(Video link here.) After hearing a lot of very kind and reverent words about Steve Jobs lately, Walter Isaacson’s new biography about him, apparently balancing the picture, which we can’t help but think is a good thing. The guy was brilliant, but no angel; he was deeply flawed. Ryan Tate of Gawker wrote just this in his piece What Everyone Is Too Polite To Say About Steve Jobs an outline of the other side of Jobs, which include authoritarianism, rough treatment of underlings, tolerant of abusive working conditions in Apple factories overseas….This is the same guy who gave his famously uplifting commencement speech, who said “Death is life’s change agent.”

We’ve heard similar combo-platters of gifts and faults with a number of famous people (and experienced it working for some). And this past year, three of our dear friends passed away. The were all much loved, creative, valiant and very generous people who had harsh, often dark, sides as well.

What do we make of this? We don’t have it figured out except to say that we think it’s better to try to see the whole picture then perpetuate an illusion of perfection. That illusion, to us, is a danger; it creates an unreal view of life and people. It allows us to condone or ignore crappy behavior. Even worse it makes us believe that life can be tidy and in control, and condemn ourselves when ours is not. As far as we can tell, it’s always in process, messy, full of flaws and big surprises, with tons of mistakes and adjustments to be made along the way.

We LOVE that we get to work on ourselves as we live, to learn and change along the way.

Watch 60 Minutes’ in-depth interview with Walter Isaacson here. And you can download the Steve Jobs biography for free when you sign up for a 14-day free trial with Audible.

Related posts:  steve jobs: ‘you have to trust…’
apple’s ‘think different’ video: tribute to steve jobs
howard rheingold: on becoming (“life…forks every day, in every moment”)
4-step algorithm for change
a question-driven, learning-centered life
our lives, in brief (secrets, 6-word memoirs, even obits)

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8 replies on “the other sides of steve jobs: good + bad = ?

  1. Hi, the link to “What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say” returns an “error 404 – not found” message.

    Thanks for another great post about something I’ve been thinking about too!

  2. Jim, thanks so much for alerting us! It’s fixed now.

  3. as a young woman i was obsessed with all things virginia woolf. i read all her
    books,biographies,anything i could get my hands on. in one of the biographies
    it was noted that she had very strong feelings about black americans and felt
    that slavery was good for them. i am black. her personal feelings on the matter
    did not deter from her talent. clearly a tortured individual,later to commit suicide on her own terms.it was not difficult to accept her views. she was a HUMAN being. i have similar revelations learning of joseph campbell’s attitude towards jews,bob dylan’s treatment of the women in his life. for that matter picasso’s treatment of the women in his life. it is immature,and short sighted to split human nature into the good/bad category. sometimes the titans have a bigger appetite for life than the rest of us. i,personally, forgive them everything. without their flaws and genius the world would be a lesser place. R.I.P. Mr. Jobs

  4. There aren’t any links in the text:

    “Watch 60 Minutes’ in-depth interview with Walter Isaacson here. And you can download the Steve Jobs biography for free when you sign up for a 14-day free trial with Audible.”

  5. Sorry! I put them in but there’s a glitch. Out and about. Will fix tonight. Thanks for alerting us and for bearing with!……….
    ………It’s fixed now.

  6. Thank you, Judith, for this very direct, informative and thoughtful comment. I’d say my biggest lesson in college, when I became friends with several artists, was that they we not necessarily like their art. Before then, I’d always thought there must be some direct equation between beautiful work and greatness of being. The work was a part of very complex beings – or perhaps it simply came through them…

  7. Words to live by “that we get work on ourselves as we live, to learn and change along the way.” Thanks for the reminder.

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