Here in Day Two of the deluge of tributes to Steve Jobs, I’ve found a photo that makes my heart sing:
If you didn’t know before his death, you’ve had ample opportunity now to learn that Steve Jobs was brilliant–so much so that to call him brilliant is becoming an awkward understatement.
Now, look at his home office. Notice the rafters and the brick walls … looks like it’s in the basement. Notice the furnishings… as basic as it gets. And the books, in their gorgeous disorder. And the piles of stuff on the desk, under the desk, on the floor…. Beauty.
I’m in the business of helping people to find clarity through organization. Why does this photo please me? Because it proves that genius can thrive in an imperfect environment. Some people already have clarity without spatial organization. To tidy up would not help (at best) and might interfere (at worst). For them, it is a truly fine mess.
Thanks to photographer Diana Walker and her willing subject, this is no longer just my opinion. If you are excellent at what you do, and you do it at a messy desk in a messy office (with which you’d be perfectly content, if not for the nagging), your boss and your family don’t have to take my word for it that you’re fine as you are. They can look at this photo and recalibrate their opinions.
That’s Steve Jobs in the picture. If it were a regular Joe, or even a regular genius, many (maybe most) people would see it as just another messy-office guy struggling to keep up. Maybe they would see a self-employed contractor or architect or web designer who has to work in his unfinished basement to save money, and whose work is inferior because he’s disorganized and stressed. They probably wouldn’t imagine that the guy is a billionaire whose work changed the world and the house above his head is a mansion. But they are. Thanks, Steve Jobs, for putting a ding in this stereotype.