Forget Steve Jobs. Model This Entrepreneur Instead
By now it seems everyone has read Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography of Steve Jobs. Though the book is masterfully written and its subject was certainly brilliant, it does sometimes seem that many people use the Apple founder’s example as license to berate and belittle everyone they come across, in service of their business ideas.
Throughout Steve Jobs’s professional life, he had one guiding focus--to make technology beautiful and easy to use. He was determined to achieve this mission by any means necessary. In many ways, though, Jobs succeeded in spite of his heavy-handed approach, not because of it. Though his vision came to fruition because of his one-of-a-kind talent, he alienated people and made enemies at every turn.
There are other models for creating and running a business. If success can be defined as living exactly the kind of life you want to live, one of the most successful entrepreneurs is a man who probably doesn’t even think of himself in those terms.
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Dave Eggers broke into the public consciousness by writing a book. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was a profoundly touching, hilarious, and best-selling account of a tragic period of the author’s adolescence. After that, Eggers could have spent the rest of his career writing additional books that his adoring fans would have snapped up. However, though Eggers always thought of himself first and foremost as a writer, there were other projects that were important to him. So instead of sacrificing those ideas, he created a vehicle for them: McSweeney’s.
Starting as a literary magazine, McSweeney’s has become the platform for a wide range of Eggers’s seemingly disconnected ventures. The company not only publishes Eggers’s writing but that of other legendary authors such as Stephen King, David Foster Wallace, and Joyce Carol Oates. McSweeney’s has released music by multiplatinum artist Beck. It is responsible for a wildly successful afterschool tutoring program, and has also brought attention to several under-the-radar human-rights causes.
How does Eggers do it? For one, he makes his projects so appealing that people of all kinds clamor to be a part of them. For example, the company sends out its literary magazine in a different format every time, ranging from a giant head to a high school yearbook. One of its tutoring centers is disguised as a Superhero Supply Store to lure reluctant kids into learning, and so on.
The other secret to Eggers’s success is that he dispenses with borders and boundaries of all kinds. At McSweeney’s, writing, art, packaging, and promotion are all one and the same. The result is that Eggers never has to yell, scream, or manipulate others in order to build his business. In fact, he doesn’t think of it as a business at all. At McSweeney’s, work is play and play is work.
If you want to build a business that gives you the ability to have what you need and accomplish what you want, you might want to take a page out of Dave Eggers’s best-selling books.
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MICHAEL SCHEIN | Columnist | Founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications
Michael Schein is the founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications, a digital marketing company. He has created or facilitated the production of content for companies such as eBay, LinkedIn, Avectra, Tesla, SEER Interactive, Interneer, Arise Virtual Solutions, and Citrix. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors and got his start at Spin the Bottle, the production company behind VH1 hit show Pop Up Video.