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March 11, 2011

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects – Ten Steps Ahead

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 11:57 AM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries From the Rest of Us by Erik Calonius, Portfolio, 256 pages, $25.95, Hardcover, March 2011, ISBN 9781591843764

There’s a lot of press being given to The Social Animal right now, a wonderfully written new book by David Brooks built around the latest research from numerous fields—most notably brain science and the unconscious mind. But there is another book coming out soon that also delves heavily into the latest research on brain science that we hope grabs your attention, Erik Calonius’s Ten Steps Ahead.

Being released this month by Portfolio, Calonius’s book focuses on the brain science of visionaries. Why visionaries? As the author writes:

Visionaries are not only the stuff of legend. When we string them sequentially, one visionary following another, we have described the arc of history.
A former writer and editor for the Wall Street Journal and Fortune who collaborated with Dan Ariely on the best-selling Predictably Irrational, Calonius writes engagingly, spinning brain exercises and visualizations wistfully in with the science and stories of visionaries. And what stories! One of my favorites is of Jeff Hawkins. It tells the story of him cutting down a block of wood until it fit comfortably in his shirt pocket, and then attaching a paper face on it with some simple function keys.
Hawkins walked around with his wooden prototype for several weeks. If you had spied him on the street, you might have seen him stop suddenly, as if struck with an idea, pull out a piece of wood, perhaps punch a few buttons, then slip it back into his pocket. He had a “pen” to write on the screen as well—actually, it was a chopstick that he had whittled down to size. […] The PalmPilot, as it was called, debuted in the spring of 1996 and changed not only pen computing but the entire personal computer industry.
One of the strengths of Calonius’s stories is that he’s spent time with almost everyone (other than Walt Disney) he profiles in this book. He’s hung out in the garage where Steve Jobs built Apple computers and listened to his stories of how it all began. He wined and dined with Richard Branson on his houseboat, Duende, where he launched his business empire. Hearing their stories second-hand through the author makes them come alive a little bit more than they would otherwise, brings them a little bit closer and makes their vision seem more accessible and attainable.

The book also teaches us that visualization is a skill we can learn. We just have to have the courage and conviction to put in the effort and give it a go. And picking up a copy of Ten Steps Ahead isn’t a bad place to start.


About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.