Following Steve Jobs

October 13, 2011
Posted by Jay Livingston

In the early 1980s, Steve Jobs wanted John Sculley, then head of marketing for Pepsi, to join Apple.  The story and its money quote are legendary. Said Jobs to Sculley:
Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?
Sculley went to Apple.

I think I first heard the story told by Sculley himself, probably on “60 Minutes.”  It’s a great line, of course, but there was an overtone I couldn’t quite place, something about it that seemed vaguely familiar that I couldn’t quite place. 

I had forgotten about it, but now Kieran Healy has posted a long and perceptive essay  “A Sociology of Steve Jobs”  on Jobs and charismatic authority.  You could assign it, you should assign it, to undergraduates to show them the relevance of Weber and how his ideas can be brilliantly applied to their own world.

But for me, the best part was that Kieran knew, as though it were obvious, the echo in the Sculley quote, and shame on me for not seeing it.  The giveaway is the “or come with me” part.  It’s Jesus gathering his disciples.
And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1: 16-17)


Bob S. said...

Interesting comparison.

Do you think Jobs was narcissistic enough to have a Messiah complex or was he just literate and used the similarity for drama?

Jay Livingston said...

No way to know, but my guess is that the similarity is unintentional. After all, there are only so many ways a leader can urge someone to give up a good job and join up. And the language is only similar, not identical. Jesus doesn’t say, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life catching sardines . . . .”

The Last Leaf Gardener said...

Hmmm, interesting thought re the follow-me connection, Jay, but I have written a number of posts about Steve Jobs on my blog, and the Jesus-connection never occurred to me.

What did occur to me re this "Pepsi" quote was the fact that Steve Jobs seemed to express ideas around the what-do-you-want-to-do-with-the-rest -of-your-life question.

Consider what he said to himself (which was long after the Scully encounter) when he met the woman who would become his wife:

"I was in the parking lot, with the key in the car, and I thought to myself, If this is my last night on earth, would I rather spend it at a business meeting or with this woman?" He opted for "this woman" and the rest is history . . .

Jay Livingston said...

Patricia, I don't know much biographical about Jobs, but this is an interesting incident, and consisted with the other one.