Steve Jobs: Visionary… artist… disrupter… legend


"When I look into most people's eyes, I see soul. When I look into your eyes, I see a bottomless pit, an empty hole, a dead zone." Can you guess to whom it was said? Take a guess! I’ll bet you can't get it right. It was John Sculley's wife. Sculley was Apple's CEO, whom Steve Jobs had brought in with a lot of fanfare. Sculley was convinced that Jobs' presence in the company was detrimental to its growth, and he finally managed to convince the Board of Directors, and Jobs was told to leave.

Image credit "Stefan Holm /"

Sculley and Jobs had both cried after the meeting. Sculley too decided to resign, despite his victory. His wife felt betrayed by Jobs, who tried his level best to unseat Sculley. She decided to confront Jobs and met him in the parking lot. Jobs avoided looking her in the eye. She asked him to look at her and said, "Can't you look me in the eyes when I am talking to you ?" Finally, he did, and that is when she hurled these words at him.

Anybody could say that Jobs was a ruthless, heartless, mannerless, loveless, and unsympathetic person who reached dizzying heights. All this may have been true and he was the most difficult person to work with. He rarely used printable words while reviewing products both in private and in public. He was not the nicest person with his colleagues.

Jobs once confessed that Tina Redes was the first person he was truly in love with. He asked her to marry him, but she refused. She said, "I could not have been a good wife to Steve Jobs, the icon. I would have sucked at it on many levels. In our personal interactions, I could not abide his unkindness. I did not want to hurt him, yet I did not want to stand by and watch him hurt other people either. It was painful and exhausting." Tina was convinced that Steve was suffering from "Narcissistic Personality Disorder."

But then, he was a genius and a genius doesn't follow the conventions of regular men and women. Who else but Jobs would have roamed the streets bare feet, and followed an excruciatingly strict diet till his last days? He was living only on vegetables and fruits, and sometimes fasted for weeks. He always used to park his car in the space meant for the handicapped. Do you know he was removed from the day shift to the night shift at his first job because he refused to bathe for days and hated deodorant? Jobs wandered the narrow streets of India in search of peace and purity for months and finally, in the words of his biographer Walter Isaacson, decided that "he did not want to have anything to do with worshipping such a god and he never went back to church." When he was on his death bed he told Isaacson, "I am about fifty-fifty on believing in God."

But he was steadfast in one belief. He said he was born to change the world and he would. He was one CEO who never hankered after profits like Bill Gates, for whom he had scant respect because he thought Gates wasted his life accumulating wealth. It’s true that Jobs was no pauper. In fact, he was equally rich, but his business philosophy was revolutionary. He created products that changed the world. He lived by the words of his inspiration Bob Dylan, who said "If you are not busy being born, you are busy dying."

When Jobs was confronted by his colleagues, who asked if he would create products that would kill his own brands, he said "If you would not cannibalise yourself, someone else will." Jobs’s business rule was "NEVER BE AFRAID OF CANNIBALISING YOURSELF."

It’s no wonder then that he changed the music industry for all time with the iPod, and the Internet industry with iPhones and iPads.

He took over Apple in 1997, when it was on the brink of bankruptcy; by 2010, he was competing in terms of revenue with Microsoft, an unquestioned giant for two decades. Today, Apple is the most valuable brand in history. Isaacson says that a hundred years from now Jobs will be counted with Edison and Ford when this century will be discussed. And his secret was his love for creating new products, and always thinking way ahead of everyone. Innovation, innovation and innovation was his mantra, always, all the time.

When the whole industry was talking about an open system and Microsoft was profiting by licensing its operating system Windows to other companies, Jobs believed in end-to-end integration from hardware to software to content. Jobs was a hard-core product guy. For him, product making was both science and art; but, in the end, it was business. For him, creating a product was creating a painting like Picasso; conquering complexities was his passion. The iPhone and iPad were the simplest, most user-friendly technology ever used. Aesthetics was his life blood and he pushed his team to attain that level of sublimity, when they could not, he was unsparing and that is when he was called ruthless and heartless.

In modern business, sales personnel are the king and the queens. They rule the industry. Jobs used to hate them. He used to say, "When sales guys run the company, the product guys don't matter so much and a lot of them just turn off." He attributed the fall of Microsoft and IBM to such sales guys. He rebelled against the status quo, and sneered at the common industry practice that gives "consumers what they want".

Jobs was prophetic like Ford, "people don't know what they want until you tell them." But he was a great sales guy himself. Every product he launched from the Macintosh to the iPad, he sold like a magician, as a product that had never existed before. It used to create waves in the market. But this sales guy was different. He was called Steve Jobs, "a misfit, a crazy one”.

Because people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the one who do. So I disagree with Sculley's wife. Jobs was not the 'most people' she was referring to. He was Steve, Steve Jobs, one of a kind; the one who could stare "unblinkingly" at his colleagues and also at purity in search of perfection.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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