I’ve often struggled with success in many areas of my life. One idea that often comes up as I try and work with that issue is that are the conflicting commitments. How many patients come in and want to lose weight but also want to eat the sugary carbohydrate rich diet that made them fat in the first place? The foods taste good. We’re committed to enjoying our food. We may be more committed to that than to losing weight. Recognizing the commitment inherent in overeating (it could be anything from enjoying food to emotional self soothing) and then working with that to see which is more important–the commitment to be at a healthy weight or the commitment that allows the overeating–can be the key to getting to where you want to be.
I was thinking about this again while reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. When staring Apple, Jobs wanted to do a number of things. He wanted to change the way people thought about computers. He wanted to put computers on the desk of every person. He wanted to make a computer that anyone could afford to have. There were some other goals, but it was interesting to me that he wanted to be the computer of the masses.
I love Mac products. I’m of an age to have been a geeky techy person when the Mac was new. I remember being there when a friend got the first Mac and everyone gathered as he removed the cover around to look at the signatures embedded there. The Mac is a good machine. It is not a cheap machine. I can get a PC with a bigger hard drive, more memory and an equally fast hardware loaded with software for about 60% of what I would pay for a new Mac. Office software is typically $10 to $30 less on a PC than on a Mac. Back when you purchased PC games for use on your computer, Mac games were often $20 higher and took an extra 6 months to come out.
The Mac is a good machine. Jobs did that. He made a great machine. I’ve had Macs still run after 10 years of hard use. One of the ancient Macs was at an office where I worked.
Macs, however, are not affordable for everyone. This was one commitment that Jobs couldn’t keep. His main commitment was in building new and innovative machines that worked and worked well. The commitment to being a machine for every man fell by the wayside.
The question becomes, does this make him less of a success? I doubt anyone would say it did.
As we step back from our conflicting commitments, perhaps it’s time to take a look at those we kept to ourselves and how we can make ourselves proud rather than focusing on where we failed. I doubt Jobs ever looked twice at the fact that at one point in his life he wanted to make computers for “the masses” and instead turned out a high-end product that not everyone could afford. He went with what was a priority to him and didn’t question when something was not aligned with what he really wanted.