â€ś James Gaines is a model example of someone who has adapted his plans in anticipation of disruptive forces. During the reign of print magazines, Gaines was king. He was managing editor of People magazine, then Life magazine, and finally Time magazine â€“ at the time, one of worldâ€™s most influential print publications in the world. There, he interviewed heads of state and directed an editorial staff of more than six hundred journalists. He left the magazine in 1996 to run the corporate editorial side of the Time Inc. empire, sharing oversight of the companyâ€™s twenty-six magazine operations. A year of that reminded him that writing â€“ not management â€“ was his passion. So he went independent and began writing books. Since he could write from anywhere, he moved his family to Paris to provide more colorful upbringing for his children and a more inspiring backdrop for his writing.
While living Paris in 2002, Gaines and his son went to see the first Harry Potter film. That night turned out to be a pivotal career experience for Gaines. In one scene, Harry opens a book and the three dimensional human face leaps out of the page and wiggles its face. Gaines recalls the scene triggering an epiphany: an interactive book! At the time, he was writing a book about Johan Sebastian Bach and he found it frustrating that the reader couldnâ€™ t hear the music described in the text. Perhaps technology could transform books for the better; perhaps it could add a touch of Potter magic to the reader experience.
By the summer of 2008, just shy of his sixty-first birthday, Gaines moved back to USA with two published books to his name. With the lifetime of print journalism, and publishing experience, he could have had any number of senior posts in the trade. But he saw that the future had arrived and that old media may not have a palace in it. So he pivoted to plan B. He was excited, not panicked. Rather than mourn the past, he embraced the unique storytelling possibilities of digital canvas. The positive mind-set sustained him during his learning curve.
He went to become editor in chief in Flyp, a start-up online magazine that produced video and audio narratives on politics, finance, and social issues. At an online, multimedia magazine, Gaines had to learn. And there was no formal training or classes. His youthful subordinates were his on-the-job teachers, instructing him on how to video editing, audio editing, understand MySQL databases, and learn the pros and cons of other Internet protocols. To hear Gaines tell it, youâ€™d think picking up these new skills was a piece of cake. But think about his ego. He had decades of experience. A long list of accomplishments. Yet he found himself, in a sense, powerless and young again. It was Day 1 for Gaines. Â He was in permanent Beta.
Instead of waiting for an inflection point to disrupt his career, Gaines adapted. Rather than try to preserve what has always been, Gaines parlayed his skills into new media. Throughout, he never lost the sight of his competitive advantage in career marketplace: his ability to tell stories that move people, regardless of the medium.”
ref â€ťThe START â€“UP of YOUâ€ť by Reid Hoffman& Ben Casnocha, 2012 pp 72-74