It’s 1972, the US is withdrawing from Vietnam and the Godfather has just been released.
A Reed College dropout is on his way to meet a new student at his dorm-room to sell him a typewriter.
Jamie Keech | Capitalist Exploits:
After knocking on the buyer’s door, eager to get the deal done, he tries the handle and steps inside only to find his would be buyer enthusiastically mid-coitus.
Startled, he mumbles his apologies and tries to stumble back out the door.
But, like any good host, the gracious buyer urges the freshmen to take a seat (which he did) while he completes the task at hand.
Upon finishing his duties, Robert rolls over and asks smiling: How can I help you?
Great friendships have shaped the world. Bonds formed during childhood or war, through shared hardships and great passions, are responsible for some of humanity’s greatest achievements.
And, as it happens, some of our times most transcendent ideas are sparked when you’re trying to sell a typewriter to a guy shagging his girlfriend…
I’ve long been fascinated by outliers. People who have extraordinary success, often driven by extreme personalities. This is largely what inspired me to start the Resource Insider Podcast as an opportunity to get to know these people.
At first glance Jobs and Friedland are an unlikely match. Jobs was introverted and shy, Friedland intensely charismatic. But both shared a passion for eastern mysticism and were on a journey to expand consciousness.
After dropping out of Reed, Jobs hung around the university studying Zen and calligraphy.
Robert, having spent the previous 2-years in prison for possession of $125,000 of LSD, enrolled in Reed and then quickly won the race for student body president.
Even in his early 20’s his ability to mesmerize and compel an audience was legendary, a skillset Jobs was sorely lacking at the time.
The two became fast friends with Friedland acting as a sort of “persuasion mentor” to Jobs and the person many credit with inspiring Jobs’ infamous “reality distortion field”.
“He turned me on to a different level of consciousness,” Jobs said.
In 1973, Friedland took a sabbatical in India where he studied under the guru Neem Karoli Baba and immersed himself in philosophy, meditation and yoga. Jobs wasn’t far behind, and it was an experience that shaped both young men’s minds and futures.
Upon graduating from Reed, Friedland headed to Oregon where he took over his uncle’s farm, converting it into a commune called the All One Farm where members worked, lived, meditated, chanted and took psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms in an effort to expand their consciousness.
Jobs recalled in Walter Isaacson’s canonical biography of him:
“LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important — creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”
And what did the All One Farm grow? Apples.
Origins of Greatness
What makes the Jobs/Friedland origin story so interesting is the fact that they were raised in wildly different environments, had nearly opposite personalities, and went into completely different fields. Yet both went on to rise to the very pinnacle of their respective professions.
Was their mutual success sheer coincidence? Was it a series of shared experiences at a crucial stage of the development?
What, if anything, in those brief overlapping years can be credited with rocketing them to future greatness?
Steve Jobs summarized, what I view as their greatest shared attribute, in the famous Apple motto:
Whether creating transformative technology or making multi-billion-dollar mineral discoveries the ability to think in extraordinary ways is essential to achieving extraordinary success.
Both men demonstrated a gift for creative thought and standing at the intersection of art and science, an attribute Jobs actively cultivated:
“I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics.
Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
*Featured post photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash