He was truly ‘special’, to say it mildly… but actually he was a true choleric, hysteric and narcissistic person, narrow-minded, unforgiving and pungent according to many, many others. He would not let loose, he could be rude, direct and insensitive, but most of all he was obsessive – everything he did, and equally all others did for him, had to be perfect, nothing less. It had to be insanely great.

All this does not sound like a person, who’s virtues you would praise in front of a class filled with pupils or students – but it’s exactly what I am about to do in this article.

This man – who has been all over the news the last months, and which autobiography I just finished reading – isn’t truly a leading example in who he was, but very much in what he achieved: he is the leading example to all those who, like him, know what can be achieved with good design. He lived what design is all about: he was designating his life, shaped his wold, continuously improved what he did and motivated others to follow his vision, all this with the intention to devise the course of action for the better (as he saw it).

The motivation that drove him came from within: he only superficially seemed to react on impulses from the outside. In fact, his judgements and actions were an impulse coming from a gut-feeling (which were intensified by his ‘special’ character) and a result of ‘internal processing’.  All he did, he did with an intense drive and ‘insane’ motivation, obviously, both way stronger than his physique, in the end, could cope with…

I catch myself thinking, what would have happened if I would have had such a drive and motivation, then – I would have freaked out for real, on those occasions when I was designing products that weren’t good at all, that made no sense, which I would have never used myself, or recommended to my friends.

Why didn’t I freak out, for real? Why didn’t I run into the CEO’s office to throw the crap I had to design right on his table (as he would have done)? Why didn’t I stay insistent and persistent and stick to my belief that it would be right to develop just one design and bring that to market, just the right one – and that it would be better to invest our resources into one perfect product, instead of distributing it over many, many mediocre ones?

But ‘externally’ I did not freak out, only internally. Was I lacking the inner motivation and drive? Or was it, because I’m not ‘special’ enough? I guess it’s because of both.

What fascinates me about this person is not only what he achieved with his businesses, and the quality of the products he created, but also the determination driving his actions and the motivation that kept him going. He didn’t need market analysis, he followed his intrinsic motivation. He designed products in a way that he would like to have and use – and with that, he fulfilled the needs of consumers way better than the many others, who were led by others and thus made products, which they themselves didn’t want or use…

Insane or genius (which apparently is separated by a thin margin): his story reveals that you should not settle to just achieve something – you have to master something! Whether you drive a bus, build a cupboard, are in front of a class or lead a multi-national company: you only master what you do, if you love to use the result of your work yourself, and if the motivation to do it, comes from within.

As my beloved granddad once said to me: “if a fruit-grower thinks his fruit isn’t worth eating, he’s not worth anything either.” Makes me think of a world, where all people are motivated and true masters in what they do – or is this too ‘special’?

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