Three Things… You Didn’t Know About Steve Jobs – Ed Catmull – Pixar Founder and President of Disney Animation


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With news that Frozen has just become the most successful animated film of all time, we the man who created the culture that produced Frozen and, among many others, Toy Story, Wall-E, Monsters, Inc. and Up. Over breakfast at Shoreditch House in the company of some of the UK’s leading tech and creative brains, we chatted about the business/life lessons Ed has learned along the way and got some unexpected insights into the much talked about but apparently misunderstood founder of Apple.

Ed’s book, Creativity, Inc. is dedicated to his friend and business partner Steve Jobs who, said the author, has been misrepresented by reports of the aggressive management style that characterised him in his early years.

He himself was “uneasy about Steve” and “felt threatened by him” when the pair first met in February 1985 over talks to sell Pixar to Jobs. “Clearly he was the sort of person that didn’t let presentations happen to him,” says Ed.  Despite Steve’s obvious genius, “his sense of humour was non-existent,” and he was “boorish, dismissive, condescending and even bullying.” However, proving that even the most extreme personalities can undergo a story arc worthy of a Pixar movie, Catmull asserts that the Apple boss “changed into a different man during the last two decades of his life.”

So here, to help put the record straight, are three extracts from the book which go some way to explaining how the founder of Apple evolved his behaviour in the company of people at Pixar. As Ed says, “I watched Steve change Pixar even as Pixar changed him.”

1. As a Loyal Business Partner – “In the early years, he was our benefactor, the one who paid the bills to keep the lights on. Later, he became our protector, a constructive critic internally but our fiercest defender on the outside.”

2. As a Believer in the Endurance of Emotion  - “He used to say regularly that as brilliant as Apple products were, eventually they would all end up in landfills. Pixar movies, on the other hand, would live forever. “

3. As a Free Thinker – “Steve had a remarkable knack for letting go of things that didn’t work. If you are in an argument with him, and you convinced him you were right, he would instantly change his mind. He didn’t hold onto an idea because he had once believed it to be brilliant. His ego didn’t attach to the suggestions he made, even as he threw his full weight behind them.”

Ed Richard MichaelRichard Kilgarriff with Ed Catmull and Michael Acton Smith










Buy a Copy of Creativity Inc Here


Three Things … About Thinking Long – Tom Butler-Bowdon


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Described as “the antidote to quick-fix life solutions”, Tom Butler-Bowdon’s book Never Too Late To Be Great highlights the importance of Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘ten-year rule’ (Outliers) to re-evaluate the time we have and what we can do with it. Here he tell us three things about the power of thinking long…

  1. Butler-BowdonjpgReal achievements always take longer than we expect

The literature of self-help and motivation is all about ‘change your life in 7 days’, or ‘achieve greatness in a month’. Yet we all know that important things take time, even a whole lifetime. Mother Teresa was a schoolteacher for 19 years before hearing her call to work in the slums of Calcutta; Ray Kroc was 52 by the time he discovered the original McDonald’s restaurant, having spent thirty years selling paper cups and milkshake machines. Recall such stories when you are frustrated at your rate of progress, and remember that people overestimate what they can achieve in a year, but underestimate what they can do in a decade.

  1. We live in an age of increasing longevity

In the Britain of 1800 the average life span was 40. Today it is 80, and rising two years each decade.  For most of us today a productive life span between the ages of 20 to 80 is not out of the question. That is six decades in which to start a career and prosper in it, or more likely, to have two, three or more careers. Life takes us on some fascinating, zigzagging, strange trajectories, but unlike our ancestors we have the time to actually achieve our big life goals.

  1. More time = more chances to succeed

Society has conditioned us to believe that Life Is Short and Time Is The Enemy, yet the experience of longer lives is leading to the truth that we are awash with time. We just need courage and responsibility to pursue the work and life projects that our conscience tells us we should; ‘I’m too old’ or ‘I’ve missed the boat’ are becoming less valid excuses. We’ve all heard about the magic of thinking big, but it’s the power of thinking long that gently and powerfully moves us ahead of our peers. It is rarely the size of our goals that is the issue, rather the timeframes we give ourselves for their achievement.

Buy Never Too Late To Be Great: The Power of Thinking Long here.

Three Things… You Never Knew About Numbers – Alex Bellos


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alex_bellosThis Friday we’re having breakfast at Soho House with Alex Bellos, a journalist whose expert knowledge of Brazilian futebol is surpassed only by his numeracy skills – if you’d like to join us, click here. His new book Alex Through the Looking-Glass is crammed full of surprising facts that reveal the surreptitious but significant role that maths plays in our everyday lives… Such as:

1. For all books, about 50 per cent of the words used appear only once.

2. The superstition that the number 4 is unlucky is felt so strongly among Asians that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy: records show that fatal heart attacks surge among Japanese and Chinese Americans on the 4th of each month.

3. The world’s favourite number is 7. Watch this to find out why…

Buy a copy of Alex Through The Looking-Glass: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life here.

Three Things… To Give You More Gravitas – Caroline Goyder


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As author Caroline Goyder explains in her new book Gravitas, this grounding force matters more now than ever. Here’s why – and how you can have more of it.

1. The digital age requires professional polish under pressure

These days we’re never far from a video camera. We have them literally at hand in our phones. It’s made broadcasters of all of us. Suddenly professional polish on camera is a skill for the many, not the few. Our words can be transmitted, via Youtube to an audience of potentially millions of people, at the press of a button. And here’s the paradox of our age -  Expressing yourself clearly and with confidence is more important than ever, but it is a life skill that most people aren’t taught. And it was taught for centuries. It’s time to re-learn some ancient skills, for confidence, persuasion, decorum under pressure, and yes, gravitas.

2. Gravitas is key to professional success

Caroline GoyderIn a competitive world, success favours the articulate: it really does matter what you say and how you sound when you say it. You know those people who command a room the moment they walk through the door. How do they signal that they have what it takes? In recent research by the Center for Talent Innovation in New York three qualities came out as key to being taken seriously - gravitas, communication and appearance. Gravitas (seriousness and impressivesness) mattered most – with 67% naming it as crucial.

3. We can all have gravitas

The Roman world was clear that gravitas and authority could be taught. This mindset is key in the modern age too. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has shown there are two basic mindsets – there’s static where you believe that your intellectual abilities are fixed. And then there’s malleable where you believe that mental skills can be improved with practice. Studies[i] show that when people believe that a skill is malleable and fluid, they score far higher than those who are taught the skill is fixed and unchangeable. Margaret Thatcher and Barack Obamas are both good examples of people who believed that gravitas was malleable. Both were told they lacked authority early on – and both did something about it. They obeyed the principles of the growth mindset, “learn, observe, improve”. If you want gravitas, make it your mantra.

[i] Dweck, CS., Chiu, C,-Y and Hong Y.,-y (1995) Implicit Theories and Their Role in Judgements and Reactions: A World from Two Perspectives. Psychological Enquiry 6, 267 -285.y

Buy Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority here.


Three Things About… Embracing The Obstacles In Your Way – Ryan Holiday


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ryan holiday head shotRyan is coming to London for a Books for Breakfast with us at Soho House on 22nd May. In his new book The Obstacle is the Way, the apprentice to Robert Greene and Growth Hacker Marketing author shares the Stoic philosophy that has guided him to overcome adversity and achieve success.

1.      We all give up too easily. Most failures are caused by failures of will, not external events. The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher.

2.      The way forward is to embrace the obstacle: ancient philosophers such as the Stoics knew this, as have many people in the last two millennia who have faced trials far tougher than ours – from Laura Ingalls Wilder to Thomas Edison.

3.      By understanding that the obstacle IS the way, we can turn failure and disappointment in our lives into creative and thoughtful forward momentum.

Buy The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Trials into Triumph here.

obstacle is the way revised jacket

Three Things… About the Future of Publishing – Josh Klein



It’s London Book Fair this week, so we asked technologist and author Josh Klein to share his vision of the future for publishing.


  1. The Good News – the publishing business now has more channels for distribution of content than ever before.
  1. The Bad News – that same publishing business is no longer about selling books or magazines; the content is ancillary to the brand.
  1. The Future of publishing is all about selling brands through multiple channels. Fail to do this at your peril.

JOSHUA KLEIN is the author of Reputation Economics: Why Who You Know is Worth More Than What You Have (Palgrave Macmillan £17.99).

Reputation Economics Cover


Three Things… That Are Unbelievable But True


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With the next series of BBC Radio 4 panel show The Unbelievable Truth starting this coming Monday 7th April, we’ve plucked three staggering facts from the new accompanying book for your mind-boggling amusement…

1. Travelling on the tube for 40 minutes is the equivalent of smoking two cigarettes.

2. Out of 20,000 species of bees, only seven make honey.

3. The world’s longest sausage ever made was over 35 miles long.

Buy The Unbelievable Truth here.


Three Things… About the Radical Power of Empathy – Roman Krznaric


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romank_681_2_1Popular philosopher and School of Life founding member Roman Krznaric is spearheading an empathy revolution: he believes that in the 21st century this essential human quality has the power to transform our societies and relationships. Here’s why…

1. Empathy is a more popular concept today than ever before in         human history

Over the last ten years Google searches for the word ‘empathy’ have doubled. Business gurus, advertising agencies and the Dalai Lama all advocate empathy in their respective fields, while politicians such as Barack Obama believe the ‘empathy deficit’ to be more important than the federal deficit.

2. Empathy can heal broken relationships

So many relationships fall apart because one person feels their needs are not appreciated and understood, and the world is plagued by loneliness despite the incredible rise of online networks. Expanding curiosity about strangers is a necessary antidote to the self-obsessed individualism of the last century, and can help challenge our own assumptions and prejudices.

3. But empathy can also spark social and political action

We urgently need an empathy revolution to tackle problems such as inequality and cultural intolerance, as well as to nurture creativity in everyday life. Whether it’s the peace-building projects in Israel and the Palestinian Territories or the innovative idea of ‘Empathy Museums’, empathy is not just about kindness and sensitivity – it can bring about real social change.

Buy Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution here.


Three Things… About Big Data – Kenn Cukier


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Maurice Saatchi and Kenneth Cukier

Maurice Saatchi and Kenneth Cukier

It’s more than just a buzzword: Big Data author and data editor of The Economist Kenn Cukier shares three things you need to know about this new phase in human evolution.

1. We’re turning information into data

Society has more information than ever before – most of which we never previously considered as informational – and we are now ‘datifying’ it to increase our knowledge. Our location, the different ways we sit – seemingly anything can be considered, and analysed, as data.

2. We’re now using one set of data in multiple ways

Whereas data used to be collected for one primary purpose, today we make it work harder by reusing the same data sets in a variety of secondary ways. This is common in retail, for example, where digging deeper into the customer transactions that are logged can reveal numerous correlations that are useful for business.

3. We need to avoid over-reliance on big data

Though data can be used to solve many of our problems, our nature as humans – our creativity, risk-taking, unpredictable genius – means that depending just on data and extrapolation of the past to the future will severely inhibit our lived experience. The challenge is marrying the two to maintain our own vision while enabling data to help us see the things we otherwise couldn’t see.

Buy Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think here.


Three Things… That Make an Idea Contagious – Jonah Berger


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According to marketing professor and Contagious author Jonah Berger, here are three out of the six things that can make a product or idea go viral (you’ll have to read his book for the other three).


People share things that make them look good. Not surprisingly, we prefer to share things that make us seem entertaining rather than boring, clever rather than dumb, and hip rather than dull. Just as people use money to buy products, they use “social currency” to achieve desired positive impressions among their friends, family, and colleagues. To get people talking, companies and organisations need to mint social currency—whether it’s sharing something remarkable, earning points, or making customers feel like insiders.


People share valuable information to help others save time, save money, or have a better experience. To be contagious, we need to highlight the incredible value of what we offer and package that expertise so it’s easily shareable.


Information often travels under the guise of what seems like idle chatter. To be contagious, we need to build a Trojan horse.  Embed our products and ideas in stories that people want to share.

Buy Contagious: How To Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age here.




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