by Rodney O. Lain
A Paean To Machiavelli: Burned Bridges & Other High Costs Of Being A Visionary
February 2nd, 2000
It is our intention to own areas in communication. I don't mean to sound egomaniacal, but Perry Como used to own Christmas on TV. By own I mean monopolize and influence.
--Martha Stewart employee
In the spirit of the master, I'm going to suppress the impulse to dedicate this book to my family, my friends, my bosses, the people who have influenced my thoughts and shaped my path as I make my way toward its completion. Instead, I'm going to do what Machiavelli would tell me to do, and dedicate this book to myself.
-- Stanley Bing, What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness
All of you wussies out there are always whining.
"OS X doesn't do this." "The PowerBook G4 doesn't do that." Gripe, gripe, gripe. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Moan, moan, moan.
Well, I'm here to tell you, Apple doesn't give a damn about you, and it's high time you and I accept that hard fact of life. The goal is to build the business, not make friends and influence people.
Time may prove that such hard-nosed approaches to doing business are just what might save Apple in the long run.
You see, I've had one of those rare epiphanies that I read so much about. Speaking of reading, my epiphany was in the form of a book. Stanley Bing wrote a small ditty last year titled What would Machiavelli do? It's a play on the phrase "What would Jesus do?" It's totally iconoclastic, so I love it. I bought the book for the title alone.
Mr. Bing observed and deduced a truth that only the super rich grasp. To be moderately successful (which is many of you), you have to work hard, save hard, and work hard some more; to be super rich (that 2% we hear so much about), you must be a mean, ole sonavabitch to rise above the rest.
Darwin would be proud of Corporate America by the sterling examples made by corporate entities on a daily basis.
Having a good role model to inspire you is good for warm fuzzies and all, but to really learn how to print money, you need to study at the feet of those who could give less than a damn about you and your feelings.
I quote from Bing's Acknowledgments section to show you what I mean:
I'd like to thank Leonard, my first boss, who kept me waiting in his anteroom for three hours one Friday night in 1982 until I realized that he had left by a separate exit without having the courtesy to tell me he was doing so. He is now a multi-billionaire who works about six hours a week. I'd like to thank Carl, my next boss, for scaring me badly in unimportant business meetings. He is now the biggest landowner in the state of Wyoming, worth more than the gross national product of France. I'd like to thank Dick, who accepted a timely retirement package and left all of us to fend for ourselves after that merger in the early 90's. Most of us didn't make it. But he did, and I'm happy for him. I'd like to thank the Business pages of the New York Times, for keeping the abuse of power always in vogue by unfailingly extolling the virtues of gigantic Machiavellian monsters that shape our working environment in every industry on a daily basis.
On the other hand, I'm not going to thank my friends and editors at Fortune, because frankly, they're too nice. Lord knows how they've made it this far.
This is the legacy I envision for Apple Computer. Sure, Steve Jobs gives a good speech when called upon, but don't let those tattered jeans and mock turtlenecks fool you. That isn't the Steve Jobs that stared into the dark abyss of corporate ruin without blinking before bringing Apple back from that brink. The Steve Jobs that saved Apple is the Steve that cussed out and cussed at a group of sales reps at MACWORLD.
That's the only Steve that can get things done.
Think about it. The person who really inspired you to do things wasn't that cute-looking teacher who always called you "sweetie." It was that big, bad gym teacher who struck fear in your heart. It was that Army drill instructor who may have used only a few cuss words, but he used those few in creative ways that will have grammarians scratching their heads till Doomsday (when I was in the Army, I had a DI who could drop an "F" bomb within any place in a sentence -- noun, verb, predicate adjective, you name it. Hell, he even dangled a participle or two.
But we are in drastic times, calling for equal measures. It isn't the time to be nice to the customer nor to competition, so don't be offended if Apple doesn't give you everything you want -- as if Apple ever did. Microsoft has never given a damn about being nice to anyone. Have you seen Bill Gates begging for bread as a result? I haven't.
Apple is in trouble nowadays. So, what Steve Jobs needs to do is scare the hell out of the sales force so they'll sell more Cubes as much as he needs to educate Wall Street analysts on Apple's unique position in the industry. Steve needs to go and indiscriminately fire a few people to give them the proper motivation. Put the boot to a few VPs heinnies while you're at it. (Don't touch Jon Ive, though. Are you freakin' crazy?)
Machiavelli had the right idea: the business world is governed by force, not by virtue. Sure, be nice to your mother, but make sure you go Bruce Banner on the competition.
This is the principle that Apple has always lived by, and kept us coming back for more, in a sick, twisted way. (Think I'm exaggerating? Raise your hand if you love the Mac. Keep your hand raised if you love Apple. I arrest my case.).
I think it was Stalin who stood in front of his men with a live chicken. He then plucked the feathers off that chicken, one by excruciatingly one. When he finished, he then began walking away from the chicken. The dazed chicken amazingly followed Stalin, and even worse, ate out of Stalin's hands.
The lesson here is simple: beat them crazy and the Stockholm Syndrome will cause them to give you their all. We're all chickens waiting to be plucked (I must make sure I slowly type that the way I meant it, so my fingers don't make a Freudian slip on the keyboard here :-)
Being a fear-mongering hell-hole behind the scenes is what I see in Apple's future, though you will never see it publicly. Actually, this is the way business is run everywhere. Show me a successful company, and I will show you a mean sum'bitch running the show behind the scenes. (I'll be pointing at him from afar, however, because there's no way I'd get near such a crazy fool.).
Mark my words. The more successful Apple gets, the crazier Steve will get. It's a truism. You've heard the stories about how an Apple employee can get in the elevator with Steve and find himself fired by the time he reaches ground floor. I'm sure that was when Apple was at its zenith, in all its glory. Also, the converse is true: when Apple reached its nadir, I'm sure Steve was humble, congenial, downright human.
But Apple's future success will turn him around like a full moon on a lunatic.
Some of you may decide to write me and tell me that I'm an ass, a hole, or a concatenation of the aforementioned for daring to say such things. But I don't care. I wouldn't change one iota, for I believe every word I've written, because I know it's sober truth.
Even if I'm sitting here, drunker'n a five-eyed owl.
I'm sure, though, that Machiavelli has an ends to justify my inebriated means.
Your comments are welcomed.
Rodney O. Lain is a junior manager at a major corporation. He enjoys public speaking, mentoring minority college students, and helping community multicultural-awareness efforts. He also "preaches the Gospel" at a Minneapolis Micro Center -- he's the bald black guy. Rodney "drives" a G4 Cube and a PowerBook G3. After enjoying a popular run at Mac Addict.com, "iBrotha" was axed, to readers' dismay. Back by popular demand, it now runs exclusively at Mac Observer every other Friday, replacing "Rodney's Soapbox."
[Editor's Note: Rodney O.Lain passed away in June, 2002.]
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