Misunderstanding Steve Jobs

In a small-minded riff on Steve, John Heilemann writes  (hat tip: paidContent.org):

“Less than two weeks from now, when the phone hits the streets, the consumerist pandemonium will likely be hysterical. Once again, Jobs may have fashioned a totemic object that will capture the culture–and cause rival CEOs to have coronary events. No one else in history has pulled of this kind of coup, as Jobs has, with four different products. The Apple II. The Mac. The iPod. The computer-animated feature film. Betting against a track record like that would be a dangerous wager. Especially when you know, deep down, that you want an iPhone. Bad..

…But Jobs has been wrong before. And if the iPhone proves a disappointment, his reputation will take a precipitous tumble: from unerring visionary to just another overreaching mogul. What’s at stake for Jobs, then, isn’t money or power–for no matter how the iPhone fares, he’ll still have both in abundance. What’s at stake is the thing that now must matter to him above all: the ending of his story.”

If you’ve never pushed the envelope of the accepted wisdom, it’s easy to misunderstand what drives Steve Jobs. I can see how someone living in a status quo world would ascribe familiar motivations to him, but it’s just not true. "The ending of his story"? Nonsense. Jobs doesn’t care about his legacy or making more money. He’s addicted to Rifting–he process of fixing problems, of leaping from one broken market to another. Why would he stop?

I wrote about this in Fast Company seven years ago, pre-iPod:

After the death of Walt Disney the man, something happened to Walt
Disney the company. You see, Walt Disney was a three-time rifter. He
was one of the few people who have successfully managed to find a rift
in the continuum of life, to bet everything on it, and to make a profit
by doing so. And he did it three times.

What’s a rift? It’s a big tear in the fabric of the rules that we
live by. It’s a fundamental change in the game, one that creates a
bunch of new losers — and a handful of new winners.

Most people who build important businesses build them on a rift,
usually one that they find by accident, and usually only once.
Sometimes, after they’ve succeeded once, they fool themselves into
thinking that they’re so gifted that everywhere they look, they can see
a rift. But Disney was different: He really was rift gifted. After all,
he did it three times.

[you can read the rest, here].

[Rifters don’t worry so much about being seen as "unerring visionaries". They just keep going.]