After reading David Pogue‘s (technology writer) New York Times post today entitled Steve Jobs: Imitated, Never Duplicated, I realized why I was unable last night to write about Steve Jobs from a psychological point of view. According to Pogue, Jobs was so unique that he defied any traditional model of success. This uniqueness leads Pogue to believe there is a zero percent chance of there ever being another human being with the all the abilities (and even liabilities that worked in his favor) that Jobs possessed. Jobs violated conventional wisdom and didn’t listen to others, all the while maintaining a maniacal focus on the future in spite of occasional failures. Says Pogue:
Here’s a guy who never finished college, never went to business school, never worked for anyone else a day in his adult life. So how did he become the visionary who changed every business he touched? Actually, he’s given us clues all along. Remember the “Think Different” ad campaign he introduced upon his return to Apple in 1997?
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.”
In other words, the story of Steve Jobs boils down to this: Don’t go with the flow.
Steve Jobs refused to go with the flow. If he saw something that could be made better, smarter or more beautiful, nothing else mattered. Not internal politics, not economic convention, not social graces.
No psychological theory can be based on a sample of 1. All we can do is describe what Jobs did and didn’t do. If we used models of prediction based on large population samples, there would have been no way to foresee a Steve Jobs in advance. To me, Jobs defied every psychological model of business and creative success, save for the so important persistence in the face of failure, resilience in the face of adversity.