Last week marked one of the highlights of my career as top dog at Three Minute Egg®. Somebody compared me to Steve Jobs! It’s not because we both have our own planes and we certainly don’t occupy the same tax-bracket, but we did both built international companies out of nothing, and we share a rather unquenchable thirst for perfection and attention to detail. I will admit that I hope to be more well-liked.
It all started innocently enough during the first few minutes of a long-awaited visit to my cousins’ house in Nashville, TN. Ben Austen is one of my only two first cousins (along with his brother, Jake) and we have always had a special bond. Both of them blow me away with their intelligence and capacity for information. My brand of wisdom doesn’t score as well in debates. My family (girlfriend and daughter) and I had finally made it to Nashville to visit Ben and his wife who have kids Sula’s age (the boy, Jonah, born 5 days prior, would have also been named Sula had he popped out a little differently – our daughter is named after my late grandmother, Sulamith Austen, whom Ben, Jake and I all share). I was about halfway through the best-selling Steve Jobs biography and noticed it sitting on Ben’s dining room table. When I asked if he was reading it, a conversation started, the jewels of which I was unaware would resurface some months later in print. Ben is a fast reader and in a couple of days had already surpassed the number of pages I’d be slogging over for months. I am a painfully slow reader and the book is about 600 pages long — representing a rather sizable investment of my time and a lot of calories burned carrying it around. He had to be careful not to spoil the plot. But we got to talking, and as a serial entrepreneur I quickly became the subject in an interview I didn’t know was happening.
Ben has always been good at asking people questions and he’s genuinely interested in the answers. He has a very disarming way of encouraging candor. Not all of it ends up in ink. I have long thought of the Three Minute Egg® as the iPhone of yoga props because it is easy to use, infinitely versatile, and deliberately stylish. (I even conceptualized an ad campaign to that effect, but figured it wouldn’t sit well with Apple.) But the analogy means something more to me. I have always been an Apple user and I’ve often said it would be a different, better and friendlier world if Apple hadn’t lost the war to PC. Apple products embody and inspire creativity, beauty and usability — all qualities I like to think dwell in my Egg. While I don’t throw as many tantrums as Steve Jobs, I do my fair share of driving the people who work for me insane because I’m seldom satisfied and I invariably feel we could all do better. I had the same reputation when I built furniture. Transferring my intolerance for imperfection into the flawed nature of mass-production has been challenging for all involved, but I’d like to think my customers appreciate the extra effort and in the end, they’re the real reason I’m here. Ben doesn’t refer to me by name in the article, because anything that might be construed as promotion would have undermined the sincerity of his intent. But he did like my bit about dharma, and that is where I feel Jobs and I find common ground.
One’s dharma can be thought of as their life’s work and when one’s karma (destiny) aligns with lila (the play of the universe), they are said to spontaneously start living their dharma. If there’s such a thing as living one’s dharma, I feel like I’m living mine through these Eggs. So many parts of who I am , what I’ve learned, how I’ve been hurt and resources I sought to heal, joined forces to help me create the Egg. I have had to call on every nook and cranny of my being to help it succeed and I’m proud to say the endeavor is headed in the right direction. 3ME is a long way from becoming the world’s most valuable company, but that isn’t really my aim. Every day brings me closer to my goal of adding value to the world through my own innovation and I have a lot of people to thank for getting me this far. I know I’ll be relying on them and others as this journey continues. Thank you, Steve, for being an inspiration and a great teacher. I read your biography, I believe both the good and the bad, and I am forever grateful, as I type this blog from my Macbook Pro, that you lived your dharma. I know it wasn’t always easy.