Legacy of a Jerk (Ep. 84)
The gist: what happens to your reputation when you’re no longer around to defend it?
You’ll hear a variety of stories, and theories, about legacy in general and the legacy of jerks in particular. We discuss “strategic jerkitude”; the ancient injunction against speaking ill of the dead; and the fascinating, complicated legacy of Steve Jobs.
Among the highlights:
You’ll hear about the legacy of the great Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder Roberto Clemente and how his tragic death intersected with one of the brightest moments in Pittsburgh sports history, the “Immaculate Reception” (which inspired a certain little boy to eventually write a certain book, btw). Pittsburgh sportswriter Bob Smizik helps us tell this story.
Then you’ll hear the wonderful writer Charlie Leerhsen talk about the subject of his latest book, Ty Cobb. His reputation lives on today as a) one of the greatest ballplayers ever; and b) one of the nastiest SOB’s ever to play the game. But is that reputation deserved? And how much was that reputation built by one man, the sportswriter Al Stump, who wrote about Cobb again and again?
You’ll hear from a few academics on the topic of jerkitude, including Steve Levitt with a good story about a “faux jerk”; Kathleen Vohs on her study called “Bad Is Stronger Than Good“; and Robin Hanson on the perils and pleasures of managing one’s reputation.
The final act of this episode is all about the legacy of Steve Jobs. You’ll hear from Walter Isaacson, who wrote the seminal Jobs biography that was published shortly after his death; you’ll hear a bit from Jobs’s iconic Stanford commencement speech in 2005; and you’ll hear from a tech entrepreneur, Brad Wardell of Stardock, who gleaned life lessons from Steve Jobs that weren’t the lessons he thought he’d glean when he set out to read the biography. (HT to “The Lessons of Steve Jobs” at kottke.org.)