I’m sharing a link to a blog post that dives into what Steve Job’s thought it meant to be intelligent. But the short take is that you need to seek different experiences than the rest of the herd. Here’s the article. But while I agree that reading is a great way to open yourself up to new ideas, it matters that you’re not just reading the same books everyone else is.
This isn’t a new idea, of course. Poet Robert Frost wrote about “The Road Less Traveled,” and a brief but thought-provoking book “The Max Strategy,” offers some specific suggestions on how to get ahead by not doing the same things everyone else is. Worth a read. Here’s an Amazon Associates link.
What I like most about the Max Strategy is that it contends that it’s possible to position yourself for success and still have a satisfying life outside of your work. In other words, you can have fun along the way and have healthy personal relationships. While Jobs was an business genius, I wouldn’t recommend his personal life as a model anyone should emulate.
The Max Strategy is the story of the author, Dale Dauten, as a young man who has topped out in his career. He found out that he was passed over for a promotion. Worse yet, he learned this when he was snowed in at an airport after giving up a holiday weekend for his job. He’d been missing his family, for the sake of work, and felt he now had not much to show for it. He was angry, frustrated, and in low spirits. But in his funk, Dale noticed an older man, who was in laughing and joking with some kids. Being stuck at the airport wasn’t bothering this guy. Dale introduced himself to the man, and it turned out the older man, Max Elmore, was a highly successful businessman who had even served as an advisor a US president.
Dale and Max struck up a friendship, and Max mentored Dale. The essence of the advice Max gave is that it’s not enough to work hard and be smart, you have to be approaching everything in your life as ongoing pursuit of perfection. You can’t be like everyone else, doing the conventional things that are expected, and have any competitive advantage. You must make a conscious effort to try different approaches to all your problems and opportunities. This, literally, must be done each and every day. Your life, says Max, should be an ongoing experiment. You’ve got to continually refine what works and what doesn’t. Max suggests that you systematically try different approaches to solving problems or approaching opportunities, even if they seem odd and tank, but just keep tracking the results. Failure isn’t failure if you learn from it and unpack the experience. Just do it again and again. You’ll eventually break through with a series of trials.
There’s a portion of the book than suggests you look at everything that bugs you about your job, and what seems to be poorly done at your business, and attack these with a mind to improving them. Make a list and study it. This will help you find solutions and enjoy your work more. It’s the pathway to innovations.
So, it’s a short book with some simple but powerful ideas. If you like to read narratives that help illustrate the ideas. I recommend it. But if you just want to get on with the core ideas, then you pretty much have them. There’s more, but this is the “nut” of the advice.