Wisdom from 1985
I just read an interview with Steve Jobs in Playboy Magazine from 1985. Tons of interesting things in it. One thing that caught my attention was that he stresses the importance of being curious and keeping a youthful or even childish sense of wonder about the world.
One of the things that I find exciting about West Africa and the Ivory Coast – is that it’s so different from everything one can experience living in Europe (or most of the rest of the world). It kind of naturally spurs a curiosity to figure out how the place works. Setting up a business is turning out to be a pretty good way of channeling that curiosity and exploring how things work. And it should work the other way too, that curiosity – if it can be kept up – should be good for the business (and far from only for the business).
So if I’m no longer interested in stuff such as how Ivorian taxi drivers make a living, what kids in Yopougon use computers for, and the next ivorian parliamentary elections, then it’s probably time to stop and do something else. Hopefully that time won’t come anytime soon.
Extracts of the Jobs interview:
Playboy: Why is the computer field dominated by people so young? The average ageof Apple employees is 29.Jobs: It’s often the same with any new, revolutionary thing. People get stuck as they get older. Our minds are sort of electrochemical computers. Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In mostcases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them. It’s a rare person who etches grooves that are other than a specific way of looking at things, a specific way of questioning things. It’s rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing. Of course, there are some people who are innately curious, forever little kids in their awe of life, but they’re rare.
Companies, as they grow to become multibillion-dollar entities, somehow lose their vision. They insert lots of layers of middle management between the people running the company and the people doing the work. They no longer have an inherent feel or a passion about the products. The creative people, who are the ones who care passionately, have to persuade five layers of management to do what they know is the right thing to do.What happens in most companies is that you don’t keep great people under working environments where individual accomplishment is discouraged rather than encouraged. The great people leave and you end up with mediocrity. I know, because that’s how Apple was built. Apple is an Ellis Island company. Apple is built on refugees from other companies. These are the extremely bright individual contributors who were troublemakers at other companies.
Playboy: At what point did you meet Steve Wozniak?Jobs: I met Woz when I was 13, at a friend’s garage. He was about 18. He was, like,the first person I met who knew more electronics than I did at that point. We became good friends, because we shared an interest in computers and we had a sense of humor. We pulled all kinds of pranks together.Playboy: For instance?Jobs: [Grins] Normal stuff. Like making a huge flag with a giant one of these on it [gives the finger ]. The idea was that we would unfurl it in the middle of a school graduation.Then there was the time Wozniak made something that looked and sounded like a bomb and took it to the school cafeteria. We also went into the blue-box business together.Playboy: Those were illegal devices that allowed free long-distance phone calls,weren’t they?Jobs: Mm-hm. The famous story about the boxes is when Woz called the Vatican andtold them he was Henry Kissinger. They had someone going to wake the Pope up in themiddle of the night before they figured out it wasn’t really Kissinger.Playboy: Did you get into trouble for any of those things?Jobs: Well, I was thrown out of school a few times.