Saturday, November 5, 2011

THINK DIFFERENT, but act the same

Since Steve Jobs' death, there has been ample talk about his eccentricities and whether he was a "nice" guy.

Why is anyone surprised when someone who thinks in nontraditional ways behaves in nontraditional ways? He didn't get where he was by thinking like everyone else, so why should anyone expect him to act like everyone else?

Did you seriously expect Jobs to do exactly what everyone else does--overpay to attend an fourth-rate out-of-state college (thus gaining the debt of a brand name education without the brand name education), stay too long with his college sweetheart because he'd heard others say they regretted not marrying their college sweethearts, settle into a stultifying administrative job with a long title and a short salary, work to put enough cash away to qualify for a house he couldn't afford in a neighborhood he didn't like because it's "what you do," then one day just choose to start thinking out of the box? I don't think that's how it works. Rare is the individual who makes 30 years of mouse decisions and then one day wakes up a lion. Deep inspiration isn't a 9-to-5 task accomplished with 9-to-5 methods.

The hero-anointing masses often wish to believe their heroes are just like them. This is part of the reason biographies sometimes trigger such outcry. For instance, many sports fans couldn’t fathom that Michael Jordan, a man who maintained his lust for domination long after he’d become hugely rich and dominant, was a fanatical, pitiless competitor. For Jordan, there was an I in team, the same I that is in M-I-chael. That is part of what it takes to still care about winning after you have accomplished enough feats to last 23 lifetimes. Sorry if that makes you feel dirty about wearing his shoes. Ironically, if MJ lacked that unfaltering need for trophies, you wouldn't want to wear his shoes in the first place.

Also, famed innovators like Mr. Jobs are the folks the masses want to know more about, so it is inevitable that every nook and cranny of their personalities ends up under a microscope. The clerks who work in Apple stores have quirks too, but no one cares enough about them to chronicle their oddities.

None of this is to suggest that Mr. Jobs totally ignored the herds. He needed those herds to believe iPhones were in short supply so that they would rush out to buy them at full price. He then needed the rest of the herd to watch that first herd's antics so that they could rush out to copy them. And so on. Innovators and herds play cat-and-mouse. Or maybe it should be called lion-and-mouse.

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