This is Steve Jobs yesterday presenting at a City Council meeting in Cupertino, CA. You know in Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby says, “Here’s the deal: I’m the best there is. Plain and simple. I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence”? Steve Jobs actually lives this way. He bends and twists the universe to fit his will and his only adversary is a world brimming with mediocrity.
There is integrity of Steve Jobs in everything Steve Jobs does here: the clothes, the unassuming entrance, the ease with which he speaks. But the real secret to his presence is in the pauses. Those perfectly timed moments of silence where it seems as though he has a thought which is so deep and profound and beautiful that he needs to figure out a way to dumb it down for the city council members of Cupertino and me. Steve-Synthesis. And in these pauses we wait with bated breath at what Steve will reveal, what anecdote will serve as the metaphor for his earth-shattering proposal. Sometimes it’s an MP3 player, sometimes it’s a goddamn building shaped like a spaceship that can hold 12,000 people.
Nothing is ever pedestrian with Steve. Even the glass in his office building will be special - “there’s not a straight piece of glass in this building. It’s all curved.” And even the expertise to build such a geometrically sound spaceship office could only come from Steve and his exceptional group of Apple retail store architects. For Steve, everything that currently exists is “boring and we’d like to do it better.” And by ‘we’ he means Steve.
There is, apparently, a way to rule with an iron fist as long as the fist gives the appearance of being casually humble. Everything is “pretty cool” with Steve. “We think [this amazing feat of modern architecture and engineering which will also be eco-friendly and beautiful to behold] is pretty cool.” He lets the idea sell itself and does the classic undersell at the end - that’s the real power move. If that were anyone else, it comes across as crass and manipulative, but with Steve, well, that’s just Steve pissing excellence.
And for all his excellence and unbending will, Steve calls himself a simpleton. And in his back and forth with the council members, the phrase “best in the world” is always preceded by the casually humble disclaimer, “we have a shot at…” As if being the best in the world is by chance or some random opportunity. The new building ‘has a shot’ at being the best office building in the world because Steve will make it so. He will have the ground broken by the end of the year and his people will march inside by 2015. He’s a simpleton alright.
With Steve, the plan is always simple: make it the best in the world. Why aren’t more people like this? Why aren’t we all like this? This is probably why Steve has a legions of fanboys and the rest of us don’t. We cling to those with a singular pursuit. Those who endeavor to the top. In Steve, we see what we’re supposed to be but fail to achieve because we’re too scared or too dumb or too unsimple. Maybe more than anything we lack the moxie. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to try to do/be/make the best in the world. And it takes even more to not let up when you get close. It’s not enough to just drink excellence, you’ve gotta piss it out too. Excellence has to be the only thing running through your veins. Excellence oozing out of pores and tear glands.
The video ends with Steve, simple Steve, being honest in his simple way. The sweaty palmed council member, in a classic bullshit politician move, clumsily gropes his iPad and asks Steve to remember to ‘give back to the community’ by way of building an Apple retail store in Cupertino, CA. It says a lot about a community when ‘giving back’ has nothing to do with serving soup to the homeless or donating shoes to orphans. Build an Apple Store in Cupertino? You have the attention of the world’s most influential figure in technology, the CEO of the Century, and you ask him to build you a goddamn store because the other two stores are 7 miles away? Why not ask him to help you unlock your iPad screen while you’re at it? In that moment is revealed the difference between Steve Jobs and rest of us: one is thinking in terms of ‘best in the world,’ while the other can’t leave an 8 mile radius of his house, even in his imagination. And still, Steve, in his cool, simple way answers honestly: “The problem with putting an Apple store in Cupertino is that there just isn’t the traffic. So I’m afraid it might not be successful. If we thought it’d be successful, we’d love to.”
You’re right, Steve, there just isn’t the traffic.
[now, if you’d like to read something that was actually well-written, see: Tom Junod on Steve Jobs and the Portal to the Invisible]