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The pitfalls of seeking revenge

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Helen Hoart

We’ve all experienced that desire to get even with someone who’s hurt us or treated us badly.  But I’m mindful of an old Chinese proverb:            

                "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

The message:  revenge—getting even—may hurt the person seeking revenge as well as the object of the revenge.

I was reading an article about Steve Job, the visionary founder of Apple Computer, in Fast Company.  It examined the time frame after Jobs was ousted from Apple in 1985 and prior to his return in 1996.  Jobs was bitter and wanted revenge against those who had pushed him out of Apple, according to article author Brent Schlender, a journalist who covered Jobs for decades. 

Jobs’ revenge was going to be the next company he started called NeXT, which would create a great computer to challenge Apple.  He brought enormous resources to starting the company, raising over $100 million. The only problem—it was a commercial failure.  In his rush to get back at Apple and its top brass, he got his new company all wrong.  And most important, his motivation—to get even, to show them—was a shaky foundation for building something great.

At the same time, Jobs had become interested in Pixar and ultimately bought the company.  His interest in Pixar was based on his love for what the company could do.  He made a couple of wrong turns with Pixar too, but ultimately he and the very talented people he had working with him succeeded in creating the blockbuster animation studio that gave us Toy Story, Finding Nemo and many more.  Pixar also changed the face of animation forever.

Lesson from Steve Jobs’ life:  Even for someone as brilliant as Steve Jobs, doing something because you’re motivated by revenge is not the best strategy for success. 

Instead, when Steve Jobs turned his awesome talents to Pixar, he chose something he loved, stuck with it and changed the face of animation.  It wasn’t that the road he traveled at Pixar didn’t have its own set of problems.  At one point, he decided the company had strayed from its original mission.  He fired much of the Pixar staff and focused the company on using computers to create an entirely new kind of animation, according to Schlender.

Ultimately, Jobs returned to Apple and not only pulled the company from the brink of collapse but oversaw the transformation from a company that sold personal computers to the behemoth that sits at center stage in our digital world.

Has acting out of spite or to get even ever worked for you?

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