Jim Collins: The Backstory

Jim Collins is a rock climber, as you may guess from the cover photo taken near his home in Boulder, Colo. In this issue of SUCCESS, which is all about risk, failure and rebounding, we knew Collins was our perfect cover model. Our reporter, John Ostdick, accompanied our creative director Carl Waters and photographer Jeff Katz and his crew to the photo shoot. I asked John to give me the backstory.

Here’s John’s email reply: “It was a sunny midday when we traveled to where the crew had set up. Jeff had staked out a spot up a rock scramble where Jim could perch with the mountain vistas in the background. Nearby below, four 20-somethings were powdering up and practicing handholds on low rocks. Everyone moved with extreme care. I was dressed for the office interview and have had four knee surgeries, so I was very cautious moving up the loose rocks. Jim, on the other hand, kind of nimbly hopped up in his suit and black tasseled loafers (before his chief of staff insisted he change into hiking shoes). He was as at home bopping from one rock to another as I might be crossing a street. He was very engaged, interested, peppering Jeff about the people he had photographed, and how they acted… always seeking input.

“When the portrait was completed, he changed clothes and took Jeff to a spot he thought would be a good shot [it turned out to be our cover]. He would hang with one arm from a favorite crevice or swing across the rock patiently as Jeff shot away. Occasionally his arm would tire and he’d need a break, but he gave Jeff all he wanted. He was accessible and cooperative but careful not to do anything that wouldn’t be representative of real climbing activity. He respects the climbing culture and wanted to be accurate in the portrayal.

“As we returned to his office, he pointed to an incredibly high rock formation in the distance and told me his favorite workout was to run to the base, climb the rock face and watch the sun set. I stared at the massive rock and my mind boggled, but picturing him running out, scaling the rock and sitting on nature’s tall lawn chair seemed perfectly plausible. For him. That kind of guy.” 

Read more about his contribution to corporate strategy and what's next on his agenda on SUCCESS.com.


Susan Kane is former editor in chief of SUCCESS. She relocated from New York City, where she was editor of publications such as Parenting and New Woman.

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