Steve Jobs: 'Lightning bolts went off in my head' about being adopted
"60 Minutes" has released the full transcript of its interview with Steve Jobs' biographer, Walter Isaacson, and the piece contains a number of largely unknown bits about Jobs' early life and adoptive parents, his wife and family, and his illness and thoughts on the afterlife. The show airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on CBS.
Below is an uncorrected excerpt from the beginning of the show in which Isaacson describes Jobs' drive for perfection, and his sometimes fiery lack of patience with people who he felt got in the way of his plans. Isaacson speculates that some of Jobs' personality is related to his feelings about being adopted. The bold sections are from the "60 Minutes" voiceover from reporter Steve Kroft.
WHEN WALTER ISAACSON FIRST BEGAN WORKING ON THE BOOK, WHICH IS PUBLISHED BY SIMON AND SCHUSTER, A DIVISION OF CBS, STEVE JOBS’ WIFE, LAURENE POWELL, TOLD HIM, “BE HONEST WITH HIS FAILINGS AND WELL AS HIS STRENGTHS. THERE ARE PARTS OF HIS LIFE AND HIS PERSONALITY THAT ARE EXTREMELY MESSY. YOU SHOULDN’T WHITE WASH IT. I’D LIKE TO SEE THAT IT’S ALL TOLD TRUTHFULLY.”
WALTER ISAACSON WALKING: He’s not warm and fuzzy.
AND TO DO IT, ISAACSON INTERVIEWED MORE THAN 100 PEOPLE—JOBS’ FRIENDS, FAMILY, CO-WORKERS AND COMPETITORS.
KROFT WALKING: I think it’s a tough book.
ISAACSON WALKING: It’s a book that’s fair. I mean, this is a real human being.
STEVE KROFT: He had lots of flaws.
WALTER ISAACSON: He was very petulant. He was very brittle. He could be very, very mean to people at times. Whether it was to a waitress in a restaurant, or to a guy who had stayed up all night coding, he could just really just go at them and say, "You're doin' this all wrong. It's horrible." And you'd say, "Why did you do that? Why weren't you nicer?" And he'd say I really want to be with people who demand perfection. And this is who I am."
ISAACSON BELIEVES THAT MUCH OF IT CAN BE TRACED TO THE EARLIEST YEARS OF HIS LIFE, AND TO THE TO THE FACT THAT JOBS BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK, GIVEN UP BY HIS BIRTH PARENTS, AND ADOPTED BY A WORKING CLASS COUPLE FROM MOUNTAIN VIEW, FROM MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA.
WALTER ISAACSON: Paul Jobs was a salt-of-the-earth guy who was a great mechanic. And he taught his son Steve how to make great things And he--once they were building a fence. And he said, "You got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence." Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you're dedicated to making something perfect."
JOBS ALWAYS KNEW HE WAS ADOPTED, BUT IT STILL HAD A PROFOUND EFFECT ON HIM. HE TOLD ISAACSON THIS STORY FROM HIS EARLY CHILDHOOD DURING ONE OF THEIR MANY TAPED INTERVIEWS:
STEVE JOBS TAPES: I was, I remember right here on my lawn, telling Lisa McMoylar from across the street that I was adopted. And she said, “So does that mean your real parents didn't want you?” Ooooh, lightning bolts went off in my head. I remember running into the house, I think I was like crying, asking my parents. And they sat me down and they said, “No, you don't understand. We specifically picked you out.”
WALTER ISAACSON: He said, "From then on, I realized that I was not — just abandoned. I was chosen. I was special." And I think that's the key to understanding Steve Jobs.
-- David Sarno
Photo: The cover of "Steve Jobs." Credit: Simon & Schuster