Note: This page will be continually updated as new episodes of Inc.'s Book Smart podcast are released.
Back in college, Jim McKelvey read a single line of text that changed his life's trajectory: "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."
The serial entrepreneur, co-founder of Square, and current deputy chair of the Federal Bank of St. Louis had just picked up The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the bestselling science fiction humor novel by author and satirist Douglas Adams. In truth, McKelvey says, he'd grabbed the book simply because all his friends were reading it. But a few pages in, that sentence made him stop and think. "What really got me was the fact that Adams would very quickly, sometimes within a sentence, jar my thinking," he says. "I realized that I'd been programmed to think a certain way."
On Tuesday, McKelvey joined me on the latest episode of Inc.'s Book Smart podcast, where we explore the books beloved by prominent entrepreneurs, founders, and notable figures across the spectrum of industry. As he continued to read, McKelvey kept noticing more odd phrasings and unconventional sentences that kept him on his toes. Each time, he'd think about the juxtaposition between what he expected to read and what was actually on the page. Now, McKelvey credits Hitchhiker's Guide for his grasp on one of entrepreneurship's most crucial traits: the ability to question your own preconceived notions.
"It really set me on this journey, personally, where I would often reflexively challenge the way I was thinking," McKelvey says. "I would look at things and say, 'I know I'm feeling this way. What would be five other ways of thinking about it? How would Douglas Adams approach this situation?'"
To learn how that singular habit enabled McKelvey's entrepreneurial career, listen in the player below, or wherever you get your podcasts--and check out our archive of previous episodes. If you like what you hear, subscribe to Book Smart and leave us a review.