The deeper you get into understanding the late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, the weirder it gets.
On one hand, he was a dedicated practitioner of Zen meditation.
Bill Gates, the cofounder of Microsoft and a longterm frenemy, was continually fascinated by the Apple icon.
According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, Gates was envious of Jobs’ legendary ability to captivate a room, pulling everybody into his reality distortion field.
But he also thought Jobs was “fundamentally odd” and “weirdly flawed as a human being.”
To Gates, Jobs could only interact with people in one of two ways.
Jobs was “either in the mode of saying you were s— or trying to seduce you,” the Microsoft leader said.
The Apple exec was famously wrathful and relentlessly un-empathetic. He fired the head of MobileMe, Apple’s troubled cloud app, in front of a crowd of Apple employees. When a chip supplier was slipping on their shipments, Jobs stormed into a meeting of theirs and started shouting that they were “f—ing dickless arseholes.”
Sometimes the wrath was part of the seduction.
In 1981, rival Xerox came out with the Star, a computer that was supposed to be the hot new thing. Jobs visited Xerox. He was unimpressed. The Star ultimately flopped.
A few weeks after his visit, Jobs called Bob Belleville, one of the Star’s hardware designers.
“Everything you’ve ever done in your life is s—,” Jobs said, “so why don’t you come work for me?”
Psychologists have a word for this pattern of behaviour: narcissism. Narcissists have a constant need for validation, a willingness to control people, and a ruthlessness in getting their needs met — which, interestingly, often makes them super-effective executives, as was the case with Jobs.
“Narcissists thrive in … leadership situations where they can dazzle and dominate others without having to cooperate or suffer the consequences of a bad reputation,” Psychology Today reports.
Sounds like classic Jobs.
Isaacson asked Apple designer and Jobs’ good friend Jony Ive why he was always raging or seducing.
I once asked [Jobs] why he gets so mad about stuff. He said, “But I don’t stay mad.” He has this very childish ability to get really worked up about something, and it doesn’t stay with him at all. But, there are other times, I think honestly, when he’s very frustrated, and his way to achieve catharsis is to hurt somebody. And I think he feels he has a liberty and licence to do that. The normal rules of social engagement, he feels, don’t apply to him. Because of how very sensitive he is, he knows exactly how to efficiently and effectively hurt someone. And he does do that.
Scary. And effective.
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