When my first book The Bipolar Advantage came out, I almost made a version of it replacing my name with Steve Jobs to send to him. The two of us looked so alike at the time that even Apple employees would come up to me and ask if I was a Steve when I dressed like him.
I have heard many people postulate that Steve is bipolar, so I thought the stunt would get his attention. The book cover was easy for people to mistake as him and with his name on it the legal team would be wondering what it was about. The crazy idea was that they would show it to him and he would contact me because of it. He has been a hero to me and at the time I was obsessed like so many with finding examples of famous people who were bipolar.
The recent announcement that Steve Jobs is stepping down reminded me of my old fantasy. Back then I was convinced that his success was a result of being bipolar and it was proof that we have advantage, which is partly why I named the book The Bipolar Advantage. He may be bipolar, but the fantasy really says more about where I was at the time than anything else. Like so many others, I needed to find things that made up for the horrors of the condition. If we could just survive all of the terrible things about mania and depression, perhaps we could gain something from having been through it.
In recent months, discussions about the boom and bust cycles of our economy going back to the Great Depression have been the focus of many news stories. During boom cycles, too many of us experience periods of inflated feelings of power or delusions of grandeur, characterized by excessive risk taking and out of control spending. During bust cycles, many of us experience periods of indecisiveness, black and white thinking, loss of energy and fatigue, even feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts. These reactions are classic symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Companies can and do prosper during times of economic turmoil. What do GE, Disney, HP, Microsoft, and Apple have in common? They were all startups during steep declines in the U.S. economy. GE started during the panic of 1873, Disney started during the recession of 1923-24, HP began during the Great Depression, and Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft during the recession of 1975. Even today, while the economy is in the worst down period since the Great Depression, Apple is thriving. All these companies realized that they had an advantage by adopting a different mindset, a different way of seeing the crisis. Instead of succumbing to the situation, they saw it as an opportunity to innovate and grow.