It seems like a timely thing to post up my one personal encounter with Steve Jobs. Since his recent passing a lot of public press has been focused on his passion for the products that he shepherded, and deservedly so.
By chance, I had been witness to an aspect of the drive that is required to achieve these things.
The scene was the annual JavaOne Java Developer's Conference in the year 2000. These were heady times for the computer industry. The 'dot-com crash' had not yet played out, 9-11 was more than a year away. One of the big things at JavaOne that year was Steve Jobs sharing a Key Note announcing Apple's commitment to the Java Platform.
Jobs was his familiar smooth self on stage, laying out the integration strategy and the benefits of the integration.
I took a break from the ongoing key notes to use the men's room downstairs. This is at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco so the space is BIG. I'm alone down there and the unabsorbed sound pinging off of the porcelain walls and floors only underscores how caverness the space is. Within a minute someone else comes into the space. His breathing is halting, spastic and between gasps he's quietly muttering things to himself. The sounds are amplified by their echoes around the room. All indications are of a person that's a nervous wreck. It was Steve Jobs. A very different person from the smooth one that we all had just seen on stage, all of the difficulty had been suppressed for the show and now that the show is over it could be released. I leave first and he glances over at me, in this private place I have seen a side of him that maybe relatively few people have. I just look him calmly in the eye, a kind of acknowledgement of the situation, give a little nod and leave him in peace.
So, my big takeaway from the incident was that it was an example of what driven people will do in order to accomplish their ends. No one seeing the key note would have guessed that the person on the stage was also perturbed person that I encountered off stage. No matter how hard it is for you, no matter much you're suffering, you do what is required when it's required so that things stay on the course that you want them to be on.
I kind of see a parallel with another anecdote, the time that President George HW Bush (the real war hero one) was so sick at a state dinner in Japan, that he leaned over and vomited into a Japanese officials lap (I can't remember what post he held). This speaks to President Bush's will to go through with the important dinner even if he was feeling very sick.
Not everyone will push themselves like this in order to achieve their goals.