Author Gillian Zoe Segal published a series of powerful personal essays by some of the most successful leaders of our time—Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Frank Gehry and Anderson Cooper, to name a few—in her riveting new book Getting There: A Book of Mentors. From fashion moguls like Rachel Zoe to artists like Jeff Koons and Marina Abramović, there’s a varied group of mentors sharing the secrets to their success.
“At first, I thought I needed to get a diverse group of people with a good story,” says Zoe Segal, “and then I realized I just needed a diverse group, because if you get people to open up, everybody has a good story in them.”
Here, the author reveals what it was like to create this influential tome.
How did you get your subjects to open up about such personal facets of their lives?
The hardest part was actually getting to the people, but [soon] they got to know that I wasn’t out to get them or make them look bad and that the book is really a celebration of them and what they have to offer others. A lot of people said it was half therapy and half interview. There were times where I was like, “Hmm, you think the way your mother raised you had anything to do with that?” It sort of forced them to look inwards more than you might do on a regular day.
Whose story stood out to you the most?
You know what’s funny? I’m almost in love with all of my subjects. The person who I am the most in awe of is Warren Buffett because it’s no mistake that he is where he is in our world. He has so much wisdom to offer on so many topics and just the way that he handles himself, there’s so much to be learned from him.
What do you hope readers learn from this book?
I hope that people are inspired to go out and achieve their potential in the world. One thing I personally love about the book is that each essay is chock-full of important information, but each is only about five pages long, so you can read these essays and you have a really good picture of each person.
What was the hardest part about putting this together?
This took me forever to do—about five years—because it was so hard to get these people. I have no name; when somebody hears that Gillian Zoe Segal wants to talk to them, that doesn’t mean anything. No offense to me! I think that Frank Gehry might have been the hardest to get to. He rejected my request four times, and on the fifth time I got in, which is the polite persistence thing paying off. When I finally got to him, I don’t think he ever knew I had even asked before this one time. Here’s a good piece of advice that a friend of mine told me and it really stuck in my head while I was working on the book: “Don’t ever take a ‘no’ from someone that can’t give you a ‘yes.’”
Getting There: A Book of Mentors, $24.95, abramsbooks.com
Main photograph shot by Gillian Zoe Segal