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.
My evidence was pretty flimsy though (as was the premise itself, I have since found reasons that bipolar is an advantage DURING mania and depression, not in spite of it). Steve is said to be mercurial – I was mercurial = bipolar. Steve is creative – I want to be creative = bipolar. Steve works very hard – I do when I am manic = bipolar… Looking back it was delusion combined with grasping at straws. We take hearsay evidence and filter it through our own desires to see what we hope to see. Does anyone have any strong evidence for or against the notion that Steve is bipolar?
Although it would be interesting to learn that Steve Jobs is bipolar, what does it matter? Does it change my day-to-day life with my own bipolar condition? Perhaps yes, if it inspires me to work harder on becoming a better person. If it leads to making excuses for my behavior because Steve Jobs didn’t address his own flaws, I would be better off paying attention to other things.
Although Steve is one of my heroes for what he has accomplished with Apple, from a Bipolar IN Order perspective there are far greater examples to look up to. My greater heroes are those who changed themselves into better people no matter what hardships they faced. I can see some of that in Steve as a result of facing cancer and that is what I admire about him the most, but there are countless examples throughout the world of people making real changes in their behaviors. What we need as heroes are bipolar people who have done the same.
Are you a bipolar hero? What changes have you made in your behavior that made you a better person? Are you using bipolar as an excuse for bad behavior, or are you using it to gain insight that leads to becoming a better person? Who do you know that has made the effort to grow towards Bipolar IN Order?
Photo by Ben Stanfield, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.