Steve Jobs is much in the news recently but only as a commercial or technical phenomenon. His psychological roots (as with anyone) determine his actions in the world. A prime example of the Enneagram’s Type Five personality, Jobs offers an opportunity to understand this structure as it is seen through patterns in his life and behavior.
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple with Steve Wozniak, was born in 1955 while his mother was a single college graduate. Unable to support her baby, she put him up for adoption. It mattered to her that his adopting parents were college graduates. However, when the couple she had arranged with learned the baby was a boy, they reneged.
The next couple willing to adopt him did not have degrees. So she continued to nurture him for a few months until the adopting parents committed to seeing him graduate–though, ultimately, he dropped out anyway. As with Ada Lovelace, regarded as the first programmer, someone rejected at birth, grew into an icon in IT.
In line with the counterculture of the 70s, he explored LSD and went to India for a spiritual retreat. (He now identifies himself as a Buddhist.) In 1978, repeating his own history, he fathered a girl who was raised on welfare while he denied paternity on the grounds of being sterile.
Continuing to move with the times, he became one of the most innovative and often controversial entrepreneurs in IT. Apple gave new meaning to personal computing, introducing visual cues and user-friendly interfaces.
In 1998, the Dalai Lama gave permission for Apple to use his image with the words, “Think different.” China at the time was not an attractive market for Apple products. But business is business even for Buddhist ex-hippies. Under Jobs, Apple blocked a number of applications related to the Dalai Lama from the Chinese iPhones. Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller responded, “We continue to comply with local laws…not all apps are available in every country.” And recently Apple admitted that child labor was used in factories in China that produce their hardware.
However, his life with Apple was not a straight road. In 1985, he was fired by the board of directors. He then founded NeXT computers, later bought by The Graphics Group which turned it into Pixar, the most prolific computer graphics company producing Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Ratatouille. In 1996, Apple bought NeXT, bringing Jobs back to his original company as CEO.
In 2004, he was diagnosed with a rare, operable form of pancreatic cancer. Five years later a liver transplant allowed him to continue his creative mission.
In many parts of the world, adopted children are considered as “nobody’s children.” Perhaps a scanty identity drove him to India in search of his soul, but then he chose to construct a more acceptable one. Through prestige and money he built a well-defined “I”—iPod, iMac, iPhone, iPad. Through many anecdotes about his management style, we know Jobs as one of biggest egos in the IT world.
A pattern that emerges from the overview of his life is a repeated dropping out and redefining himself. Rejected by mother, potential parents, the very company he started; rejecting his education and his daughter; to nearly being rejected by life through major health problems.
Even making a home has been hard. Legal and bureaucratic problems surrounded a historical mansion he purchased in 1984 in Woodside, California. After living in its almost unfurnished state for years, he planned to demolish it to build a new house, but a local preservation group stopped him. He spent years renovating an apartment on the top floors of a New York City building, but never moved in. He seems in perpetual search for both inner and outer home, bouncing back from every difficulty with new tools and renewed energy to lay before the world.
Withdrawing into the Mind
Steve Job’s story is typical of the Type Five personality in the Enneagram (even thought elements of Type Seven are present too), a pattern shared by many people in the IT world. This psychospiritual system discriminates nine styles of personality. Probably of Sufi origin, it was brought to the West by George Gurdjieff around 1900, then spread in the 1970s as Oscar Ichazo and psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo elaborated the core qualities of the nine types. It was later popularized by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, as well as by Helen Palmer. A.H. Almaas elaborated the spiritual dimension in the 1990s.
Early ontological insecurity about survival can shape a schizoid personality, to which Enneatype Five is the closest. Rationality and orderliness are valuable defense mechanisms against the threat of being separated from life, assembling everything in its own place.
Type Fives escape into their mental world for safe haven. They want to be accepted for their capabilities, often disappearing from the scene to stay with their own minds and develop skills. These give them confidence to re-enter as talented (thus, accepted) persons with innovative ideas to display.
They are most successful by creating a niche which no one else occupies, giving them an acknowledged place in the world. Apple’s technology is proprietary, guaranteeing Jobs his unique place and highlighting the greedy aspect of Five personalities to horde—whether it is keeping their emotions and possessions to themselves or proprietary information.
The schizoid Type Five personality seems more widespread than others in the modern, technology-dependent world. The possible reasons for this are worth contemplating.