So we listened, Nick and I, to the Steve Jobs book. I think it was my idea, but Nick was all for it. It’s one of the things we do, listen to books.
It was a break from Rangers and Warriors and Redwall, all of which are more violent. No four letter words Nick doesn’t know. No sex to speak of, thank God, although one child was born out of wedlock. The only moment that really made me uncomfortable was when Jobs talked about his LSD experience.
“Dad, what’s LSD?” Nick said.
“It’s a medication that makes your mind different. I don’t recommend it.”
I counted to three.
“I think Steve would have been fine without it,” I said.
That seemed to answer the question.
Jobs was adopted, as was Nick. Jobs loved his adoptive parents, but never seemed at rest with his original abandonment. Nick didn’t comment on those passages, nor did I.
Why did I suggest the book? Probably because of something my mother said to me when I was Nick’s age.
“I’d like you to discover a cure for cancer,” she said.
That’s a lousy thing for a parent to lay on a kid. The problem isn’t quite the grandiosity of such a wish. It’s more the lack of specificity.
I would have liked it if my father had suggested a book like Steve Jobs to me when I was Nick’s age, had he been around.
Any biography of a self-made man would have done. Something to show the ambition, the moves, the grunt work, the failures. The specificity.
I would have liked to have known about failure; it was far too scary then. It’s scary now.
“Dada, I don’t think I want to start a company,” Nick said the other day.
“You don’t have to start a company, ” I said.
“I’d rather play video games and eat junk food.”
My son knows me so well.
It’s ridiculous that Jobs is gone now, when he probably would have lived if he hadn’t dithered nine months after his cancer was discovered. Dithering was what he did from my point of view.
Do you want to live or die? God said. I’ll take die, Jobs said.
From his point of view he had a better idea than his doctors about how to beat the thing. When he finally allowed the surgeons to operate it was too late. But then, it took the same arrogance to bring the world around to his point of view about the computer.
A computer, Jobs argued, is like a toaster. Or should be.
That idea was his genius.
A thing I didn’t know about Jobs was what a jerk he was.
“Psychopath,” said a friend at work.
He had great charm and personal power, used people, seems to have allowed himself whatever he wanted, and threw tantrums when he didn’t get his way.
Cry like a baby for what you want, says the Talmud.
Is this what it takes to make a dent in the universe?
I want Nick to grow out of those things and worried that Jobs’ behavior set a bad example. But Nick seemed as disgusted by it as I was and the book gave us a way to talk about frustration.
“He was a big baby,” Nick said.
“I want whatever I want too,” I said. “It makes me mad not to get it. I feel like throwing tantrums sixteen times a day.”
“But you don’t.” said Nick.
“But I feel like it.”
In the movie Forbidden Planet, some Jobs-like genius on a faraway world designed a computer that instantly translated everyone’s desires into reality. Internet to the infinite power. They had thought this was their Singularity, their moment of liberation. What happened was, everyone killed each other, the whole civilization wiped itself out overnight.
Now that we’re done, Nick is listening again on his own.
“Why?” I said. “I thought you said he was a big baby.”
“It’s a good book.”
Maybe we’ll try Teddy Roosevelt next.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. It’s fourteen minutes long, but if you haven’t heard it, it’s worth bookmarking and coming back to:
Got a role model story? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
If you like this post and have a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account, please consider sharing it by clicking one of the buttons below: