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What You Can Learn From Steve Jobs About Distorting the Truth to Advance Your Vision

The "reality distortion field" is how great leaders inspire.
What You Can Learn From Steve Jobs About Distorting the Truth to Advance Your Vision
Image credit: Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
Guest Writer
CEO of Thriving Launch
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As an entrepreneur, you have one essential job -- to manifest the impossible. To bring to life that which others have said is not possible. This is what Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Henry Ford and many other greats have done.

Related: 20 Defining Moments in the Life of Steve Jobs

To get others to do the impossible, however, sometimes requires leaders to bend the truth a little. Take Jobs, for example -- he was so skilled at this they even coined a term for it. When discussing Jobs' ability to bend the truth and inspire others to do the impossible, Apple's vice president of technology, Bud Tribble, called it a "reality distortion field" (RDF for short). This particular skill was so powerful that in Walter Isaacson's official biography, Steve Jobs, the term RDF comes up an astounding 34 times. The fact is, all great leaders such as Jobs use this skill repeatedly, and it's this ability to create inspiration in their community that made them great -- and for you, it'll be your greatest asset in building wealth.

In the presence of any great leader, we feel compelled to move beyond our current beliefs, to step into a dream that is bigger than us, and because of a strong leader -- we'll push past our "reality" and move into the stuff of dreams.

Harnessing this gift requires a unique skill. It will ask you to deny the status quo, to become a kind of alchemist who turns visions into powerfully impactful realities. Merriam-Webster defines alchemy as a "power or process to transform something in a mysterious or impressive way." Being an entrepreneur requires us to transmute the ethereal into the physical -- that to me makes us modern-day alchemists.

Related: Steve Jobs Shares the Secrets to Successful Team Leadership in This Throwback Video

If it's our wish to cultivate this gift to build greatness, we would do well to study Jobs and other leaders who have come before. By watching this video of Jobs, you can see how he had a dogged commitment to sharing his vision and inspiring others to internalize his dreams as their own. This is a great example of Jobs' reality distortion field. You'll see he's incredibly charismatic, but more importantly, pay attention to the tactics he uses to recruit others to own his dream as their own.

Jobs shares his vision after a small celebration.

When I watch great leaders share their vision, I always feel like describing their dreams is a celebration. Right from the start, they are interested in the celebration of an idea becoming a reality. It's as if their faith comes before the physical expression of their vision. When they share that vision, they infuse their dream with an energy of excitement and use communities as a way to get that momentum going.

Jobs juxtaposes current challenges with other leaders who defied reality.

When Jobs tells the audience that personal computers are in the dumps and the market isn't doing too well, he follows up by saying, "I am sure that Ford had a few hiccups, too."

With those few words, he completely obliterates the reasoning for anyone listening to resist his reality-defying vision for Apple. In just 10 words, he has metamorphosed from Jobs the dreamer who isn't doing so well, to an icon of close to equal stature of the American hero Henry Ford, a man who defied reality and transformed American transportation.

Related: The 5 Greatest Lessons I Learned Working With Steve Jobs During the Apple Turnaround

Jobs acts as if he knows best.

In the biography Becoming Steve Jobs, the author recounts the reaction from some of the team members who witnessed Job in his role at NeXT: "It sounded good. But much of it was chutzpah and self-delusion. When he started Apple, he had not presumed that he knew how to run a business -- he was willing to rely, at least for a while, on his mentors and bosses. Now he acted as if he knew everything."

It may sound scary to take the lead with that kind of certainty, but if we're going to convince others of the reality-defying visions we have, we must at the very least communicate our vision with confidence.

As a leader, people are looking to you. They are mirroring your emotions. And if you can learn to communicate your visions with intense feelings of hopefulness and certainty, people will follow suit and do the impossible because your faith inspires them.

Related: How Steve Jobs Misled a Room Full of Tech Media and Changed the World

Jobs inspires everyone to believe in his vision as if it's their own.

When I reflect on my readings on Jobs or any great leader in any field, I see how often our heroes are those who inspire us to defy the current realities -- from Abraham Lincoln, who moved us to change our ideas of equality in America, to authors like Walt Whitman, who challenged our concepts of great poetic prose, to Jobs, who encouraged us to believe that technology was the gateway to new realities.

If you've ever wanted to harness the magic that Jobs and other aspirational leaders had in spades, you must start by leading those around you to see your vision and do so confidently.

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