We spend far too much time complaining about the way things are, and forget that we have the power to change anything and everything

BOZOMA SAINT JOHN is the chief brand officer at Uber. Until June 2017, she was a marketing executive at Apple Music after joining the company through its acquisition of Beats Music, where she was the head of global marketing. In 2016, Billboard named her “Executive of the Year” and Fortune included her in their “40 under 40” list. Fast Company has included Bozoma on its list of “100 Most Creative People.” Bozoma was born in Ghana, and she left the country at 14 with her family to immigrate to Colorado Springs.

What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

I love Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. Her writing style is incredibly poetic and complex. She doesn’t “allow” any laziness in reading her work; so beyond the incredible story, I learned to take my time to absorb the characters, and to reread passages when there was so much to unpack. It was also the book I asked my late husband to read when he dropped his pickup line to get to know me better. Our first date was a book review—and clearly he passed with flying colors. Two months later, he presented me with a painting of his interpretation of the book as a birthday gift. I knew then that I wanted to marry him. Anyone who could take his time to read, comprehend, and interpret Toni Morrison’s work, based on my recommendation, was someone I wanted to spend significant time with. That experience taught me that when people care, they’ll go beyond the extra mile to understand you. So Toni Morrison helped me set a high bar.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

I love to people watch. I can literally do that all day long. It’s fascinating to watch people go by. There’s so much you can learn about a culture by just watching its people walk with each other. Great places to people watch are food courts in American malls, street-corner cafes in Paris, the market in Accra . . . fashion, etiquette, PDA . . . all of it can be learned and make the observer a more respectful participant in that culture.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

I sleep. Or rather, I nap. There’s no conundrum that a 20-minute nap can’t help me unpack. It’s like a refresh button for my mind. I wake up clearer and more able to make the “gut” decision because I’ve stopped thinking. Whatever I’m feeling when I wake up is the feeling I go forward with.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why? Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?
Hands down, it would be “Be the change you want to see in the world.” We spend far too much time complaining about the way things are, and forget that we have the power to change anything and everything. I’d have a secondary quote too: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror”—Michael Jackson. Same message; different delivery.

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