Just did a morning hike before I wrote this. Climbed along a waterfall and walked through a forest. Remarkable what getting into the wild does for our perspective, mood and soul. Right?
As I hiked, I listened to Walter Isaacson’s phenomenal biography on business titan and legendary leader Steve Jobs.
The last time I read the book a few years ago I was up here in these very mountains. So, as I ready and train for a few high-octane months as my new book The 5AM Club goes through the final stages of the publishing process and I start doing media interviews around the world, I figured I’d go through the audio version to electrify my inspiration. And dial-in on my mission.
Please allow me to deconstruct 11 of the elements of the charisma and worldwide influence of the co-founder of the most valuable company on the planet:
#1. He did not accept widely approved truths
As a student at Reed College, Jobs questioned everything, as the dean later reported. Beliefs and facts that the majority blindly followed were aggressively challenged by the Apple co-founder. It was just his nature: he needed to understand everything. He was wildly curious. He was uncommonly rebellious. And he was sort of a pirate in the way that he was strong enough to think for himself.
#2. He bent reality and then believed his hallucination
Jobs could see a future few else could perceive. Even back in the days of the Mac, he saw the intersection of computing with music and the internet. A girlfriend now says he was “an enlightened being who could be cruel”. Bud Tribble at Apple called the way the founder could alter the landscape to fit his vision a “reality distortion field”. This ability served him exceptionally as he made his rise to industry dominance in seven sectors.
#3. He united technology with poetry
Apple co-founder Woz [who I was blessed to have on my Faculty at The Titan Summit a few years ago], became best friends with Jobs and started the firm with him in a garage in California, in large part over their mutual love of electronics. Yet, Steve was a rare combination: a digital hacker as well as a hippie poet. He worked at HP and Nolan Bushnell’s Atari. Yet he also traveled to India to find his guru, fasted for long stretches and read poetry, while tripping on LSD.
#4. He had the eyes to breed beauty
I’m realizing more than ever that having the acumen to sense what is beautiful and magical is an unusual talent. Jobs had it. He was obsessed with producing products that were not only brilliantly simple but were also exceedingly beautiful. On building the iPhone he instructed his design team to make the icons on the iPhone [over one billion units sold] so attractive, users would want to lick the screen. I’d actually suggest to you that Steve Jobs was less in the computer field. And more in the beauty business.
#5. He was a fanatical perfectionist
In a marketplace suffering from what I call in my presentations The Collective DeProfessionalization of Business and in a society struggling with The Mass Mediocritization of Humanity, we absolutely must behold the fiery passion Jobs has for perfection. One former teammate said that part of his genius was his ability to spot defects instantly. I recently heard that he told his design team everything they produced needed to be “Museum of Modern Art-level quality”. His consumer goods needed to have a legendary UX. All devices needed to function excellently. And everything they touched had to be nothing less than gasp-worthy.
#6. He was careless about the opinions of others
Steve was arrogant from the start. His parents told him he was special and he always knew he was the smartest person in the room. When he worked at Atari as a young man, he mocked the meek ideas of others and called them “bozos who suck”. I, in no way applaud this kind of behavior. I just report it to you as part of what made Steve, Steve.
#7. He was mercurial and full of fire
Passion is the instigator of exceptional feats. Jobs was angry [those close to him say he had a hole within him from being given up for adoption by his natural mother that he attempted to fill from the outside], dramatic, insensitive and callous. Genius is a dangerous sport. The titans, virtuosos and saviors of society were all complex people. And the gifts that make you great are the same ones that make you a misfit, in the eyes of the majority.
#8. He was part charmer and part dictator
Steve could charm. He was a master seducer, when it served his ambitions. He also could own the stage and steal the limelight, when he needed to. Jobs was a man of huge precision, who knew exactly what he wanted. And this alchemy of mastery came together to forge the first company in history to exceed a trillion dollars in value.
#9. He could be both generous and ruthless
When his buddy’s travelers checks were stolen on a trip, Jobs paid for his meals and train rides. He even gave him the $100 he had in his pocket. All the money he had. Yet when Apple went public, he wouldn’t give this friend — also an employee — even one share. He also told Woz that the work they did for Atari made only $700, which he then split with Wozniak, when he’d actually been paid $7500.
#10. He knew how to put on a show
Oh, those Apple product reveals. The “one more thing” signature line before Jobs would announce the iMac or the iPod or the iPad or the iPhone. He was a wizard, in a way. He took fans on a ride, enlivening their excitements, stroking their interests and fueling their hopes.
#11. He wanted to uplift the world
Above all else, I believe, Steve Jobs was a hippie at heart. A man who wanted to release amazing things into the world. A maker who dreamed as few have and relentlessly stayed true to his ideals. Sure he was broken [aren’t we all?]. Yet, at his core, he was a human being who wanted to build a better world.
I do miss Steve. Our planet was a better place with him on it.
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With love + respect,
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