Ask a dictator

One of the best things about being a world-famous billionaire and business visionary is the people you get to meet. Perhaps the strangest connection I’ve developed is my friendship — dare I call it that? I do — with Vladimir Putin of Russia. (The picture above is a postcard he sent me during his recent vacation. Cool, right?) We were introduced over email a few years ago by our mutual friend Fidel Castro and very quickly came to realize that despite our very different backgrounds we have a great deal in common. At the time he was running bootlegged Windows and having all sorts of problems. I sent over a bunch of Macs and iPods, and he wrote back to say thanks, and then we started trading email, and the next thing you know we’re iChatting like three times a day. Total mancrush in both directions. Better yet, Putin has had lots of ideas for me about how to run Apple, and I’ve come to rely on him quite a bit. I think of him as a kind of shadow board member, someone I can depend on to tell me the truth — as opposed to those other bootlickers, like Bill Campbell, who just tell me what they think I want to hear. Putin and I are now thinking about publishing a book on management, sort of our version of “Winning” by Jack and Suzy Welch, though we can’t decide which of us will be Jack and which will be Suzy. But whatever. We’ll work it out.

All this is a long way of saying that I’ve asked Vladimir Vladimirovich(I also call him “Vova,” but I don’t recommend you try it) if I could share some of the memos he’s sent me. Some is just business advice. Some get more personal. But it’s all keenly interesting, if only for the opportunity to see one of the world’s best minds in action. I hope you find it as useful as I do. Also, Putin says if you have any questions for him, he’d be glad to try to answer them. So send them along.