Steve Jobs And The Money-Making Personality

Are you a money-making personality? Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (1955-2011) certainly was, but so also are the lesser-known creators of abundant value in the business sector who sustain the world economy like the Atlas who holds up the globe.


These are the 1% of us, the rare giants of industry, commerce and finance who occupy Wall Street suites, Silicon Valley campuses, and all great cities in between. These are the best and the brightest, not the worst and the dimmest, those who don’t whine that others owe them jobs or handouts but practice the virtues of rationality, honesty, integrity, independence, productiveness, and pride.


Jobs’ recent death elicited the requisite commendations and eulogies, the most worthy of which came from those who knew best his character, life, work, and achievements. Interviewed last August, Apple co-founder (in 1976) Steve Wozniak said “He’s always going to be remembered, maybe for the next hundred years, as probably the greatest business leader – or at least technology business leader – of our time, or ever.” Like Bill Gates, Jobs and Wozniak were college drop-outs (from Harvard, Reed College, and U.C. Berkeley, respectively) – proof to young aspirants that great success can come without over-priced college degrees.


Steve Jobs seemed to be one-part Ben Franklin, one-part Thomas Edison, one-part Henry Ford. He was a superlative, productive dynamo, a technology genius, and someone who learned from his own management failures and set-backs to become a worthy corporate executive too, who focused on the bottom line and on the commercial viability of his products, whether in user-friendly computers, animated motion pictures, online music or smart phones.


Returning to Apple in 1996 after a decade-long absence in which he founded Next Inc., Jobs knew the stock (AAPL) hadn’t performed well, despite the boom of the late 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, it had badly under-performed Microsoft and IBM. Not until 1998, two years after his return as CEO, did Apple’s stock march ahead, amid a proliferation of new products. Jobs transformed Apple from a mere computing company into a revolutionary digital products firm.


Despite the past decade of U.S. economic stagnation, Jobs and Apple have grown continuously, and the stock price has advanced to the point where Apple is now the world’s most valuable firm, with a market cap of $391 billion, followed by Exxon-Mobil ($380 billion), IBM ($230 billion), and Microsoft ($228 billion).  Jobs left a personal net worth of $7 billion, which is a mere fraction of the total value he created – a result typical of great creators.


Entrepreneurship is rarely studied, taught or emulated anymore. Academia and the popular media alike have long since demonized the productive giants of the Gilded Age as “robber barons,” and still today unjustly portray “white collar” executives, middle-managers and bankers as thieves or parasites who build personal fiefdoms or else surreptitiously dismantle firms, instead of founding them or building them up. In fact, entrepreneurs in particular and businesspeople in general are some of the most intelligent, honest, hardworking and productive individuals on this planet – and indirectly they make wealth, capital, technology and job opportunities available for millions of inferior others who lack the requisite talent or ambition.


Above all, successful entrepreneurship requires a spirit of independence – a willingness and eagerness to see things through one’s own eyes and unique values, to make controversial decisions and take bold actions that less-creative others perpetually doubt, question, or oppose. To the extent someone succeeds in business “without really trying,” that is, by accident or pull, or by special favors and handouts from government, they are not independent but instead conformists and parasites.


Steve Jobs was a great creator and entrepreneur largely because he was a creative and independent spirit – an individualist who trusted his own rational judgment. Even some economists sympathetic to free markets miss the point, by claiming the “consumer is king” and that the best business leaders are mere order-takers who “serve” customers. In fact, capitalism entails neither robber barons nor kings nor obsequious serfs but independent beings who trade the products of their effort to mutual advantage. Earlier this year Jobs was asked what consumer research Apple had conducted in developing the iPad tablet. “None,” he said. “It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.” Correct – and it’s only producers who truly innovate, create and make our modern world possible.


What motivated the young Steve Jobs? What book most influenced him? What explains his eager pursuit of profit? Listen to Steve Wozniak, who was Jobs’ boyhood friend, business partner and co-founder of Apple:


We were in our young twenties and Steve was very fast-moving . . . He couldn’t stop talking about things; he had lots of ideas flowing out. He wanted to do things, while I was more the engineer-technologist who wanted to build things. We had different wants in life, in the end, and he did want to have a successful company and he had a lot of ideas. He must have read some books that really were his guide in life, you know – and I think Atlas Shrugged might have been one of them that he mentioned back then – but they were his guides in life as to how you make a difference in the world. It starts with a company and you build products and you’ve got to make your profit, and then that allows you to invest the profit and then make better products and make more profit. I would say how good a company is, it’s fair to measure it by its profitability.


In short, Steve Jobs had the money-making personality. To “make money” means to make a profit, to create a net economic value above and beyond the value of what’s used up or transformed in the process of producing. In a free market profits are no “accident” – and no vice. They reflect virtues. They are earned. Those who disdain profit-making only posture as moralists, for at root they decry the net creation of valuable wealth (production); for such critics the “moral” act isn’t to produce wealth but to surrender it (philanthropy), or to have “non-profits,” or worse, to generate negative net value (destruction), as occurs with “green jobs.” What’s sorely needed in our world is not green jobs but more “Green Jobs,” more entrepreneurs like the Apple co-founder who was so focused on making ever-more “green” – that is, more money and more profits.


What exactly constitutes the “money-making personality?” This original caricature was developed by Ayn Rand, author of the 1957 classic, Atlas Shrugged (the book Steve Wozniak cites as so influential to a young Steve Jobs) in a 1963 article of the same title, now reprinted in a fabulous new book, Why Businessmen Need Philosophy: The Capitalist’s Guide to the Ideas Behind Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” (2011).

According to Rand, “the Money-Maker is the discoverer who translates his discovery into material goods . . . the entrepreneur who discovers how to use [scientific] knowledge, how to organize material resources and human labor into an enterprise producing marketable goods.” In contrast, “the Money-Appropriator is essentially non-creative. His basic goal is to acquire an unearned share of the wealth created by others. He seeks to get rich, not by conquering nature, but by manipulating men, not by intellectual effort, but by social maneuvering.  He does not produce, he redistributes. . . . He is the destructive product of a mixed economy, the businessman who grows rich by means of government favors [and other forms of] legalized force.”

The personality traits of the Money-Maker aren’t genetically given or “instinctual.” They are learned and can be cultivated, whether in ourselves or in the children we raise, the students we teach, or the associates we train. Above all, Rand explains, the Money-Maker exhibits the virtue of first-handedness, or independence:

By these criteria, Steve Jobs had the money-making personality. Thankfully, he’s been honored and admired, even though our “advanced” culture still believes the myth that “love of money (and profit) is the root of all evil.” Perhaps Jobs is admired while other wealthy entrepreneurs or executives are reviled because his sector (information technology) is less regulated; as such, it seems unlikely that he benefited by government favors. Perhaps Jobs’ biggest career mistake was to obsess over Microsoft and, like Bill Gates himself, to refuse to denounce Washington’s unjust, destructive trust-busting. This is the danger for anyone tempted to become, even momentarily, what Rand called the Money-Appropriator – the parasite that Washington most favors.

The great success of Steve Jobs and other “money-making” personalities depends on moral self-approval and freedom. We must reject medieval superstitions about money, banking and wealth; we must learn that the love of money-making both reflects and causes all that’s good, healthy and human about our lives.

We need full freedom – i.e., laissez-faire capitalism – applied equally in every sector, not only in technology but also in mining, agriculture, industry, telecommunications, and finance. As Rand noted in 1963, before the recent, vast expansion of the U.S. welfare state, “most people refuse to consider the source of wealth,” “the fact that wealth is the product of man’s intellect, of his creative ability,” and “in the present state of our economy, in the chaotic mixture of free enterprise and government controls, it is becoming progressively harder to distinguish the Money-Maker from the Money-Appropriator. When every business is tangled in government regulations, the dividing line between the earned and the unearned blurs.”

If, as with church and state, we had a true separation of business and state, we’d see a proliferation of Jobs-like money-making personalities.

(The Forbs Magazine:

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