Here’s a little thing you don’t know about me: I’m tired of hearing about Steve Jobs. I don’t know why, because I like stories from Elon Musk and his drive, but felt like the takeaway I got from the Steve Jobs biography was that people took it as permission to treat others poorly.
I say all that, because Steve Job is the focus of this chapter of The Obstacle is the Way. Better than Steve Jobs, though, is this quote that opens the chapter:
Genius is the ability to put into effect what is in your mind. There is no other definition of it.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
I think that’s true. It’s what motivates me in my learning: finding the ability to make real (in some sense) the things I’ve only experienced in my mind.
The Steve Jobs part of the story can be summed up in these two paragraphs:
Steve Jobs was famous for what observers called his “reality distortion field.” Part motivational tactic, part sheer drive and ambition, this field made him notoriously dismissive of phrases such as “it can’t be done” or “we need more time.”
Having learned early in life that reality was falsely hemmed in by rules and compromises that people had been taught as children, Jobs had a much more aggressive idea of what was or wasn’t possible. To him, when you factored in vision and work ethic, much of life was malleable.
That seems to be the gist of the whole chapter: that a lot of our limitations are based on us having learned from an early age to be moderate in our expectations of ourselves and others. The lesson seems to be that we need to re-evaluate what we’re capable of and what we can expect from others.
Perhaps this will be the post that prevents me from ever being hired by “the next Facebook,” because I am not enamored of the “work seventy hours per week” startup lifestyle, and I believe in pushing yourself… but not in abusing yourself.
There is a story in the chapter about Steve Jobs telling his engineers that they couldn’t have an extra week to get something done… and the engineers eventually getting the project done within the initial time frame. And it’s framed as this great thing that Steve Jobs did.
However, I hear that and I think “those poor people’s families.” How much time at home did they miss? What are the chances that they were able to maintain whatever habits they had to keep their health and wellness up? What are the odds that any of them were the primary caregivers for their children? When their older, will they look back and think that moving a product a week earlier was worth the sacrifices they had to make?
I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but I have a strong intuition…
So, in closing, this is from the next-to-last paragraph of the chapter, the same lesson stripped of the glorification of self-sacrifice:
An entrepreneur is someone with faith in their ability to make something where there was nothing before. To them, the idea that no one has ever done this or that is a good thing.