Sometimes, being too smart and stubborn might actually drive you to make the wrong decisions that could have disastrous consequences. According to Steve Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson, when CEO Steve came to know of his life threatening Pancreatic Cancer, he rejected recommendations from his doctors to undergo conventional Allopathic treatment – the type of medicine widely used in the western world to treat ailments using pharmaceutical drugs and procedures. Instead, Jobs decided to try alternative treatments like acupuncture, dietary supplements and ayurvedic juices. Although Jobs later decided to get surgery and allow the use of cutting edge science to try and save his life, it was too late. He had already lost about 9 months, which, in cancer treatment, is like a lifetime.
In 2003, while undergoing a routine CT scan for Kidney stones, the doctors discovered that Jobs had cancer after observing a “shadow” on his pancreas. Isaacson told CBS’ 60 Minutes last night that while the news was not good, Jobs was informed that this form of pancreatic cancer – called “neuroendocrine islet tumor” – was one of the 5% or so that are slow growing and have a good chance of cure if treated immediately using western medicine and surgery.
However, Jobs refused the surgery saying “I didn’t want my body to be opened…I didn’t want to be violated in that way.”. According to Isaccson, this early refusal to surgery shocked his wife, children and close friends, who kept trying to convince him to go change his mind.
Did “Magical Thinking” Cloud Steve Jobs’ Judgement?
“I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something,” Isaacson told CBS, “if you don’t want something to exist, you can have magical thinking. And it had worked for him in the past.”.
So it wasn’t necessarily the fear of surgery that stopped Jobs from getting surgery and conventional treatment. It was the “reality distortion field” that Apple employees have joked about in the past. Something that Jobs possessed in the business world, that allowed him to make (and sometimes break) his own rules and create new products for new needs that no-one knew existed before. Like the iPhone. Or the iPad.
Besides that, Jobs may also have been influenced by the time he spend in India studying buddhism. According to biographer Isaacson,another key element in Jobs’ decision-making process was to trust his own instinct. Before starting Apple, Jobs had spent 6 months travelling in India, experiencing the culture and studying Buddhism. He felt it served him in his work. “The main thing I’ve learned is intuition, that the people in India are not just pure rational thinkers, that the great spiritual ones also have an intuition.”
Be it “Magical Thinking” or the “Spiritual Intution”, it is impossible to figure out why Jobs made the decisions he made, that delayed his conventional treatment and surgery. In the end, a brilliant man’s life ended all too soon, and for that, the entire world will mourn for years to come.