however you might believe you need your substance or fantasy of choice to make it through the day, resistance and integrity and moral beauty remain possible.


The family-authorized biography of DFW comes out August 30. I contributed a personal anecdote about Wallace to D.T. Max, the biographer. We’ll see if it made the final book.

Oprah and Charlie Rose Are in Permanent Beta

Oprah Winfrey recently left network television (where she was dominant) to launch her own cable network, OWN.

Charlie Rose recently joined the set of CBS This Morning, a very different show (at a very different hour!) than his main evening program that he continues to do with great success.

Both are enormously successful media brands who, late in life, have taken career risks. Oprah could have retired into philanthropy or just kept on dominating network television with one show. Charlie could have just kept with his show, or retired into a lucrative speaking career.

Instead, they pursue new opportunities in adjacent industry niches to keep growing, to keep pushing the boundaries of their medium, to keep testing the limits of where they can have influence. If it doesn’t work out, both are putting themselves at risk for being called one-trick ponies, or past their prime, or something along those lines.

How many titans of industry in their 60’s and 70’s could honestly say they’re actively trying new things?

Regardless of how their experiments play out, I respect Oprah and Charlie Rose greatly for pushing the envelope during a stage of their career when most expect them to ride quietly into the sunset…

Appearing on Charlie Rose

Reid and I were on the Charlie Rose Show last week talking about The Start-Up of You and other topics. Here’s the 11 min interview.

It was Reid’s third time on the show; my first.

As a longtime viewer of Charlie’s show, it was wild to be in the actual studio–so quiet and dark, and somewhat intimidating. Equally cool was being able to wait in the green room with James Fallows, Robert Caro, and Jon Meacham–idols, them all–who were taping a segment for President’s Day after us.

Random related memory: The last time I was in a big-show green room was the Fox News studios in 2007 for Neil Cavuto’s show. Newt Gingrich was sitting next to me getting his makeup done. The stylist asked him if he’d ever run for president again, and everyone in the room laughed, thinking it an absurd proposition. (Or at least that was why I laughed.) The point is that green rooms, I’ve learned, are where the action is…and never underestimate Newt.

A Couple Weeks After Liftoff…

There are at least two ways to take measure of a book: by the critical response and by how it’s faring commercially.

To the content itself, we’ve been happy with the early reactions / reviews to The Start-Up of You. A few quick highlights:

  • Barnes & Noble says, “This unconventional, refreshing approach enables workers to take charge of their own futures in rational ways.”
  • Wade Roush at Xconomy says that the discussion of first, second, and third degree connections makes it “guaranteed you’ll come out with some new ideas for using LinkedIn.”
  • The economist Arnold Kling says, “The book is not a commercial for Linked-in. Nowhere does it say, ‘Join Linked-in, and get connected to as many people as possible.’ On the contrary, they suggest only carefully circumscribed uses for weak ties. They make a stronger case for deeper relationships.” Arnold also comments on ABZ Planning.
  • Los Angeles Times / Financial Times review: “…Ultimately it is the optimism of Silicon Valley that infuses this book: There is still hope for those striving to break into the charmed circle.”
  • Kirkus says the “largely referential text overflows with relevant source material, guided ‘invest-in-yourself’ encouragement and sage industry-insider smarts.”
  • NPR excerpts a good part of Chapter 1 about the new world of work.
  • At, Seven Ways and Why To Treat Your Career Like a Startup. A good summation.

Folks like Mark Cuban, Sanjay Gupta, Arianna Huffington, Kevin Rose, and others have all been tweeting nice things about the book, too.

Commercially, we were thrilled that the book debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and stood atop the Wall Street Journal non-fiction list in its first week as well. It’s nice to have brisk sales out of the gate; it’s in part a testament to the urgency of the moment for a book on this topic.

But there’s still plenty to do to get the book in front of all of those who could benefit from it. Thanks in advance for spreading the word, giving it as a gift to others, etc. And feel free to email me if you want to do a bulk order, set up an event, or explore other ideas.

Have Heroes Outside Your Industry

Teller, of the Penn & Teller magician duo, responds to an email from a fan asking for career advice. He talks about their incredible hustle that got them to where they are. And he says this:

Have heroes outside of magic.  Mine are Hitchcock, Poe, Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Bach.  You’re welcome to borrow them, but you must learn to love them yourself for your own reasons.  Then they’ll push you in the right direction…

Love something besides magic, in the arts.  Get inspired by a particular poet, film-maker, sculptor, composer.  You will never be the first Brian Allen Brushwood of magic if you want to be Penn & Teller.  But if you want to be, say, the Salvador Dali of magic, we’ll THERE’S an opening.

(hat tip to Kevin Burke)


Here’s my older post on my icons.