Maybe it’s best not to meet or read about your idols
Idol is a strong word, and I’ve never actually met them, but you get my point. However, over the past few months I’ve read biographies from Richard Garriott, Ken Williams, Steve Wozniak and a few others. While there is no denying their contributions to the computer industry, they share a common trait. They come across as arrogant jerks.
We owe much to the Apple I and II, but reading iWoz was hundreds of pages of Woz patting himself on the back and expecting praise for every single thing he did. Every other page is reaffirmation that he’s an engineering genius. If he did something good, he wanted everyone to stop what they’re doing and recognize the effort. Every page reiterates how shy he is and how, “he could never do that.”
Garriott spent the entirety of his book lavishing himself with praise and showboating about his accomplishments. Every chapter should have been titled, “Look what I can do.” No disputing his adventures were cool, and most people will never get to do them, but the presentation is gloating not inspiring.
Williams and Sierra gave us a great legacy of games, but it was once again page after page of how awesome he was, how great his company was, how awesome a manager he was, and how every good decision was his and mistake was caused by someone else.
They did have good ideas for sure. However, every good idea is theirs. Every mistake was caused by someone else. Ironically, Ken and Richard are so damn awesome and loaded with business acumen, they torpedoed their own companies right down the toilet. Garriott did it twice.
It’s not just in the tech scene either. The Quarantine Qitchen with Alton Brown was interesting for the first three episodes. But, then his real personality came to the surface and he was an annoying jerk trying to find a gimmick. It went from interesting in a behind the scenes sort of way to totally cringe worthy. It turned into Alton complaining about everything and bitching at everyone. That was the end of that.
I knew what I was getting into when I read the Steve Jobs biographies. We knew Steve was a jerk. He got himself kicked out of one company, and almost sent another into oblivion. But his time at Pixar molded and tempered his business acumen, which served him well.
The moral of those biographies is how Steve actually got his behaviors under control, started to learn from his mistakes, and put into action principles others could learn from.
Even Masters of Doom, showed some cracks in the armor to let the arrogance, ego and narcissism show through. That was unfortunate because those guys were so much better together than they have been apart.
There are more examples, but the thing to keep in mind, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. Peeking behind the curtain may expose some epic rubbish and ruin the illusion forever.