Steve Jobs was a man who adopted many mentors in his life, but one of his mentors deserves more than a passing look: Robert Friedland, a charismatic, free love wacko who dealt LSD and had his own free love commune on the same apple orchard that inspired Steve for the name of his company. It was also where Steve allegedly got his “reality distortion field” from.
Steve Jobs met Friedland at Reed in 1972 after Friedland was kicked out of Bowdoin forhaving $125,000 worth of acid and then doing two years in a federal prison. Highly charismatic, he journeyed to Reed, ran for student body president, and handily won.
Steve met him after arranging to sell him his IBM Selectic typewriter. When Jobs came into the room, Friedland was having sex with his girlfriend, and insisted Jobs stay and watch, which Jobs did.
Friedland then formed a commune out on All One Farm, an apple orchard that was granted to him by an eccentric millionaire uncle. People did acid and talked a lot about Eastern spiritualism there, and the Hare Krishnas would cook them meals.
Steve eventually decided communal living was not for him after sleeping in the kitchen and watching people steal each other’s food in the night. Upon leaving the commune, though, Steve Jobs had the inspiration to name his company Apple.
Jobs eventually fell out with Friedland, disliking the cult leader’s demeanor.
That said, early Apple engineer Daniel Kottke said that some of Jobs’ personality traits were inspired by Friedland, including the reality-distortion field, where truths are much more subjective.
Friendland was also “charismatic, a bit of a con man and could bend situations to his very strong will. He was mercurial, sure of himself, a little dictatorial. Steve admired that, and he became more like that after spending time with Robert.” Kottke thinks Friendland taught Steve a lot about how being the open, take-charge charismatic type is the way to influence people and get them to do what you want.
Later in life, Friedland became a billionaire mining magnate. Once, he was in trouble for environmental issues and called up Jobs to see if he could hold some sway with then president Bill Clinton.
Jobs refused. He said about his relationship with Friedland: “It was a strange thing to have one of the spiritual people in your young life turn out to be, symbolically and in reality, a gold miner.”