April 3: A Man on a Mission

He shifts from one leg to the other before giving in to the need for something, for some kind of movement, anything, and beginning to do squats. He wears jeans and a black t-shirt with his company’s name across it, which perhaps is not the ideal outfit in which to pound out a few quick squats. But, then again, neither is the quiet expensive hotel patio high above San Francisco an ideal place, nor the middle of a taped interview an ideal time.

I do not find this alarming.

In fact, I had expected it. I had, actually, expected him to challenge me to some kind of physical test. Right here, right now, let’s see what you’re made of. Can you pound out 100 air squats? Can you do 100 push-ups? (I can’t. But, then again, maybe I can.)

When he’s done squatting, he talks about pushing people beyond their expectations and limits. You know the movie Whiplash? he says. I do. He’s like that guy in Whiplash, the teacher, he says, the one who pushes the kid to the brink. Most people, I suggest, don’t come away from that movie with a favorable impression of the teacher. The brink, for most people, is not a nice place to take someone to. But isn’t that what it takes? he asks. Those people are maybe simply not the ones who will become great. They will get to the brink of greatness and turn away.

We are standing on this quiet classy patio, so high above the swarms of tourists on Market Street that you can’t even hear them. We are just blocks away from the new flashy Twitter building, where he is headed next for a meeting, where so many are hoping will be the new hub of tech start-ups in the Bay Area, the pot at the end of the rainbow. All around us are the tips of shiny towers and construction cranes building the new San Francisco.

Honestly, I can see his point.