Arrogance + Insecurity = Success, Steve Jobs Edition

A few weeks ago, David

Neubert told me that all successful traders are both extremely arrogant

and extremely insecure – that’s what makes them successful. The throwaway

statement hit me with the force of revelation: take it seriously, and it can

really change the way you look at the world.

For example, take today’s column from John

Kay, on the late, great Richard Rorty. Rorty "debunked

the notion that scientists could succeed in a search for the mirror of nature,

the truth about “The Way the World Is”," says Kay, and yet

"business journalists continue to believe that chief executives can tell

them “The Way the World Is” at their companies."

Journalists, you see, believe in truth, uncovering it, reporting it. But in

business and finance, truth doesn’t matter. What matters is being successful.

A successful businessman, were he to follow in the footsteps of Rorty, will

spend no time worrying about what was true yesterday. The only thing that matters

is what is true today, which is to say what works today.

If you read John Heilemann’s

piece on Steve Jobs, some major flip-flops stand out, all wildly

successful: Jobs making nice with Microsoft, in 1997; Jobs making nice with

Intel, in 2006; and, of course, the biggest of the lot, Jobs allowing the iPod

to work with Windows in 2001, only months after being adamant that such a thing

would never happen.

It’s probably impossible for any human being to be more arrogant than Steve

Jobs. But there is one person who can change Jobs’s mind, and that’s Steve Jobs.

When the iPod was launched, Jobs saw it as a tool to help sell Macs. But it

wasn’t long until he took another look at the electronics universe and saw that

the iPod could be much bigger than the Mac. And the rest is history. Underneath

Jobs’s arrogance is always the ability to admit that he was wrong. And that

is one key to his company’s recent success.

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