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Tom Williams: Hired by Apple at 14. His full story. (sivers.org)
181 points by sivers 2119 days ago | 40 comments



I met this guy in 2004.

He talked about himself for 20 or 30 minutes before I got a word in.

He had a couple of ideas at the time, some about charitable giving, and others were about fighting spam with the technique of charging strangers to receive their email. (This is such an oft-repeated idea it's listed in the "You Might Be An Anti-Spam Kook" page). I told him that there were a few things wrong with his approach, and he clapped his hand on my shoulder and said that he could just get someone else to do this.

Overall I felt a bit sorry for him. He was a pretty interesting guy who had great talents and great ambitions. He wasn't limited by a lack of confidence. Unfortunately he has had a lot of early validation that he was a genius, and such overconfidence can be just as crippling.

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I do feel obligated to remind myself that your impression is limited in the fact that the scope is narrow, just one experience with him seemed to form the impression.

That being said, this makes me even more curious about his story as it is a representation of many similar stories, countless young people (my role models) persisting and working their ass off, being rewarded as a result, but then after they seem to just feed off of the initial success or seem to fall short of the "initial promise". ie: Farrah Gray.

What sets those that persist only early on apart from those that continue to challenge themselves? When I start doing really successful things, I don't want that to spoil me and turn me lazy.

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In my experience, the thing that sets true genius apart from the contentious kind, is the willingness to listen. If you don't have that, then you're not really as smart as you - or others - think you are.

The capability a person has for listening to other people is a skill that very rarely gets acknowledged as a particularly genius trait. However, there is really nothing that can be done in this world if you aren't willing to listen at least as well as you talk.

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Wholly agree with that.

The guy who blusters about and talks a lot might well be pretty smart. His charisma opens doors.

But I for one would be keeping an eye on the guy by the door who hasnt spoken yet. Because usually, just as it is "all decided" he can chime in with the most insight of the day :)

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> However, I wasn’t the youngest. It was Steve Espinosa, who was actually employee number seven at Apple.

I assume the author is thinking of Chris Espinosa, employee number eight, who also joined the company at the age of 14. Chris was one of the early guys on the Macintosh team -- pretty fascinating as well.

http://www.folklore.org/ProjectView.py?project=Macintosh&...

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Good story and read, but he blows his role out of proportion at times in comparison to what it really was. I mean he described himself as: "They just thought I would be a great guy to have around. We kind of had to figure out what my role was." And then goes on to talk like he was mini-Steve Jobs.

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Personality: its infectious. There is such a thing as contagious psychology. Hang around at Apple long enough and you, too, will start to appear Guru'ified.

Hell, Apple have made a fortune on this fact alone.

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A great story about a non-conformist who, at a young age, found his way into one of the most rebel-minded mega-companies ever.

Very cool stuff. I think a major lesson here is that it all began for him through his networking. That's how he got his shot with the CEO, and he picked a topical conversation point on which he had some (apparently) insightful feedback to present himself with.

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"Elbow-Grease and Gumption: The Secret That Self-Help Books Don't Want You To Know"

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Seriously. As I get older I'm realizing that there are very easy ways to get smarter, more successful, more in shape, more active, etc., but I still find it hard to fully admit that a little hard work helps everything. It's made the "get-X-quick" industry a little irritating to me.

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I just read this and realized that maybe there is hope for my son after all, the first 10 paragraphs or so could be about him...

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You have hopes for your son to be hired by Apple? :)

-m

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hehe, no, I have hope that he's going to find his 'groove' in life, right now just about everything seems to be against him. Most of the stuff there applies word-for-word to him.

I'm not hoping for him to get hired by anybody any time soon, but at least it seems there are alternative paths other than the regular ones.

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I wish kids were taught this at a young age. I learned it at seventeen; two years later, I'm still struggling with a lot of the things I've needed to unlearn. I have friends my age who still don't believe this, who are forcing themselves on generic career paths because they don't think anything else is an option. I worry for them pretty often.

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Well, the funny thing here is my own career path was not exactly textbook either, and still I worry about my son.

As for yourself keep an open mind, definitely not everything about 'regular' education is bad, but some people have a hard time adapting to the system and the system definitely won't adapt to them, if you are one of these then go ahead and carve your own path, I'm sure we'll be hearing great things about you one of these days.

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I'd love to hear your story when you've got time. WW isn't a site we hear a lot about on HN, and I've always been a little curious.

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here you go:

http://jacquesmattheij.com/content/story-behind-wwcom-camara...

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ok, I'll write it up and post it as a separate link, otherwise I'd really be hijacking this thread.

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A lot of people here are very good at learning things on their own, and very quickly at that. This is most definitely not true of a lot of the population. Having a talent for picking up new things helps a ton in giving you the confidence to pursue "non-generic" career paths, and I don't know that teaching kids that they can pursue these kinds of paths will make much difference if they don't have a talent for it.

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-5 because he signed his comment with an initial? That's silly. He asked a question that led to a set of useful comments. Signing a name is a little silly, but I don't recall its being against HN etiquette and it's too minimal to be considered spamming.

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Just FYI: Please don't sign comments, http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

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What if the signature contains information?

- Concerned American Citizen

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then that information should go in your profile. that's the point of the no-signature rule.

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What if it's unique information?

- Person wondering if you really think i want to say "concerned american citizen" on every post

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Whoops!

-admonished zimbabwe

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You don't have to sign your comments like that, you know.

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I've been singing like that for so long I don't even realize I'm doing it anymore.

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Derek, I love your blog and book reviews. Don't usually come across such consistently high quality of content.

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Agreed. I don't know who you are, but I've seen this blog four or five times in the last week and I've liked almost everything I read.

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"1997: Founded CD Baby as a favor to friends ... "

http://sivers.org/about

Whee.

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Holy fucking shit, the guy who made CD Baby wrote this? That blows my mind. Just today I was looking into CD Baby as a means of music publication - never thought the guy who made that would keep a blog, or read Hacker News.

I love this community a little bit.

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A long but rewarding read. Thanks.

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I'll chime in. I won't say how I'm involved with Tom, but we've been associated in the past. Let's just say that the impression I had upon meeting him was that he's basically a tax-dodging former child star with an ongoing microfinance scandal (covered by apparent nemesis David Baines):

http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id... http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/news/business/story.html... http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/news/business/story.html... http://www2.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id...

I wouldn't go as far as Baines (he gets petty and tedious after a while) but I do think he's got some validity to his arguments about accountability and trust. Specifically the lack thereof as regards Tom.

Let's recap the story: a 14 year old kid's paid summer internship was deemed to be good PR for Apple. That paid off in mediocre terms (as you can see via his QuickTime/Kid story, Apple divested itself of its drudgeons after PepsiCo's frontman took the hit for Apple almost dying) but, in the process, it created the modern Tom Williams who, after imagining that 50 year old men were being anything other than patronizing toward a teen, had no incentive to grow up.

Youthfully ignorant entrepreneurial drive win, personal growth and development fail. His wife's hot, though.

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looks like tom decided to respond on his own blog:

http://givemeaning.blogspot.com/search/label/david%20baines

man, this is ugly.

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It is indeed. I took a look into David Baines and have to say, Im not seeing him as a bad guy here..

Yeh he's a bulldog and yaps about a hell of a lot - but when he calls Bullshit hye usually appears to be correct (though sometimes takes it a bit far by extension).

(edit: some background -> http://www.bcbusinessonline.ca/bcb/top-stories/2005/07/01/mo...)

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Having hot wife paves over a lot. How bad can the guy be if she puts up with him?

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so...what did he create? I didn't see anything about him actually creating anything.

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some really great advice at the end of the article, if people like you at work, you'll get supported when you're down and lifted up when you're up. very nice. thanks for the link.

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Great story. Thanks, sivers. Love the content that's coming from your blog; please keep it coming!

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Amazing, uplifting story! Thanks for sharing.

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