Steve Jobs - Case Study In Resilience

I am a long-time Steve Jobs fan. For years I’ve admired his vision and brilliance as both an inventor and entrepreneur. Now, his passing has me thinking about his resilience, not just in his long fight with pancreatic cancer but throughout his entire career before and during his tenure at Apple. Jobs clearly displayed the strengths of a highly resilient person. Here’s where I think he might have scored on the 7 Resilience Factors if he’d taken Adaptiv’s Resilience Factor Inventory (RFI):

Emotion Regulation – Probably below the norm earlier in his career, and well above it in more recent years. He had a reputation as a hothead in his younger days but over time he obviously figured out how to stay cool under fire.

Impulse Control – Same as Emotion Regulation, because how we think drives both what we feel and how we react - especially in tough situations. I’m guessing that Jobs gained some conscious control over his thinking which in turn allowed him to use his emotions and behavior for greater effect and with less “breakage”.

Causal Analysis – Most engineers/inventors score high here and I think Jobs would have as well. This critical ability to accurately and comprehensively determine root causes of problems would have enabled him to tackle complex technical challenges, learn from his mistakes and ultimately create incredible products.

Self-efficacy – Self-efficacy is a core strength of entrepreneurs; there’s no doubt Jobs would have been off-the-scale high on this measure of self-confidence and belief in his ability to handle the challenges that came his way.

Realistic Optimism – Again, I predict a high score here, perhaps even a bit on the unrealistic side. Our work has shown that unbridled optimism can be a drag on resilience – extreme optimists tend to minimize risk and get blindsided by the bad stuff. However, in Jobs’ case, his high Causal Analysis would be a nice counterbalance to this.

Empathy –I’d figure on a fairly low empathy score. As brilliant, analytical, focused, and self-directed as he was, the ability to read the emotions of others was probably not his strong suit.

Reaching Out – Ultra-high Self-efficacy, Optimism and Reaching Out are the “trifecta” for entrepreneurs, so I’m betting that Steve Jobs would have scored high on this factor too. The ability and desire to tackle new challenges and opportunities was apparent throughout his career.

A final note: Every article I’ve read about Steve Jobs in the past week speaks to his passion and connectedness. This completely lines up with Adaptiv’s most current research – the more passion and purpose you bring to your work, and the greater your belief that your work makes a difference, the more resilient you will be. Period.

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