When Steve Jobs made me cry

In keeping with what has become an accidental tradition, this message on the Thursday before Christmas is more about life and values than media relations. And this year, it’s because of an experience I had a couple weeks ago I can’t shake.

I was awake at 3 a.m. Nothing was wrong, sometimes that happens when I’m on the road speaking – changing time zones and a blur of hotel rooms can do that to you.

So I opened up my laptop and watched the Steve Jobs movie – the Michael Fassbender one, not the Ashton Kutcher one.

At the end, he quasi-reconciles with the daughter he had earlier denied paternity of. And I found myself with wet eyes.

Not because of the redemption, or because I was overtired, or because of Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue.

But because I was so sad for what he missed out on all those years to that point. (I’m extra vulnerable here because my own daughter is the same age his was in that climactic scene.)

There’s another aspect of that movie that brought me pain. It depicts his head of marketing, a woman portrayed by Kate Winslet, as his trusted right-hand. She’s the only one who can stand up to him. But the price she pays for this access and influence is that she has to watch while he verbally abuses employees – even his closest friends.

There’s one point when Winslet perfectly nails the tortured expression of the person who briefly questions, “What am I doing here being part of this?” and then compartmentalizes her conscience and puts her head down to keep working.

That hurt because I’ve seen that look more than once from a veteran PR pro, tops in her field, working for her own version of an autocratic CEO. The brief pause, and then “But it’s okay…”

In Jobs’ defense, by most accounts he eventually became a good father to that daughter and his later children. And that marketing head cried when he passed away. I firmly believe in forgiveness and second chances.

But isn’t life better when you’re not always asking for patience or forgiveness, and instead making the most of the time you have?

The business media and the success literature teach that dramatic success in the workplace justifies temporarily sacrificing people who should otherwise be close to you.

That’s false. There is NO OTHER SUCCESS that can compensate for failing people who love you.

The holidays tend to make us more reflective and bring our real feelings closer to the surface. Those are our core values, and we’re always happier when we act consistently with them.

Don’t work for people who make you sacrifice those values. Even if you might not be around when they invent the iPhone later.

The holidays certainly make me even more grateful for you and your trust in me. Thank you for reading this year, and warmest holiday wishes to you and your loved ones.

This article was originally published on December 22, 2016

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