The frustrated Steve Jobs

Like many, I have a habit of idealizing the “good old days” with Steve Jobs.

Keep in mind that I’m an ad guy. It’s incredibly rare that people like me get to work directly with the CEO, and even more rare that the CEO is so passionate about doing great work.

So when I look back, I tend to romanticize even the difficult times, even though I know darn well that the tense moments were … well, tense. Especially with Steve.

Need an example?

Return with me now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, as the color iMacs were about to be unveiled.

On this particular day, Steve had apparently been on a call with a guy named Wayne (I have no memory of him), and Wayne was having a problem finalizing photography to be used in Steve’s upcoming Macworld presentation.

Since I was responsible for the creative work at the ad agency, Steve tried to solve this problem in real-time by adding me to the call — but got my answering machine instead. No doubt this ticked him off even more.

When I got home that day, I got a classic Steve message. What I love about it is that it started so calmly, then steadily escalated into a fury. I didn’t save the recording, but at least I had the foresight to transcribe it.

It all builds to Steve’s magnificent ending shot, punctuated by a sweet little “bye-bye.”

Phone Message: December 29, 1998


Hi Ken, This is Steve calling, and I’ve got Wayne on the phone. I’m kind of upset about something.

I had asked pictures of iMac to be taken in colors, because you guys didn’t take any side shots or side-front shots, and we wanted to use the same person to color-correct them as you guys used down there.

(Louder) And you guys wouldn’t release the god-damned person for some reason at this outside graphics firm…. and this is bullshit.

(Louder) And I’ve got photos back now but the colors are wrong.

(Louder) And I’m on this deadline to get this god-damned Macworld presentation done and I need all the help I can get.

(Much louder) You guys aren’t helping and it’s just not acceptable. What the fuck is going on?!!?!

(Ratcheting down) So would you please give Wayne a call and apologize to him, and jump through hoops to help him do this, because we shouldn’t have to be worried about all of this. Wayne, what’s your number?


[Phone number redacted]


Would you please find out who refused to release them and fire them please because I don’t think we should be paying this person to hinder us. Thank you. Bye-bye.

The happy ending is that the photos were ultimately fixed, Steve had a fantastic Macworld presentation, the color iMacs were a huge success, and best of all … I never fired anyone.

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