In His New One-Man Show, a 'People Hacker' Becomes Steve Jobs

In the pantheon of business all-stars, few resonate with our current professional moment more powerfully than Steve Jobs. While he himself was not a programmer or engineer, Jobs had a vision for what technology could be – and in many ways, the role that smartphones and mobile devices play in our lives is a result of this vision. But a vision without execution is nothing more than a daydream, and Jobs also had the business acumen necessary to lead Apple to the top of the tech pack.

Recruiter Today contributor, author, speaker, psychiatrist, and self-described "people hacker" Dr. Mark Goulston is one of many people who recognize the lessons that Jobs's life and career hold for today's professionals. That's why he recently devised "Steve Jobs Returns – How to Build a Visionary Company," a combination keynote speech and one-man show in which Goulston takes on the role of Steve Jobs in order to teach people about the "ten iterative, Lego-like steps that [Jobs] followed to make Apple 'insanely great.'"

Goulston believes that Jobs's business talent was no preternatural gift – no, it came from a set of concrete actions he took that anyone can follow.

I probably don't have to tell you how unique the idea of delivering a keynote speech in the form of a one-man show is. When Goulston mentioned this project to me, I knew I had to learn more. So, we engaged in a quick email QA, which is reproduced below, minimally edited for style and clarity:

Preview announcement of: "Steve Jobs Returns - Connecting the Dots" from Mark Goulston on Vimeo. How did the idea for this performance come about?

Dr. Mark Goulston: For the past year and a half, I had been giving a presentation called "Hacking Steve Jobs – The Secret to Creating 'Gotta Have It!" at a variety of venues, including tech and healthcare CEO roundtables, innovation conferences, and entrepreneurial groups. In it, I explained the four-step formula Jobs unconsciously followed to cause customers to respond with "Gotta have it!" when new products were introduced. That's because when you cause people to think "Gotta have it!" you don't have to persuade or sell to them. You just take orders.

By the way, that four-step formula is:

1. "Whoa!" – "I can't believe what I just saw, heard, or read!"

2. "Wow!" – "That's astonishing, amazing, unbelievable!"

3. "Hmmm ..." – "That's too good to ignore or not do something with!"

4. "Yes" – "I see the way to use it. Sold!"

In those presentations, I dressed like Steve Jobs, but stopped short of becoming him. One of my other skill sets is deconstructing strategies into lockstep, Lego-like steps (such as the four steps above) that anyone can follow. One of those strategies is also a lockstep, Lego-like 10-step strategy that anyone can follow to build a very successful business. I discovered that this 10-step strategy was also the unconscious formula that Jobs followed to turn Apple from near bankruptcy in 1997 into the highest-valued company in the world after he introduced the iPhone in 2007.

RC: Why did you choose to perform the role of Steve Jobs instead of delivering a talk about him and his successes at Apple? Does this have any impact on how the audience engages with the lessons you want to share? If so, how?

MG: I had previously presented the 10-step strategy for success to audiences, who agreed with it but didn't find it compelling enough to commit to it. By now channeling Steve Jobs  – I don't have a script. I actually see and then articulate the world through his eyes as I retell the story of coming back to Apple in 1997 through 2007 – I tell his story as him and cover all the 10 steps via a story. By actually being him instead of playing him, it mesmerizes the audiences, and to add to it, I take questions after I tell the story and answer them as Steve Jobs, still occupying his persona.

RC: What has the process been like for you? What steps have you taken in order to learn how to "be" Steve Jobs, in a sense? And what does it feel like playing the role of such a giant?

MG: The process has been amazing. I am not an actor by profession. However, I have spent more than 30 years as a therapist channeling my patients and couples and expressing what they were feeling and meant to say but didn't have the words to say. That has helped me be effective as a suicide interventionist, death and dying specialist, FBI/police hostage negotiation trainer, jury consultant, key advisor, and confidante to founders, entrepreneurs, and CEOs.

I have much experience doing role play in those instances. Check out this video from my hostage negotiation training (ed. note – this is a hostage negotiation training, so the content may be upsetting to some; viewer discretion is advised). But I have never taken on channeling someone regarding their life.

Interestingly, I tried to mix the role play with switching over to a teacher role, but audiences who have seen it told me to drop the teaching, which is much lower energy, and just play Jobs the entire time, weaving the 10 steps into the story and then taking questions as him.

At the end, I give out a handout with a 10-step process adapted from one of my published articles with the title, "How I made Apple 'Insanely Great' in 10 Steps ... and How You Can Do the Same."

I don't do consulting or training myself anymore and have a team at the ready to work with companies that want to learn and implement this strategy.

RC: What do you hope people will learn or feel when they see this show?

MG: I hope they will feel I have deconstructed the genius and secret sauce of Steve Jobs into a strategy that they can use to make their companies and lives "insanely great." I also hope it will connect some of the dots regarding his psyche and psychology that haven't been connected before.

RC: Can you talk a little bit more about the concept of "connecting the dots" and how it relates to the show?

MG: In 2005, Steve Jobs gave a commencement address at Stanford that many consider to be the top commencement address ever given at a university. Jobs said many incredible and memorable things that day, including: "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."

A brief excerpt from Jobs's 2005 Stanford commencement speech.

Jobs ran out of future before he was able to connect the dots enough to make Apple a sustainable visionary company. He thought it would continue under the leadership of CEO Tim Cook and Chief Design Officer Jony Ive. However, many will say that it has lost a good deal of its disruptive mojo since Jobs died.

In this presentation, I connect the dots that Jobs didn't get a chance to connect and turn it into a story with doable steps that any company can follow to be "insanely great.'

RC: How/where can people see the show?

MG: I will post recent and upcoming presentations in my free "Usable Insight" newsletter that people can subscribe to by going to my website, clicking the "Free Stuff" tab on the right margin, and putting in their name and email, which I will never share with anyone else.

In addition, I am sharing insights I am learning after each presentation in a LinkedIn Pulse blog series with a video outtake that they are promoting to several of their channels.

RC: What are your future plans for the show? Is this just a small project, or do you want to take it as far as it can go?

MG: It's currently in its "off, off, off Broadway and off the radar" run. I will be giving it at a variety of small venues and to companies and organizations to refine it. After that, I hope to turn a part of it into a TED Talk, present it at much larger venues, and hopefully have the "insanely great" opportunity to present it at Apple in front of the entire company.

After all ... I am Steve Jobs.