Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


If you believed every How To Manage self-help book, you’d think the only way to succeed as a boss is to be awfully nice, awfully loved, awfully prescient and awfully, well, awesome.

Truly, though, who is like that?

Isn’t it possible that certain slightly less positive traits are secretly effective?

I performed a deep study of this with respect to Steve Jobs. Well, I watched the trailers for two new Steve Jobs movies that are coming out later this year.

One is a documentary directed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney — entitled “Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine.” The other is the Aaron Sorkin-penned “Steve Jobs,” directed by Danny Boyle.

From these microcosms come five tips that just might help you rise.

1. Patronize The Hell Out Of People.

I know that being patronized doesn’t feel good. But look at how Steve Jobs does it. He doesn’t just patronize. He looks down at people as he talks down to them. He uses a vocal inflection that suggests not merely that the listener isn’t as clever as he is, but that the listener is recently removed from a family of rodents. For Jobs, it seems that being a visionary meant sounding like a superior being. Perhaps this could work for you. It’s amazing how loyal some people were to Jobs, no matter how he talked to them. Or was it because of how he talked to them?

2. Claim You’re Making History.

Jobs loved to stand on stage and claim history for himself. He insisted that his little phone or tablet was the machine to beat them all. But it wasn’t just a machine, was it? It was a work of art, a spiritual uplifting for humanity, a poke in the eye to the very deities who claim to run things down here. I once had someone try this technique on me. The problem was that he was a weasly little ad agency executive who found New York terribly frightening and preferred retreating to his small-town life. You can do it far better. Yes, all you have is an app. But believe you’re making history. Or, as they often say in Silicon Valley, you’re making the world a better place.

3. Be A Renegade While Being Legit.

This very description comes out of Gibney’s documentary. Psychologists would naturally dine out on this one till they gorged on excesses of foie gras. Jobs cultivated an outr persona. He was Bob Dylan, reeking only of wisdom and higher purpose. However, as the music industry discovered, get into a negotiation with him and he would cheerily rip the heart out of your balance sheet. So try this in your own business. Dress not to impress, but to confuse, frighten and perplex. Then show your legit business skills. That’ll fool ‘em.

4. Insist You’re A Magician.

“Isn’t this awesome?” says Jobs in one of his presentations? Then there was his fondness for words such as “magical” and “revolutionary.” It takes a certain confidence — hubris, perhaps — to tell people you’re a magician. Even magicians prefer to perform their magic, rather than tell you how clever they are. Jobs, though, insisted that what you were seeing — from a distance — was truly magical. And because he said so, many people believed. Yes, cult leaders do this too, but they prey on the vulnerable. Oh, what am I saying? We’re all vulnerable to a certain magic. So walk into work tomorrow and claim you’ve found the magic. You never know, people might start believing in you.

5. Never Let People Know What You Actually Do.

In Sorkin’s fictional version Steve Wozniak, who doesn’t bear a remarkable resemblance to Seth Rogen, says to Jobs: “I built the circuit board. The graphical interface was stolen. So how come ten times in a day I read Steve Jobs is a genius? What do you do?” This is, perhaps, the greatest management trick of all. Make them believe, but never let them know what it is that you do when they don’t see you. The fictional Jobs explains in the movie: “I play the orchestra.” How wonderfully ethereal. How deeply moving. This might work for you. Go to work. Feel like you’re playing the orchestra. And see what tunes they’ll play for you.