Jobs – Movie Review
“You may see them as crazy. We say they are genius because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do.”
Jobs, the movie about Steve Jobs who founded Apple, left me so…conflicted. That’s not just my response, it’s one I’m hearing over and over. It was a fascinating and very well done movie about an absolutely intriguing man, but for all the amazing things he did, it was sad and hollow. Ironically, as the Shepherd Project team talked about the movie it led to a discussion about the Apple products and technology / social media as a whole, and we were just as conflicted about the pros and cons of the things Jobs created as we were about the man himself (granted, included in that discussion were things he did not create, like FB, but Apple had a lot to do with making those things possible and changing the way we see technology in the first place). [Check out our conflicted take on the up/down-side of modern tech here]
Jobs walked to his own drummer and he was often difficult, but people still loved him. He dropped out of college because he felt a degree was a waste of his parents’ money (at least for himself, for others he felt it offered them validation), but he loved to learn so he attended classes regularly as if he was an actual student. The Dean tried to get him to enroll in classes, but he staunchly refused, offering to stop attending if that was a problem, but the reality was, they liked having him around (even on his own odd terms). He challenged the norms in a way that was potentially problematic, but he also inspired others to love learning and to think for themselves…he made the other students better.
The truth is, pretty much everything Jobs did was on his own odd terms, and for the most part, people let him because they believed in him. He was bossing his coworkers around and one complained, “You’re not even my boss!” to which Jobs replied, “Well, I should be!” Jobs then convinced his boss to give him his own project and promised to make the “best… video game you’ve ever seen.” And he did. Jobs was a visionary who needed a lot of freedom to create. He didn’t do well with other people giving him his limitations. He said, “I just can’t work for other people. I need my independence.”
So he got his independence. Jobs pulled together some young talent and they formed Apple computers in his parents’ garage…and they changed the technological world by doing what others said was impossible. Part of Jobs genius was his ability to think of what people would want (if they could only imagine it) and then show them why they want it. When others felt that computers were only for technological jobs and a few technologically minded geeks, Jobs felt they should be for the every day man, the garbage man, the teacher, etc. He wasn’t limited by the perceived interest of society. His response was, “How can somebody know what they want if they’ve never seen it?” and so he showed it to them….and they wanted it.
Jobs wasn’t just a visionary though, he was a perfectionist. He cared deeply about excellence. When they were creating the original computer board, he and his designer, Wozniak had an argument about its appearance. He wasn’t happy because the batteries weren’t installed straight, neat and symmetrical. Wozniak didn’t get it. “Nobody cares about the look of the board.” “I DO!” Jobs replied. He was that way about all of his Apple products. “We don’t accept fine and we don’t stop innovating.” Excellence and innovation were absolute priorities to Jobs. When a programmer tried to explain to Jobs that in order to reach the deadline, they would have to make some compromises and prioritize key issues, Jobs fired him on the spot and said that “EVERY thing is a pressing issue.” He fired the best programmer he had because that programmer wasn’t aligned with his vision, and that vision involved excellence in everything, every single detail.
Jobs saw himself as a great artist. “Great artists, Dillon, Picaso, they risked failure. And if we’re going to do something great, we have got to risk everything.” That made him wonderfully exciting and attractive to others. People followed him. They were willing to follow him despite his harshness, despite his rudeness and lack of people skills. They followed him despite his unflinching, uncompromising, unbending nature, just as much as they followed him because of those things. It’s a strange reality, but his greatest strengths were his greatest weaknesses, as is almost always true for all of us. His strength was his leadership, but those very qualities of leadership were also the very means of his downfall and isolation.
Jobs was able to recruit the best of the best, people who had wonderful jobs and success already. When his board asked him, “Why would [Sculley] leave Pepsi?” Jobs replied, “[Because] nobody remembers the world’s best soda salesman.” When he met with Sculley he challenged him, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to change the world? Well then come with me.” Sculley did. Everyone followed Jobs, because they all believed he really would change the world, and there is something in us that longs to be a part of something big, something great like that, something earth changing.
Meanwhile however, while he was busy changing the world at large, he was simultaneously destroying his own world. He was so focused on building Apple, he shut himself off from everyone. He cut off his friendships, he cut off his girlfriend when she got pregnant (with his child), saying that it wasn’t his problem and angry that she would dare to inconvenience him with it (ironic since he himself was deeply wounded by the fact his birth parents “cast him aside”), and when Apple incorporated (I think that’s the right term?!) in a spectacularly tacky move he outed some of the original guys he founded the company with saying they weren’t as talented and shouldn’t be rewarded with stock options. It was so bad it was painful even to watch.
Wozniak, probably his closest friend came to him, concerned, and tearfully confronted him. He explained that when he followed Jobs it was because he was going to get to do what he loved and enjoy doing it with people he cared about, but Jobs had changed. “It’s not about people anymore for you. It’s about the product and it’s about you. You’re the beginning and the end of your own world now, Steve, and it’s so sad. And it’s got to be lonely.” The head of the board told him, “Steve, you are your own worst enemy, and this company’s.” The board felt that Jobs was hurting the company (Jobs of course saw it differently; he felt that the boards’ decisions to compromise to save up front money cost them in the end because no one wanted to buy less than excellent computers). So they forced him out.
Wozniak and the board were right about Jobs. He was his own worst enemy. He was lonely. He had forgotten about people in his passion for the product. And ultimately, he was really all about himself. It doesn’t stop there, however. I am sure that forced out was good for Jobs. I’m sure it humbled him, and gave him time to reevaluate some things. It was a disaster for Apple though. The company continued to tank until the board brought Jobs back. He still was bad with people. He still couldn’t stand restrictions or limitations of any sort. He still saw people as being “with him or against him”, friends or enemies…there was no neutral ground with him (which is why he forced all the former board members and CEO to resign, and made that a contingency for his return). But he was also still a visionary and a leader, and people were still willing to follow him and move mountains for him. Why? Because they wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and they knew being with Jobs would guarantee that.
When Jobs returned there was a particularly creative, gifted designer at the company. Jobs couldn’t get why someone like that would have stayed at Apple when “there’s no taste, no style” at Apple anymore. “There are those of us here who still believe in what you stood for. … That’s why we’re here—the hope that we might do it once more.” Even though Jobs had been gone for years, the legacy of what he stood for still inspired people. People were still following Jobs, even when Jobs had gone, because the power of his leadership and vision lingered.
Jobs was horrible with people, and yet, he was great with people. He was great because he understood what people really wanted (or at least a piece of it). Jobs approached people the same way he approached technology: “How can somebody know what they want if they’ve never seen it?” He did that with his leadership just as much as he did it with technology. He showed people what they wanted in their hearts, their make up, their dreams and visions. His philosophies and the principles he taught about technology and his company were just as applicable to life as they were computers: “You’ve got to have a problem you want to solve, a wrong you want to fix.” “You can’t look at the competition and say we’re going to do it better. You’ve got to say we’re going to do it different.”
Jobs may have been all about himself. He may not have been very good in relationships, but he was great at inspiring people. Probably the thing which he had the least patience for in people is people who didn’t dream, who had no vision. He challenged people, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people no smarter than you. Embrace it [life]. Change it. Improve it. Make your mark upon it.” He told people that anyone could make their mark upon the world, improve it or change it. And he promised that if people were a part of apple, they were “going to put a dent in the universe.”
Jobs did put a dent in the universe. The conflicted part is that it came at such a price. It’s conflicting because you can’t help but want to follow him, you can’t help but like him and admire him, and yet, all the while, you also can’t help but resent him, be angry at him, even despise him at times for how he condescends and offends. But I can’t help to think that the final note of the movie, which ends with him restored, with people following him, with Apple going on to dent the universe is telling. It says that no matter how conflicted we may be, in the end, we still long for leadership. We will often settle for a bit of roughness if only that person speaks truth and stands for something great. If only the one slighting us is a visionary and a leader, we will often continue to forgive offense and follow their lead.
The reality is that on this earth, our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses. So those who are wonderful with people, kind, tender, thoughtful, often lack the strength that leaders and visionaries have. We love them, but may not be as inclined to follow them, because while they promise to love the world, they don’t necessarily promise to change the world. The leaders and visionaries on the other hand are often a lot like Jobs. They’ll change the world, but you’ll have to have some tough skin if you hitch your wagon to theirs.
This is what makes Jesus so absolutely extraordinary. He was absolutely balanced. His greatest strengths were just that—strengths. They were never weaknesses. And everything about him was his greatest strength, every strength in perfect balance and harmony with the rest. He promised to change the world, and he did, more than any other visionary or leader in the history of the world. Not only did he change the world, but he has invited each of us to be a part of changing the world with him. And the greatest news of all is that he never loses sight of the people for the product. His product IS people. He always operates in perfect love. He is perfect in peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control.
If there’s something about Jobs which inspires you, something in his philosophies and in his life which makes you, too, want to be a part of putting a dent in the universe, then I encourage you—don’t look to Jobs, to Apple, or to man at all. Look to Jesus. You need go no further than that, and you can do no better than that. There is no greater leader, no greater visionary, no greater friend, and no greater mission than that which you will find in Jesus.
Questions for Discussion:
- How do you feel about Jobs?
- What were Jobs greatest failures and greatest accomplishments?
- Would you have wanted to follow Jobs? Why or why not?
- Do you resonate with Jobs desire to change the world?
- How do you feel about Jobs commitment to excellence? How would the world change if everyone was as committed to excellence in their work?
- If Jobs had followed Jesus, how do you think that might have changed the way he did things?
- How do you think following Jesus might make a difference to your life? How might following Jesus help you to change the world?
by Stacey Tuttle