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On Ray Bradbury's death: If it inspires you, do it

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY A lot of my friends and former business associates wonder how someone so driven and aggressive could walk away from a 20-year career as a senior executive, just like that.

Well, I'll tell you. When I was a little boy, my mom took me to a bookstore in Manhattan. I picked out two paperbacks, Isaac Asimov's "The Human Brain" and Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man."

I know - I was a strange kid. But those two books, the first chosen by topic and the second, primarily by cover design (a man covered in tattoos), sparked a lifelong passion for books, movies, pretty much anything that tells a good story.

Why the obsession? Because, they inspired me. Herbert, Huxley, Brunner, Clarke, Ludlum, Rand, Helprin, Gaiman, Stephenson, Chabon, and of course, Asimov and Bradbury. They aroused a thirst for adventure. Motivated me to go out and make things happen. To reach for the stars. They still do.

And decades later I saw an opportunity to do what inspires me in the hope of inspiring others. That's why I write.

You won't achieve the American Dream by dreaming
Why you should do what you love

I did get to meet Asimov. He spoke to an overflowing auditorium of about 600 students at the university I attended. It was a near-religious experience to speak to the man who conjured up "The Foundation Trilogy" and "The Gods Themselves."

As for Ray Bradbury, who passed on Tuesday, I never did see him in person. But as I write, I'm looking at my original copies of "Fahrenheit 451," "Dandelion Wine," and a 60 cent paperback copy of "The Martian Chronicles," all from the 60s.

At a lecture in 2009, Bradbury encouraged people to live their lives as he had lived his: "If someone tells you to do something for money, tell them to go to hell. Do what you love and love what you do."

I don't find it even remotely coincidental that Steve Jobs, a man who likewise inspired many, delivered practically the same message at a Stanford University commencement speech in 2005, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."

Great minds do think alike. And when they resonate like that, when they tell you the same thing, maybe you should pay attention.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Sam Howzit

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