Steve Jobs knew from an early age that he was adopted. “My parents were very open with me about that,” he recalled. He had a vivid memory of sitting on the lawn of his house, when he was six or seven years old, telling the girl who lived across the
street. “So does that mean your real parents didn’t want you?” the girl asked. “Lightning bolts went off in my head,” according to Jobs. “I remember running into the house, crying. And my parents said, ‘No, you have to understand.’ They were very
serious and looked me straight in the eye. They said, ‘We specifically picked you out.’ Both of my parents said that and repeated it slowly for me. And they put an emphasis on every word in that sentence.”
Abandoned. Chosen. Special. Those concepts became part of who Jobs was and how he regarded himself. His closest friends think that the knowledge that he was given up at birth left some scars. “I think his desire for complete control of whatever
he makes derives directly from his personality and the fact that he was abandoned at birth,” said one longtime colleague, Del Yocam. “He wants to control his environment, and he sees the product as an extension of himself.” Greg Calhoun, who became
close to Jobs right after college, saw another effect. “Steve talked to me a lot about being abandoned and the pain that caused,” he said. “It made him independent.
He followed the beat of a different drummer, and that came from being in a different world than he was born into.”
Later in life, when he was the same age his biological father had been when he abandoned him, Jobs would father and abandon a child of his own. (He eventually took responsibility for her.) Chrisann Brennan, the mother of that child, said that
being put up for adoption left Jobs “full of broken glass,” and it helps to explain some of his behavior. “He who is abandoned is an abandoner,” she said. Andy Hertzfeld,
who worked with Jobs at Apple in the early 1980s, is among the few who remained close to both Brennan and Jobs. “The key question about Steve is why he can’t
control himself at times from being so reflexively
cruel and harmful to some people,” he said. “
That goes back to being abandoned at birth.
The real underlying problem was the theme of abandonment in Steve’s life.”