“Steve Jobs is Crying in the parking lot”
Lesson: To become a Genius one must admit their mistakes
For most of his life Steve Jobs found himself at the helm, but in his youth there were numerous instances when he came up against unflinching walls that throttled him and his expectations.
On a cold winter day in 1979, it would appear as though merely the weather was in the way of Jobs’ ability to have what he desired. After an incredibly boring and frustrating meeting with the Apple Computer board, Steve was attempting to enjoy a nice drive from Cupertino to San Francisco in his brand-new Mercedes-Benz 450SL. He loved driving at max speed with the top down. Normally people stared at him in his fancy new car, due to his unkempt hair and ratty clothing. Today, however, he wore a three-piece suit. He told himself it was part of doing business in the big leagues. At 24 years old, he was already the poster-child of the personal computer revolution.
The drive was long and slow due to traffic. Steve arrived at his destination, The Garden of Allah mosque. This was where the first meeting of the Seva foundation was being held. He parked, taking up two spots, and then ran up the stairs to arrive only 30 minutes late.
Steve had recently donated $5,000 to the Seva foundation on the basis of the organizers past success at eradicating smallpox in India. The newest venture would be to eliminate a particular kind of disease that caused blindness in that country.
As he entered the room and looked around at all the faces, only a few were familiar to him: Larry Brilliant, the founder of Seva, Robert Friedland, an old friend, and Bob Weir, the guitarist and singer for The Grateful Dead. Steve was visibly agitated. He still had the air of the corporate board room, which was diametrically opposite to the calm monk-like aura the Seva participants projected. They were dressed in long garments, while Steve still had on his suit. Most disconcerting to Jobs was that no one seemed to recognize him when he entered. Surely, they must have heard of Apple’s founder, it was, after all, the most successful start up ever. They were already selling 3,000 units a month; up from 70 a month only two years before.
The meeting was just beginning as he entered, and Steve sat down and attempted to listen patiently. Patience was not his virtue, but he attempted it. The big question on the table was how to inform the world of Seva’s goals. To Steve, the participants seemed impossibly naive. Their big idea was to create pamphlets. Pamphlets? In his experience, success in marketing occurred when you had a clear goal and a compelling story about how you were going to get there.
Steve began to bristle the more everyone began debating the pamphlet. His veil of patience was wearing thin. An attendee spoke up about one “great” idea for the color of the pamphlet and Steve would make a snide remark — another person would attempt another idea and Steve snarled.
It became too much for him. He shot to his feet, interrupted the proceedings, and exclaimed that he knew a thing or two about marketing. They needed to listen. “Seva,” he informed them “is in the same position that Apple Computers was a few years ago. Now we have sold well over 100,000 units. If you are serious about making this work, you need to hire someone by the name of Regis McKenna. He’s the best. Don’t settle for second best.”
The much older, more experienced participants — doctors, priests, bestselling authors, rockstars — sat in stunned disbelief. The optometrist who would be leading the operations to eradicate blindness in India, leaned over to Larry Brilliant and asked “Who is this guy?”
Steve was unperturbed by the attacks. He knew he was right. He was aware of their past success. But this did not matter to him. He knew he was right. He always felt at home in an argument. When Bob Weir made a comment, Steve rudely returned fire.
Larry Brilliant said, “Steve!”
The doctor admonished Steve for his youth and inexperience in these matters — Steve whirled and countered with his accomplishments.
Larry Brilliant interjected, “Steve! Stop!”
Steve turned on Brilliant, stating that he refused to stop. “You asked my advice. I’m going to give it!”
Brilliant had had enough. Though a Buddhist he was losing his composure: “Steve. That’s enough. It’s time to go.” And he escorted Steve Jobs from the premises.
Five minutes later, Steve’s friend, Friedland, approached Brilliant and informed him of Steve’s condition: “You’d better go check on Steve. He’s out in the parking lot crying.”
Brilliant ran out to check on his young friend. And with tears streaming down his face, Steve Jobs, the man to be called half-genius/half-asshole, admitted that he was way out of line in there. He wanted to go back inside and apologize to everyone for the way he had behaved. He was simply wound up from work. “It’s okay,” Brilliant said, “Just come back in and join us.”
“I’m going to apologize to everyone and then I’m going to leave.” Jobs replied.