The world mourns Steve Jobs, and what I liked about him best was his mind. Jobs knew that magic happened where technology intersected with the liberal arts and I think the key there is liberal arts. And I also think that the most successful leaders know that. The books that these leaders consume are not generally business books, they are books that make them think and business books seldom make anyone really think. They read books that have the ability to change lives.
In the New York Times article, “C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success,” Harriet Rubin researched the topic and interviewed some of the most successful CEOs. Rubin writes,
“Serious leaders who are serious readers build personal libraries dedicated to how to think, not how to compete… Forget finding the business best-seller list in these libraries… Students of power should take note that C.E.O.’s are starting to collect books on climate change and global warming, not Al Gore’s tomes but books from the 15th century… Personal libraries have always been a biopsy of power. The empire-loving Elizabeth I surrounded herself with the Roman historians…”
Phil Knight the founder of Nike had an interest in Asian history, art and poetry. It’s reported that Steve Jobs had an interest in the work and poetry of William Blake. Dee Hock the founder of Visa, discovered what he needed in Omar Khayyam’s “Rubáiyát,” the Persian poem. And the article goes on and on and is worth the read.
When a successful leader steeps himself into the liberal arts, he does so because he has an insatiable curiosity. He wants to further his knowledge, and often finds answers to questions that he didn’t know he was looking for. The best leaders read because they want to, not because they think they have to, so the experience is enjoyable.
So what’s the point of all of this?
Sometimes you have to fill an information gap that you didn’t know that you had. And sometimes the payoff is in the future when you are able to connect what others deem to be “unconnectable”. But to be able to do that you have to invest the time in reading first. What liberal arts subject matter are you interested in? Start your reading there.
“Suzanne Collins who wrote The Hunger Games trilogy was first influenced by Greek myth. According to Wikipedia, “Collins says that the idea for The Hunger Games came from channel surfing on television. On one channel she observed people competing on a reality show, and on another she saw footage of the Iraq War. The two blended together, and the idea for the book was formed. The Greek myth of Theseus also served as inspiration for the book, with Collins describing Katniss as a futuristic Theseus.””
So you ask yourself, who is Theseus, and how would I recognize the Greek story in today’s The Hunger Games?
Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra and King Aegeus of Athens. For his safety, while he was growing up, Aethra pretended that Poseidon and not Aegeus was Theseus’ father, so that the boy would not be killed before he could ascend to his father’s throne.
There was an Olympic game, and every ninth year, King Aegeus had to send seven boys and seven girls from Athens to be devoured by the Cretan Minotaur – a monster that was half bull, half man – which Mino’s kept in a labyrinth. One year, Theseus was chosen (because the people of Athens were upset with Aegeus) as one of the seven boys to be eaten by the Cretan Minotaur. Theseus was very strong, but he prayed to Goddess Aphrodite for assistance. Aphrodite answered, and asked her son Eros to make Ariadne, Minos’ daughter fall in love with Theseus.
Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and agreed to help him if he would marry her. He agreed and she told him that if a golden ball of thread, which she possessed, is tied to the labyrinth door, it would roll itself to the middle of the labyrinth, which is where the Minotaur lived. Ariadne told Theseus that for every 24 hours, the Minotaur slept for only one hour and did so starting at midnight. She tied the thread to the labyrinth door, and Theseus ran his hand along the magic thread and when he got to the centre of the labyrinth he killed the monster shortly after midnight.
For those who have read The Hunger Games you can see the parallels between the book and the Greek myth. Collins would not have been able to blend the news stories with the story of Theseus to create The Hunger Games had she not known the story of Theseus.
We all have gaps in information, and many times we are not even aware of the information gaps. There is no real way around information gaps because we CANNOT read all of the information that is available. But we can create a dent, even if it’s a small one, by taking an interest in the liberal arts and start there. Amazing things CAN and DO happen at the intersection of the LIBERAL ARTS and BLANK. For Steve Jobs, his BLANK was technology, what’s your?
How can you use this information? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Liked this post? Share it and subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!
Author Bio: Avil Beckford, an expert interviewer, entrepreneur and published author is passionate about books and professional development, and that’s why she founded The Invisible Mentor and the Virtual Literary World Tour to give you your ideal mentors virtually in the palm of your hands.
Book link is an affiliate link.