I’m still mourning the death of Steve Jobs, a brilliant man who changed my life with beautifully-designed, practical products. But I’ve also been reading about the type of boss he was: bullying. Just like my own critical voice.
In the late 1980′s, I was working on a cover story for the NeXT machine, one of Job’s rare flops. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, main feature writer, and I (the executive editor) spent an afternoon interviewing Jobs about his new machine and his strategy.
I found it nerve-wracking to be around the guy. He had piercing eyes that bore into me, unblinking. He seemed to be thinking, “You are an idiot” whenever I spoke. I was simultaneously thrilled to be in his presence but couldn’t wait to get away.
Towards the end of our meeting, I suggested he appear on the cover. He scoffed and criticized me for coming up with such a boring idea. So I proposed that to make it more exciting, he appear nude, with the machine strategically placed. He didn’t even smile.
Reading about what he was like as a boss made me think about the internal editor writers have, the one that criticizes us and tells us our writing will never be good enough. Combating the internal editor comes up all the time in my work as a coach. Just last week, I convinced a blogger to write out a list of affirmations to counter the negative thoughts that keep her from finishing a book proposal. I talked a chef into creating a draft of the document a publisher asked for a month ago. And I joked with another writer about how I didn’t want her to “go to bed for three days” after I assessed her work.
Like me, all three of these women are self-employed. It’s been a good career decision for me for the last 16 years. I suppose I’m soft, I’m sensitive, and all the other things you can say about creative types, but I was not at my best while working for bosses who put me down. When you have your own negative self-talk, you don’t need more from the person you look to for approval.
Some of my memories of critical bosses surfaced when Jobs died. I even found Apple’s corporate web page of all the middle-aged white guys who reported to him, I wondered how they brushed off Job’s nastiness.
In the tributes that poured out after Jobs’ death, many people quoted from a speech he gave:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Exactly. I am working on what I think is worthwhile, outside the influence of bosses like him. They do not get to judge me. I am following my heart and intuition. And doing so makes me happy.
The world has lost Steve Jobs, a man of superior design sense, productivity, passion and determination. It’s too much to hope that I will someday lose my internal editor. At least today, if anyone is telling me I don’t measure up, it’s just me. And most of the time, I can brush the thought away.