Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey shares an unexpected book that helped shape his career

Twitter Chairman and Square CEO Jack Dorsey
Bill Pugliano | Getty Images
Twitter Chairman and Square CEO Jack Dorsey

Sometimes, inspiration for your career can come from an unlikely place.

For example, Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and CEO of both Twitter and Square, found it in a book about painting.

Speaking at a 2013 Y Combinator Startup School event, which was recently resurfaced by the Silicon Valley accelerator, Dorsey says that the lessons he learned in "The Art Spirit" by artist Robert Henri "helped me along the way, helped me along the transition, helped me get started."

Here are three lessons Dorsey picked up from Henri's writing.

1. Value your work as much as the result

"One of the biggest lessons that I've learned throughout my career is how important the work is, how important not just the end product is, but the actual craft, doing the work, inventing within the work," Dorsey says.

An excerpt from "The Art Spirit" taught him to appreciate the process, not just the result: "The work of the art student is no light matter. Few have the courage and stamina to see it through," Dorsey reads from the book at the Y Combinator event. "He simply has to find the gain in the work itself, not outside of it."

According to Dorsey, "If you do something meaningful, you are going to have to pay for it in all the work, but at the same time, you will also be able to enjoy it for the rest of your life."

2. Don't worry about your ideas being accepted

"It's so easy to fall in the footsteps of others," Dorsey says. "You think it's the right way because you think they've had the success and you can copy that success."

But an excerpt about how painters shouldn't worry about creating art that other people will like, but should be original, taught him to avoid that pitfall.

"Don't worry about the rejections. Everybody that's good has gone through it," says the book. "Don't let it matter if your works are not accepted at once. The better or more personal you are, the less likely they are of acceptance."

"What's meaningful about this passage to me," explains Dorsey, "is we work so hard to get some sort of acceptance in the world, to get some sort of positive feedback," he says. "We look at others and it seems so fast — their success — it seems like they did it in just a moment, but it takes years and years and years and patience."

3. You need a sense of purpose to truly succeed

"Without motive, you will wobble about," Dorsey reads from the book at Startup School.

The idea of purpose is pivotal, he says.

"This — in building a team, in building an organization, in building a company — is one of the greatest lessons," Dorsey says. "You cannot do anything without a shared and common sense of purpose.

"If you don't have motive, if you don't have purpose that is shared between everyone, you will wander about," he continues. "You will wobble and you will not do anything of infinite means, you will not do anything that is timeless."

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