- Life in a nutshell
- Reality distortion field
To some people, calling it a reality distortion field was just a clever way to say that Jobs tended to lie. But it was in fact a more complex form of dissembling. He would assert something—be it a fact about world history or a recounting of who suggested an idea at a meeting—without even considering the truth. It came from willfully defying reality, not only to others but to himself. “He can deceive himself,” said Bill Atkinson. “It allowed him to con people into believing his vision, because he has personally embraced and internalized it.”
At the root of the reality distortion was Jobs’s belief that the rules didn’t apply to him. He had some evidence for this; in his childhood, he had often been able to bend reality to his desires. Rebelliousness and willfulness were ingrained in his character. He had the sense that he was special, a chosen one, an enlightened one. “He thinks there are a few people who are special—people like Einstein and Gandhi and the gurus he met in India—and he’s one of them,” said Hertzfeld. “He told Chrisann this. Once he even hinted to me that he was enlightened. It’s almost like Friedrich Nietzsche.” Jobs never studied Nietzsche, but the philosopher’s concept of the will to power and the special nature of the Überman came naturally to him. As Nietzsche wrote in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “The spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers the world.” If reality did not comport with his will, he would ignore it, as he had done with the birth of his daughter and would do years later, when first diagnosed with cancer. Even in small everyday rebellions, such as not putting a license plate on his car and parking it in handicapped spaces, he acted as if he were not subject to the strictures around him.
People also had to put up with Jobs’s occasional irrational or incorrect assertions. To both family and colleagues, he was apt to declare, with great conviction, some scientific or historical fact that had scant relationship to reality. “There can be something he knows absolutely nothing about, and because of his crazy style and utter conviction, he can convince people that he knows what he’s talking about,” said Ive, who described the trait as weirdly endearing.
- Patience was never one of his virtues.
- Seeing things binary
Another key aspect of Jobs’s worldview was his binary way of categorizing things. People were either “enlightened” or “an asshole.” Their work was either “the best” or “totally shitty.”
Jobs had always been an extremely opinionated eater, with a tendency to instantly judge any food as either fantastic or terrible. He could taste two avocados that most mortals would find indistinguishable, and declare that one was the best avocado ever grown and the other inedible.
So what was the real reason for his hesitancy in taking over at Apple? For all of his willfulness and insatiable desire to control things, Jobs was indecisive and reticent when he felt unsure about something. He craved perfection, and he was not always good at figuring out how to settle for something less. He did not like to wrestle with complexity or make accommodations. This was true in products, design, and furnishings for the house. It was also true when it came to personal commitments. If he knew for sure a course of action was right, he was unstoppable. But if he had doubts, he sometimes withdrew, preferring not to think about things that did not perfectly suit him.
Unfortunately, his Zen training never quite produced in him a Zen-like calm or inner serenity, and that too is part of his legacy. He was often tightly coiled and impatient, traits he made no effort to hide. Most people have a regulator between their mind and mouth that modulates their brutish sentiments and spikiest impulses. Not Jobs. He made a point of being brutally honest. “My job is to say when something sucks rather than sugarcoat it,” he said. This made him charismatic and inspiring, yet also, to use the technical term, an asshole at times.
- Challenging people
“I realized very early that if you didn’t voice your opinion, he would mow you down,” said Cook. “He takes contrary positions to create more discussion, because it may lead to a better result. So if you don’t feel comfortable disagreeing, then you’ll never survive.”
- Strong character
When he again mentioned the perception that Apple was arrogant, Jobs didn’t like it. It went against his black-white, right-wrong way of viewing the world. Apple was a company of principle, he felt. If others failed to see that, it was their fault
“At his core, he doesn’t do things that he thinks are blatantly wrong, like some pure pragmatists in our business,” Levinson said. “So if he feels he’s right, he will just charge ahead rather than question himself.”
- Coping with pain
“He told me that when he feels really bad, he just concentrates on the pain, goes into the pain, and that seems to dissipate it,” she recalled. That wasn’t exactly true, however. When Jobs was in pain, he let everyone around him know it.
- Reality distortion field
- Stares and silence
Jobs had honed his trick of using stares and silences to master other people. “One of his numbers was to stare at the person he was talking to. He would stare into their fucking eyeballs, ask some question, and would want a response without the other person averting their eyes."
- Strong emotional sensivity, knowing weak spots of people
Was Jobs’s unfiltered behavior caused by a lack of emotional sensitivity? No. Almost the opposite. He was very emotionally attuned, able to read people and know their psychological strengths and vulnerabilities. He could stun an unsuspecting victim with an emotional towel-snap, perfectly aimed. He intuitively knew when someone was faking it or truly knew something. This made him masterful at cajoling, stroking, persuading, flattering, and intimidating people. “He had the uncanny capacity to know exactly what your weak point is, know what will make you feel small, to make you cringe,” Joanna Hoffman said. “It’s a common trait in people who are charismatic and know how to manipulate people. Knowing that he can crush you makes you feel weakened and eager for his approval, so then he can elevate you and put you on a pedestal and own you.”
There were some upsides to Jobs’s demanding and wounding behavior. People who were not crushed ended up being stronger.
Jobs could seduce and charm people at will, and he liked to do so. People such as Amelio and Sculley allowed themselves to believe that because Jobs was charming them, it meant that he liked and respected them. It was an impression that he sometimes fostered by dishing out insincere flattery to those hungry for it. But Jobs could be charming to people he hated just as easily as he could be insulting to people he liked. Amelio didn’t see this because, like Sculley, he was so eager for Jobs’s affection.
- On religion
Reflecting years later on his spiritual feelings, he said that religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. “The juice goes out of christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.”
“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God,” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.”
- On importance of Intuition
“Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work. Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom. Coming back after seven months in Indian villages, I saw the craziness of the Western world as well as its capacity for rational thought. If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things—that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”
- On religion
- Zen buddhism
- He had a Zen teacher and went to India to find a one (He eventually find this one in the neighborhood)
“What drove me? I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that’s been done by others before us. I didn’t invent the language or mathematics I use. I make little of my own food, none of my own clothes. Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on. And a lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow. It’s about trying to express something in the only way that most of us know how—because we can’t write Bob Dylan songs or Tom Stoppard plays. We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.”
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”
- Stares and silence
“When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again. And the minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it I think that’s very important and however, you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.