It’s 1972, the US is withdrawing from Vietnam and the Godfather has just been released.
A Reed College dropout is on his way to meet a new student at his dorm-room to sell him a typewriter.
After knocking on the buyer’s door, eager to get the deal done, he tries the handle and steps inside only to find his would be buyer enthusiastically mid-coitus.
Startled, he mumbles his apologies and tries to stumble back out the door.
But, like any good host, the gracious buyer urges the freshmen to take a seat (which he did) while he completes the task at hand.
Upon finishing his duties, Robert rolls over and asks smiling: How can I help you?
And that is how future Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, befriended future mining magnate and billionaire, Robert Friedland.
Great friendships have shaped the world. Bonds formed during childhood or war, through shared hardships and great passions, are responsible for some of humanity’s greatest achievements.
And, as it happens, some of our times most transcendent ideas are sparked when you’re trying to sell a typewriter to a guy shagging his girlfriend…
I’ve long been fascinated by outliers. People who have extraordinary success, often driven by extreme personalities. This is largely what inspired me to start the Resource Insider Podcast as an opportunity to get to know these people.
At first glance Jobs and Friedland are an unlikely match. Jobs was introverted and shy, Friedland intensely charismatic. But both shared a passion for eastern mysticism and were on a journey to expand consciousness.
After dropping out of Reed, Jobs hung around the university studying Zen and calligraphy.
Robert, having spent the previous 2-years in prison for possession of $125,000 of LSD, enrolled in Reed and then quickly won the race for student body president. Even in his early 20’s his ability to mesmerize and compel an audience was legendary, a skillset Jobs was sorely lacking at the time.
The two became fast friends with Friedland acting as a sort of “persuasion mentor” to Jobs and the person many credit with inspiring Jobs’ infamous “reality distortion field”.
“He turned me on to a different level of consciousness,” Jobs said.
In 1973, Friedland took a sabbatical in India where he studied under the guru Neem Karoli Baba and immersed himself in philosophy, meditation and yoga. Jobs wasn’t far behind, and it was an experience that shaped both young men’s minds and futures.
Upon graduating from Reed, Friedland headed to Oregon where he took over his uncle’s farm, converting it into a commune called the All One Farm where members worked, lived, meditated, chanted and took psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms in an effort to expand their consciousness.
Jobs recalled in Walter Isaacson’s canonical biography of him:
“LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important — creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”
And what did the All One Farm grow? Apples.
Origins of Greatness
What makes the Jobs/Friedland origin story so interesting is the fact that they were raised in wildly different environments, had nearly opposite personalities, and went into completely different fields. Yet both went on to rise to the very pinnacle of their respective professions.
Was their mutual success sheer coincidence? Was it a series of shared experiences at a crucial stage of the development? What, if anything, in those brief overlapping years can be credited with rocketing them to future greatness?
Steve Jobs summarized, what I view as their greatest shared attribute, in the famous Apple motto:
Whether creating transformative technology or making multi-billion-dollar mineral discoveries the ability to think in extraordinary ways is essential to achieving extraordinary success. Both men demonstrated a gift for creative thought and standing at the intersection of art and science, an attribute Jobs actively cultivated:
“I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics. Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Friedland and Jobs’ ability to think differently from their peers and marry technical excellence with visionary thinking has yielded world-altering results.
Years chanting, worshiping gurus and taking magic mushrooms may appear at surface to be a detour on the road to success, but research is beginning to indicate that these activities, and others like them, may be beneficial to our ability to “think differently”.
In a recent podcast, Neuroscientist Sam Harris speaks with Dr. Roland Griffiths about the current state of research on psychedelics. A Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and founding Director of the Johns Hopkins Center on Psychedelic and Consciousness Research Roland is essentially the world expert in this field.
Their discussion touches on historical prohibition, the similarities between psychedelic experiences and meditation, the clinical and scientific promise of the drugs, and the risks.
Psychedelics, in essence, rewire the brain’s synapse connections. The resulting experience is incredibly meaningful for most users, many ranking it as one of the most profound experiences of their lives, on par with the birth of a child, or the death of a parent. Increasingly these substances are being used to treat depression, PTSD and other psychological issues.
Silicon Valley is getting in on the action with many of the valley’s would be visionaries and “gurus” opting to utilize micro-dosing. Micro-dosing is the consumption of miniscule “pre-perception” doses of psychedelic drugs, a process which is purported to offer many of the benefits of the full dose (elevated mood, focus, and increased creativity) without leaving you tripping balls in a forest for 6-8 hours at a stretch.
Robert Friedland has a reputation for seeing well into the future, with a surreal and nearly unprecedented ability to discover gargantuan mineral deposits from Canada to Mongolia and the DRC. Those who have worked with him have described a kind of intuitive ability to make discoveries, much like the mathematician that “sees” the solution and works backwards to solve the problem or the composer that “hears” the symphony before transposing the music. But perhaps Jobs, referring to what he learned during his time in India, said it best:
“Intuition is a very powerful thing—more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.”Steve Jobs