Learning and Development

Understanding Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field

4 Mins read

One of the most essential jobs of entrepreneurs is to manifest the impossible and to bring to life what others would not have thought to be possible. The ability to do this is what made Henry Ford, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and others as great as they are today. However, sometimes, leaders require bending the reality to get others to do what seems impossible. 

Steve Jobs was so skilled at doing this that his ability was named his ‘Reality Distortion Field’ and used as an inspiration for success as a leader. In this post, let us discuss Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field and everything you should know about it. 

Understanding Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field

Steve Jobs reality distortion field

Reality distortion field (RDF) is a term originating from a ‘Star Trek’ episode where it was used to show how the aliens built their own world through a force of their mind. It was first referenced by an Apple software developer in 1981 to describe Jobs’ charisma and its effects on the Macintosh developers. He explained to a new employee that this power enables Jobs to convince anybody of any impossible thing.

A reference to Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field is made in his biography. After dropping out of college, Jobs was moving around with Robert Friedland and he first discovered this magical force in Friedland’s apple orchard. It was at that time that Steve said he experienced a force that turned him on to a different level of consciousness and would allow anybody to bend reality in impossible ways to conform to their desires. 

The reality distortion field took a central position in Steve’s life and worked as a field of personal force that blocked out any doubts, fears, distractions, and negativities that deter most people from achieving their goals. The power also allowed him to reshape his perception of reality so that he could find the impossible probable. 

Reality Distortion Field – How It Works?

The reality distortion field is a strong will and the ability to bend any reality to fit the desired purpose. Reality is malleable in the presence of this power. Steve Jobs, through his RDF, can convince anybody of anything. It seems to be working even when somebody is not aware of it. Your reality distortion field defines who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, abilities, limitations, and more. 

What you perceive of yourself and exhibit to the world becomes the reality that others are convinced of. For example, if you are nervous speaking in public, everybody else picks it up and you project your unpolished skills as a reality. If you believe you are not good to people and keep sitting in a corner at parties, you never get a chance to improve and your poor socialization skill becomes the reality. 

The same thing happens when you perceive yourself as powerful and skilled. If you believe you are a strong leader, you grab the opportunity to lead and your leadership becomes the reality. The best aspect of the RDF is that it can be changed. By changing what you think of yourself, you can change the reality around you. Start thinking you are a business person if you want to become a successful entrepreneur.  

How To Create A Reality Distortion Field? 

Activating your reality distortion field involves two steps:

  1. Accepting the importance of perception

The first step in creating your RDF is to realize that your perception of events is more important than the events themselves. Believing that your positive thoughts can overpower the reality existing outside is the core concept of RDF. Practice this idea by asking yourself what problems can get solved by changing how you think about them or what conflicts can improve by looking at them from another point of view. 

  1. Using your thoughts to shape reality

The wisdom of influential leaders provides the key to changing the circumstances with thoughts. You are what you think and you remain what you continue thinking. You can change what and where you are by changing your thoughts. To apply this truth, ask yourself whether your inner self is consistent with the desired reality and whether you are creating undesirable situations with your thoughts. 

Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field Examples

Bending Reality Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field has been used extensively when talking about the Apple co-founder by observers and product users. Let us discuss an example that comes from the biographer Isaacson. 

In 1984 during Mac computer development, Jobs asked an engineer named Larry Kenyon to reduce the boot time by ten seconds. The engineer said it was impossible to reduce the boot time and Jobs asked him if he could find a way to cut ten seconds if it saved somebody’s life. Kenyon said he could do it then. The leader explained on the whiteboard how 5 million people wasting an extra 10 seconds on booting would cost 100 human lifecycles every year. In a few weeks, the engineer came up with a new code that booted 28 seconds faster. 

The reality distortion field has also been extended to industry leaders and managers who are capable of convincing the teams to become committed to their projects regardless of their difficulty or competitiveness in the market. The term is sometimes used to refer to hyped ideas and products not essentially related to a person. Here are some of the instances of the usage of this term. 

  • The term has been used by ‘Financial Times’ to describe Elon Musk
  • Chess champion Bobby Fischer was supposed to have a special aura around him that helped him defeat opponents
  • Adam Neumann, the found of WeWork is also believed to have a reality distortion field
  • Bill Clinton’s charisma is often called a reality distortion field
  • The term is also associated with Donald Trump’s approach to his campaign and Presidency

Final Thoughts

Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field was his refusal to accept limitations and challenges that came in way of his ideas and to believe in himself that any difficulty can be overcome. The field is strong enough to convince others that they could achieve the impossible. He used the power of RDF to change the world around him and make Apple what it is today. Anybody can activate their reality distortion field and see the realities changing.

Further Reading

Company Culture at Apple
The Winners Triangle
How to Praise Someone Professionally
Change Management Books

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