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How Did Steve Jobs Become Steve Jobs?


RUSH: Leonard in San Bernardino, California.  I'm glad you called.  Great to have you here.

CALLER:  Hi, Rush.  How are you today?

RUSH:  Very well, sir.  Thanks very much.

CALLER:  First off I wanted to compliment you on two things about your show that I like, that I enjoy every day. That's before I get to my question or request, or opinion, actually.  Sarcastic humor.  I love it. (chuckling)  I absolutely enjoy it.

RUSH:  Thank you.  So do I.

CALLER:  People tend to be a little too offended these days, and my response to that is, "Well, your sensitivity offends me."  The music, too. I enjoy the music that you put on just before and after the break, that's always a nice little tidbit to add in.  But to get to my point of why I'm calling: The Jobs movie that Ashton Kutcher was in. I recently went and saw that. I walked into the theater and saw a ton of teenaged girls, and I'm thinking, "Great. "What am I gonna experience in this theater while watching this movie?" 

What I seemed to get out of the movie is they seemed to portray Steve Jobs, the guy that created Apple... You're always talking about Apple. I never owned anything from Apple but I figured I'd give it a shot and see what it's all about, and they gave a bad portrayal, I think, of Steve Jobs in the sense of walking over people, doing whatever it took to get the task done and no matter who he's offending or who he's crossing.

It seemed like it had that sort of feel to it where, from my background and upbringing, it seemed more of having a work ethic and desire to not let anything get in his way and stop him -- and of, you know, being a perfectionist and going after and creating something that his heart was in 100%.  I just thought I'd ask you about your opinion on the movie.  I don't know if you've seen it or have any thoughts.

RUSH:  No, of course I've seen it.  I saw it before the public.  I got my powerful, influential member of the media DVD the week before it came out.  Jobs was a jerk.  There's no two ways about that.  He admitted he was a jerk.  He was hard on people and admitted it. He was asked about it and he said, "Well, look at the results. Look at what I got out of 'em."  When he was wasn't happy with people's work, he had a word for it:  "That's crap.  Start it over." 

But he had a personality that meant people really wanted to please him.  Because when you did, there was a reward for it.  But he was a jerk.  But there are two phases of Jobs.  There's a major transformation that happened to Steve Jobs that even Walter Isaacson's biography didn't get to.  There is a really important part of Steve Jobs' life that I don't know about that I would like to know about.  I don't know what happened to him (after he left Apple and then went to NeXT, which is his next computer company) that made him turn into this incredible leader, 'cause he was just a punk kid employee at Apple in the first stage, and something happened.

I don't know what it is, and I would love to know. 


RUSH:  Okay.  Steve Jobs.  The stories are legion, particularly in his early days at Apple.  Two stints at Apple.  The first stint, but even the second stint, he was an admitted mean person to the people that worked for him.  One story, somebody on his high-ranking executive team walked in to tell him that he had a job offer, was thinking of leaving, and Jobs said, "Why? You're barely cutting it here."  And this is a guy that has been with him forever.  "Why?  You're barely cutting it here."  This guy, high-ranking, almost a right-hand man, executive.  In the early stages of Jobs and Apple, when they finished, he and Wozniak finished the Apple II and all that and they started working on the Macintosh, they ran into traditional problems.

They needed $150 million from Microsoft to keep going and it was in Microsoft's best interests 'cause they wanted their word processing somewhere, their office software on Mac machines. So Gates gave 'em $150 million, kept going, and that's when they brought in John Sculley.  Jobs recruited him, Jobs said, "What do you want to do?  You want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water to kids, or do you want to change the world?" Sculley was CEO Pepsi.  So Sculley comes on board, and they have a culture clash and it all falls apart and Jobs leaves. And all during this era, the stories of he was a renegade, malcontent. Even though it was his company, he refused to behave according to corporate structure and so forth.  He and his team relocated to a building off site and they raised the pirate flag when they're working in secret on the Macintosh, I believe. 

Anyway, here's the point.  All this is well known.  In the first stage, Jobs was not a leader.  He was not charismatic. He was not infectious.  He was able to laud this power over people 'cause it was his company.  But, after he left Apple and he went to the wilderness, essentially, in terms of his career, he ended up doing two things.  He started the NeXT computer company, which was to be a very high priced computer for education, state-of-the-art. It didn't do well because it was priced too high, but it was state-of-the-art.

He joined Pixar, the animation company, and he turned that around. He ended up selling it to Disney, and now his wife is the single largest stockholder in the Walt Disney company because of Pixar when they bought it.  But something happened to Jobs in the period of time he was not at Apple.  He left Apple, he goes to NeXT and Pixar.  Apple was weeks away from bankruptcy and closing down in, I think it was 1997.  And they bought NeXT, Jobs' company, and they bought Jobs.  And within a year or year and a half, Jobs had engineered the ouster of the then CEO, a guy named Gil Amelio, and Jobs took over the company. 

And, at that point, it was a whole different Steve Jobs.  I mean, he still was a tyrant. He was still very difficult to please, but in that phase he became the Steve Jobs that everybody now knows, the greater inventor, the creator, the charismatic leader, the guy that motivated people, got more out of people than they thought they had. Whatever mythological or real things people think about jobs, this is the story I don't know.  There's no book that I've read; there's no article that I've read.  A lot of guys have written books that knew Jobs, that worked with him, and Aaron Sorkin's working on a movie, but something happened when Jobs was away from Apple that totally turned him into a different kind of leader. Somebody who was actually capable of being a great CEO, a great organizational, motivational, all of that, whatever it took, putting the right people in the right place. 

You know, this current CEO, Tim Cook, was the operations guy.  Jobs didn't care about the supply chain.  He was a total creative, inventor type, so he brings in Cook to fix all that.  Their manufacturing process was an absolute mess.  They had no way of making any money.  He brings in Cook to fix it, and basically Cook did all of the stuff to run a company that Jobs didn't want to do, everything a good executive should.  He didn't try to claim things that he didn't know how to do or didn't want to do for power.  He delegated them.  I want to know what happened. I don't know that it's knowable, I mean, I don't know that anybody does know. But if we're gonna look at Steve Jobs' life and examine his traits, great qualities as a CEO, he did not have them when he first founded Apple. Go look at what Wozniak says about those days.  It was not pleasant. 

Jobs went for weeks without taking a shower, 'cause he thought it was filthy.  He only ate the weirdest stuff.  He was on this God awful left-wing New Age behavioral -- he took a sabbatical trip to India and all that stuff, but all that went by the wayside when he came back to Apple in 1997, started the iPod era and the iPhone era. I don't know whether he even knew it, but when he talked about the education system, he sounded like a conservative.  When he talked about American business, he sounded like a conservative.  He hated Fox News. He hated conservatives, and his wife really does.  But all that is irrelevant.  There's a biography still waiting to be written.

Did Jobs go to somebody and was taught how to be a good CEO or how to become what he became, or, you know, did it just happen by virtue of maturity?  That's the story that nobody knows. Walter Isaacson's book is fabulous, too.  It's good.  I sent him a note telling him so.  But there's a lot of  Jobs' life left out of that book, even.  Maybe nobody knows.  But I would be fascinated to know what happened, 'cause there were two Steve Jobs.



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