Emulate Steve Jobs with your eyes open
How much more could Steve Jobs have accomplished?
The late Steve Jobs is the latest justification for inexcusable rudeness. He was notorious for being part tyrant and part terrorist. You never knew when he would blow up or what the issue would be. Walter Isaacson's excellent biography is a great exposé for anyone who was not already familiar with this legendary character, but if you ever did any work in Silicon Valley, it would be hard not to know about it.
There's no doubt he was incredibly talented. In a Newsweek article, Daniel Lyons claimed, "He has an uncanny ability to cook up gadgets that we didn't know we needed, but then suddenly can't live without." According to Isaacson, his "passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing."
It's hard to think of anyone who hasn't been affected by Steve Jobs in some way. And when we think of entrepreneurs, he's certainly at the top of the heap, but I think too many people are missing the point. Jobs didn't accomplish all that because he was rude; he did it in spite of his rudeness. I can't help but wonder how much more he could have accomplished, if he hadn't angered so many people.
Have you ever flown on a 747? It has four engines. When it's in the air, all four engines are in forward; they don't put one or two of them in reverse just to make it more of a challenge. When Jobs berated and humiliated people, he was effectively creating resistance, whether he knew it or not. Fear is certainly a motivator, but it's not as good as making someone want to do what you want him or her to do. The person who is doing what he loves for someone he loves and respects will beat a person who may be doing what he loves, but is doing it out of fear. When we're scared and resentful, we'll do what's demanded, but probably not a whole lot more. And we're unlikely to volunteer things when it's too dangerous.
Isaacson reported numerous instances where someone suggested something to Jobs and was told his idea was really stupid (I'm not including the expletives.). A week or so later, Jobs would suggest the same idea to the person who originated it, as if it had been Jobs' idea all along. 'Think different' He had some really great people working for him, who repeatedly took the risks, but what about the ideas he never got a chance to hear because it was just too dangerous? I wonder how many can't-live-without gadgets and features we're missing out on because someone was just a little too timid?
His visioning ability and passion for excellence were so valuable that a lot of people were willing to put up with his cantankerous disposition. Unless you're so talented you can literally generate billions in revenue, you might want to think twice before adopting his social skills. Even if you are that talented, you can get so much more of what you want if you aren't pissing people off.
Jobs was a chronic liar. Those close to him politely called it his "reality distortion field," and he was good at it — too good. He refused to deal effectively with an early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer for nine months, believing his strange diets and alternative treatments might heal him. By the time he agreed to surgery, the cancer had spread. He might still be with us if he hadn't been so good at "distorting reality.
"No great leaders are perfect, and this one has a lot of good we can learn from, but if you're going to emulate him, learn to do the good things he did, not the others. They won't help you any more than they helped him.
Remember the old Apple "Think Different" commercials? "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do." Be bold. "Make a dent in the universe." Remember, Jobs and Apple made all that money not by trying to make money, but by trying to make "a dent in the universe" — aka great products. Hopefully, Apple will continue, and it's not a bad thing for all of us to try to do.
As we approach the first anniversary of his death, we hope he is resting in peace.