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Was Steve Jobs a Hero or a Shithead?

Is that the question?? Before you guys attack me for such a blatantly ugly question, allow myself to explain ... myself. Steve Jobs was fond of calling people heroes or shitheads. Walter Isaacson points out numerous "hero" and/or "shithead" occasions in his biography, "Steve Jobs." Jobs rarely found a middle ground. As a matter-of-fact, it seems like people were black and white to Jobs. Most of us mere mortals see people in shades of grey. Jobs had a knack and perhaps even a gift of calling it exactly the way he saw it. His brutal honesty would often make people feel like kings or tear them down into shreds of flesh.

I grew up knowing about Steve Jobs because my dad introduced me to the Apple ][+ when he bought one for our family back in 1979. It was this very computer that got me interested in information technology and later led my life to where I am today as a chief information officer. Without that early and cool introduction, I may not be the man I am today. In other words, I owe my success to Dad and Steve Jobs.

Through the years, Dad told me about Jobs and his wonderful company Apple Inc. Strangely enough, Steve Jobs died within two months of my dad and under similar circumstances. They both withered away from the effects of cancer. Jobs died on October 5, 2011 and my father died on December 4, 2011.

Even though I knew many things about Jobs and Apple as I grew up, I had no idea about the levels of his candor and -sometimes- downright mean behavior. After reading Isaacson's book my eyes were opened. Some who read it might walk away thinking how callous and evil(ish) Jobs was, but I choose to see the other side. He was an amazing man with a gift that he discovered early on and used to create the greatest computer company anyone has ever seen (and may ever see again).

Back to the title of this article - I honestly wonder if Steve Jobs had worked with himself, would he have looked over his shoulder and said, "Wow ... That is amazing. You really get this. In my book you're a hero!" Or, would he have leaned in, grunted, and then spat out, "This work is shit and you're a complete idiot!" Hard to say for sure, but I like to believe that depending on the timing and events he may have said either one.

Despite how you feel about Jobs, the things he did and accomplished at Apple, Pixar, and later Disney are utterly amazing! His perfectionism was world renowned and contributed directly to picking Apple literally out of the ashes and turning it into one of the most powerful IT companies in the world. He often used his "reality distortion field" to turn things from impossible to possible. I respect and envy this trait.

While I do not condone nor believe in treating people as black and white as Jobs often did, I certainly can respect the success that he built in himself and others. By being so frank, he changed the lives of those around him. We can all take a lesson from Steve Jobs ... That lesson might be that honesty often can be empowering. Now I'm not recommending that you walk over to your neighbor and call her a "shithead." But, I am challenging you to bring some openness, honesty, and candor into conversations with those around you.

Do you think that Steve Jobs was man deserving of respect? I do.

Your faithful propeller head,

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Comments (5) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I agree with you. Honesty, while a prophetic value, is looked down upon under the rue if being politically correct.

    Perhaps the real question was whether he was as black and white in regards to his own life. If he abided by the same values he expected of others than good on him. If not, then maybe he was an egotistical shithead.

    Most likely, those that praise him were able to accept the truth and maybe were motivated by it. Those that used his approach or demeanor as an excuse to dislike him probably lost out on an opportunity to learn a lot.

  2. “Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler.” I believe this quote (attributed to Albert Einstein), applies to people (as part of “everything”). Although it would certainly make things easier, I don’t think most people can be categorized as “heros” or “shitheads” in any absolute way. I’ve been both. Honesty is great, but using honesty as a justification for being cruel is a cop out.

    That said, I don’t know much about Jobs.

  3. Steve Jobs was a “Shit Head”. Period.
    He didn’t help humanity in any way. I haven’t suffered due to not owning any of his gadgets.
    And please, what Honesty? He was rather a Hypocrite

  4. While it is possible that Steve Jobs didn’t affect you, I think it’s highly improbable. My guess is that out of the 313 personally held patents and approximately 15,000 patents through Apple, Steve Jobs has helped humanity in at least a small way. Many things would be different today if it were not for Jobs’ role in technology and entertainment. For better or for worse.

    Not to mention the fact that his competitive nature helped to drive and improve people like Bill Gates, Steve Balmer, Andy Grove, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Eric Schmidt, and countless others.

    Steve Jobs brought the mouse and the GUI interface to the personal computer (regardless of whether he stole the idea or not, he did bring it). He is also one of the pioneers of networking PCs together.

    Regardless of “owning” any of his gadgets, the gadgets you DO own would not be as fantastic (or perhaps even exist) had it not been for Jobs. I suppose if you don’t use a PC, tablet, smartphone, listen to music, or watch animated movies, then you could say that he has not had much impact on your life.

    In my opinion, he has not only helped humanity to advance, but he has also changed the way we think.

    In addition to his technology advancements that have made the world better, me and my kids have loved and learned from his many movies including, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, Cars, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up, Bug’s Life, and Brave. These movies may or may not have improved humanity, but at the very least, they have entertained us.

    I like being entertained. It helps me with my positive attitude. I believe my positive attitude is one of the main reasons that I have survived despite my illness. There might be a few others that feel the same way…

    That said, I agree with you about him being a hypocrite. It is my opinion that we are all hypocrites at some level or another. As human beings, it is in our nature and impossible to avoid. However, he may have been a bigger hypocrite than you or I.

    To me, Steve was a hero and a shit head. And, it is my belief that he clearly helped humanity…

  5. Steve was a visionary in some senses, but I have always felt he was glamorized. He did enough ugly things to lower him from the pedestal I see Mac fanboys/girls put him on. The way he treated the people who slaved away for him is enough without delving into his personal life. Like many ‘Merican heroes, he was rarely the inventor and more often the perfector or at least the winner that day. I like and use Mac products but salute the Mac engineers and stopped looking at Jobs as the hero. He was just another loud mouthed businessman with big ideas. I don’t find my personal inspiration in people like that, but I do take what I want from their methods.
    Gates has done more for humanity than Jobs, at least if we’re counting coins that went to charity.

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