Recently I read two really amazing books about two really amazingly accomplished people.
Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.
Walt Disney, the dreamer, was a miserable failure for DECADES. Yes, decades. He obsessed. He dreamed. He saw and wanted things he wasn’t able to make. He was an extremely impractical visionary. Impatient. Cruel. childlike in his wanting of what he couldn’t have. I could go on and on about his lack of business sense, people skills, humility, etc. He should not have succeeded.
Steve Jobs, the jerk, was a whiny baby. Was outright cruel to EVERYONE. Yes everyone. He obsessed. He fought. He routinely behaved so badly that most people like this are socially shunned into oblivion. He should not have succeeded.
But, they both did. Why?
Many reason, of course, but here are a few notables.
Walt had an older brother, Roy. And after several year trying to make his studios work on his own, he teamed up with his brother. Who just so happened to be in finance. Bonus! Roy made Walt. Period. Roy was humble. But they were equal partners until one day after moving into a new building Walt showed Roy their new sign. The sign read, “The Walt Disney Studios.” Roy said, “What happened to “Disney Studios?” Walt basically said, “This studio is about me and what I want, you just make it work financially.” Good brother Roy said, “Ok, if that’s what you want, fine with me.” Roy was the man. Roy spent decades digging Walt out of financial trouble. Then one day in the early fifties, after three decades of hardships, Walt got his first glimpse of his cash cow. He saw the future. His future. He attended a very exclusive demonstration of a television set. Boom. The Wonderful World of Disney was the profit center that allowed Walt to build is kingdoms. Sure Walt made great art up to then, but was never able to climb out of financial turmoil until the 1950′s. Contrary to popular belief, Mickey didn’t make Walt, Roy did.
Steve Jobs, like Walt, was at the right place and was there at the exact right time. In addition, he had a knack for negotiating pretty good deals. When he wanted something he obsessed until he got it. In this case it was Microsoft’s early versions of Excel and Word. And as it turned out, his deals with Bill Gates benefited Microsoft more so than Apple. Steve did about everything he could, it seemed, to run Apple into the ground. He constantly caused employee infighting, embittered vendors, and was himself several times demoted within the company he co-founded. Finally ousted by the board of directors he hired, he went on to start another computer company. This time destined to do this right. Next Computers would have failed and failed big. He poured millions into Next. And it nearly bankrupted him. But his savvy deal making and persuasive negotiations helped him to sell his fledgling computer company back to Apple. The rest is history. But Steve would have permanently self destructed. And seemed to do so weekly, but he had just a few key things going for him.
Kind of amazing to think such greatness came from such ineptitude.