Creativity and bad behavior: Two of my favorite subjects!
October 14, 2014
Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs died three year ago in October. And so I found myself re-reading passages from the best-selling biography, by Walter Isaacson. Among the book’s many surprises, none are as jolting (to me) as the endless examples depicting Steve Jobs as an egomaniacal tyrant. Since so much has already been said regarding these controversial passages, I won’t go into them here. Among other things, he publicly berated his staff, stole ideas, took credit inappropriately and was unpardonably cruel to his family.
This by no means diminishes Job’s enormous contribution to Apple and, indeed, the world. Case in point, I’m writing this on one of his inventions. I use his stuff every day, constantly. So do most of you. For all its recent bugaboos, Apple is still, basically, the most impressive brand in the world. And Steve Jobs had a shit ton to do with it.
Should that excuse him for having been an “assoholic” as one of his peers called him?
In a rare bit of self-awareness, Jobs admitted to being overly rough on his people but he remained unapologetic. He claimed the Mac would never have been created if not for his intolerance and meanness. Many people, including some he was ruthless to, concurred. In the end, according to Isaacson, they didn’t mind getting fucked over by a visionary.
Makes me think. In my personal life I’ve been frequently challenged in matters of social discourse. I’m uncomfortable making small talk and listening to it as well. I’ve been an ass. Perhaps my record at work isn’t quite as spotty but it’s hardly immaculate either. I can be… difficult.
I’m not a creative visionary like Steve Jobs was but, on the other hand, I am always trying to improve my behavior. What struck me about Steve Jobs is that he never bothered. When a brave insider called him on his bad behavior Jobs berated the man: “You don’t know what it’s like being me!”
Well, now we do.
Jobs’ claimed he was perpetually hard on Apple employees because otherwise the company would have softened, invariably inviting “B” players and eventually “C” players; which, of course, was unacceptable (to him).
Few of us are “special” like Steve Jobs but then we are not as cruel and unfair as he was either. Does that make us “B” players? Can an “A” player be a nice person?
Precious few creative geniuses grace Adland. Yet, I’m privileged to have known several of these men and women and can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that they were not assholes.
Author’s note: Upon first reading Jobs’ biography I wrote a draft of above story. The is my second look at the topic.