I have found myself reading various articles about Steve Jobs since his death. Right now I am working my way through a biography written by Walter Isaacson. Why am I so interested? Because Steve Jobs seemed to be someone who was the best and the worst of humanity, a visionary and a jerk, rich and minimalistic, extremely emotional (breaking into tears) and cold. The book is long but interesting. I appreciate Isaacson’s effort to give a realistic, honest history of Steve Jobs – not perfect, not nasty – just a recipe of the many sides of this man who few can argue had a significant impact on our culture.
I have admired Steve Jobs because, well, I love my ipad and iphone. I appreciate Apple ads and like what seems to be the simple, yet artistic nature of all that Apple offers. I get now that it isn’t all the doing of Steve Jobs. Honestly, it seems as though the best of the engineering and anesthetic nature of Apple products was the result of others like Steve Woznick and Jonathan Ive. Still it is very clear without Jobs, Apple would not be the Apple it is today.
I have friends and colleagues who hate the guy because of his narcissistic style and mean, tyrant-like leadership. I guess I would argue that at least with Steve Jobs you knew where you stood. He may have had two faces (or more) but it seems as a leader everyone saw all of the options – the good, bad and ugly. I don’t think that is the norm. Most of us try to hide the ugly. Even though it might be less attractive, I admire the straightness and integrity of someone who is simply out there.
I have my own issues around the narcissism. I struggle with relationships where I judge someone to be so involved with themselves that others don’t exist. However, I am also very aware of my own narcissistic tendencies. I can indeed assume at times the world revolves around me.
I am also aware that a healthy does of narcissism makes for a great story-teller and leader. Of course, I want the positive qualities and would prefer to disconnect from the less attractive aspects.
Well, that is not so easy. I guess that is what I am appreciating about exploring Steve Jobs. As a public figure, he remained quite private. As a leader he was quite self-absorbed. As a creative wizard, he left behind friends. He was so human. May be that is what is so appealing to me. Here is a man he was for some was a hero, for some a jerk but willingly left us with a story that reveals the man behind the hero. It may not be pretty, or nice – but it does seem real.
I have a lot of Steve Jobs in me, minus the billions, the public persona and the great products. I am creative and a jerk. I can be loyal and mean. I cry and at times I appear uncaring and cool. I am human. I hope I can be as okay with myself as Steve Jobs seemed to be. He asked that his biography reflect only what was shared – that whatever his friends, his enemies and his family had to say, not be censured. That, I believe, is courageous and real. As a result some of my admiration has been wiped away. I see more of the man less of the hero. Yet in the end I like that. I myself prefer being human to being a hero. I believe it is a much harder path to follow and definitely a road worth traveling.