Obsessive Compulsive Personality Made Them Great

Joshua Kendall wrote . . . . . . .

The man could not stand dirt. When he built his company’s first factory in Fremont, Calif., in 1984, he frequently got down on his hands and knees and looked for specks of dust on the floor as well as on all the equipment. For Steve Jobs, who was rolling out the Macintosh computer, these extreme measures were a necessity. “If we didn’t have the discipline to keep that place spotless,” the Apple co-founder later recalled, “then we weren’t going to have the discipline to keep all these machines running.” This perfectionist also hated typos. As Pam Kerwin, the marketing director at Pixar during Jobs’ hiatus from Apple, told me, “He would carefully go over every document a million times and would pick up on punctuation errors such as misplaced commas.” And if anything wasn’t just right, Jobs could throw a fit. He was a difficult and argumentative boss who had trouble relating to others. But Jobs could focus intensely on exactly what he wanted—which was to design “insanely great products”—and he doggedly pursued this obsession until the day he died. Hard work and intelligence can take you only so far. To be super successful like Jobs, you also need that X-factor, that maniacal overdrive—which often comes from being a tad mad.

For decades, scholars have made the case that mental illness can be an asset for writers and artists. In her landmark work Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Johns Hopkins psychologist Kay Jamison documented the “fine madness” that gripped dozens of prominent novelists, poets, painters, and composers. As Lord Byron wrote of his fellow bards, “We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched.” For the author of Don Juan, as for many of the other artsy types profiled by Jamison, the disease in question is manic depression (or bipolar disorder), but depression is also common. Sylvia Plath’s signature works—The Bell Jar and Daddy—hinge on her suicidal despair. But while most Americans now acknowledge that many famous writers were unbalanced, few realize that the movers and shakers who have built this country—CEOs like Steve Jobs—also struggled with psychiatric maladies. This misunderstanding motivated me to write my latest book, America’s Obsessives. After discussing Jobs and other contemporary figures in the prologue, I cover seven icons, including Thomas Jefferson, marketing genius Henry J Heinz, librarian Melvil Dewey, aviator Charles Lindbergh, beauty tycoon Estée Lauder, and baseball slugger Ted Williams. (Like Jobs, the Red Sox Hall of Famer was a neatness nut who used to quiz the clubhouse attendant about why he used Tide on the team’s laundry.) By picking trailblazers who toiled in different arenas—from business and politics to information technology and sports—I wanted to show how a touch of madness is perhaps the secret to rising to the top in just about any line of work.

These men and women of action did have occasional bouts with depression, but they primarily suffered (or benefited) from another form of mental illness: obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. The key features of this superachiever’s disease include a love of order, lists, rules, schedules, details, and cleanliness; people with OCPD are addicted to work, and they are control freaks who must do everything “their way.” OCPD is not to be confused with its cousin, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Those with OCD are paralyzed by thoughts that just won’t go away, while people with OCPD are inspired by them. Steve Jobs couldn’t stop designing products—when hospitalized in the ICU, he once ripped off his oxygen mask, insisting that his doctors improve its design on the double. Estée Lauder couldn’t stop touching other women’s faces. Perfect strangers would do, including those she might bump into on an elevator or a street corner. Without her beauty biz as an alibi, she might have been arrested for assault with deadly lipstick or face powder. These dynamos are hard-pressed to carve out time for anything else but their compulsions. Spouses and children typically endure long stretches of neglect. In the early 1950s, with two boys at home (today both are billionaire philanthropists), Lauder was riding the rails all over the country half the year, hawking her wares.

Obsessives hate nothing so much as taking a break to relax or reflect, and they typically do so only when felled by illness. “Home. Not well. Busy about house. Always plenty to do. Cannot well be idle and believe will rather wear out than rust out,” wrote the 35-year-old Henry Heinz in his diary in 1880, four years after starting his eponymous processed food company. Heinz’s compulsions included measuring everything in sight—he never left home without his steel tape measure, which he used on many an unsuspecting doorway—and keeping track of meaningless numbers. When traveling across the Atlantic on a steamer in 1886, he jotted down in his diary its precise dimensions as well as the number of passengers who rode in steerage class. But this love of pseudo-quantification would produce in the early 1890s one of the sturdiest slogans in American advertising history—“57 Varieties.” At the time, his company actually produced more than 60 products, but this number fetishist felt that there was something magical about sevens. By his early 50s, Heinz had already driven himself close to a complete nervous collapse on numerous occasions, and he reluctantly passed the reins of the company to his heirs. For the last two decades of his life, his children insisted that the overbearing paterfamilias chill out in a German sanatorium every summer, either at Dr. Carl von Dapper’s outfit in Bad Kissingen or Dr. Franz Dengler’s in Baden-Baden.

Melvil Dewey, whose childhood fixation with the number 10 led him to devise the Dewey Decimal Classification system, also was forced into an early retirement by his feverish pace. Dewey published the first edition of his search engine—the Google of its day, which is still in use in libraries in nearly 150 countries—in 1876, when he was only 24. For the next quarter of a century, Dewey took on a series of demanding jobs, typically juggling two or three at a time, as a librarian, businessman, and editor. He became the head of the world’s first library school, at Columbia University in 1884. According to a running joke, Dewey had a habit of dictating notes to two stenographers at the same time. In the end, it was his sexual compulsions that did him in. He was a serial sexual harasser and in 1905 was ostracized from the American Library Association, the organization that he had helped found a generation earlier, when four prominent female members of the guild filed complaints against him.

The aviator Charles Lindbergh also was an order aficionado whose oversized libido created a mess. This demanding dad saw his five children only a couple of months a year. He ruled over them and his wife, the best-selling author Anne Morrow Lindbergh, not with an iron fist but with ironclad lists. He kept track of each child’s infractions, which included such innocuous activities as gum-chewing. And he insisted that Anne track all her household expenditures, including every 15 cents spent for rubber bands, in copious account books. After Lindbergh turned 50, feeding his sex addiction became his full-time job; for the rest of his life, he was constantly flying around the world to visit his three German “wives,” longtime mistresses with whom he fathered seven children, and to hook up with various other flings.

Remarkably, though these obsessive icons were all awash in neurotic tics, there has been no shortage of hagiographers who idealize their every move. Of Heinz’s penchant for collecting seemingly random numbers, one biographer has observed that he “enthusiastically wrote down in his diary the statistics that one must know and record on such an occasion.” Another saw in Heinz’s factoid-finding a reason to compare him to “a scientist such as Thomas Edison.” The author of the first biography of Dewey made the laughable claim that “there was no psycho-neurosis in [him].” Even today, some still agree with what New York Gov. Al Smith said about Lindbergh soon after his legendary flight to Paris: “He represents to us … all that we wish—a young American at his best.” We Americans like our heroes and do not easily let them go. By pointing out the character flaws in our superachievers, I do not intend to diminish the greatness of their achievements. Instead I aim to show exactly how they managed to pull them off. And more often than not, it was with a touch of madness.

Source: Slate


Appetizer with Shrimp, Avocado and Mango Salad


2 large avocados
Lemon juice
1 large mango, peeled and cubed
1 lb large shrimp, cooked and peeled
1 cup peeled, diced English cucumber
1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
2/3 cup chopped green onion
cilantro, for garnish


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
salt and pepper


  1. In a bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Halve the avocados. Remove the pit and cut the flesh into cubes. Drizzle with lemon juice to prevent browning.
  3. In a bowl, gently toss the avocado cubes, mango, shrimp, and vegetables. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently.
  4. To serve, spoon the salad into small cups. Garnish with cilantro.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Hong Kong magazine

In Pictures: Food of Aloha Salad Japan

Hawaiian-style Salad

Chicken Breasts or Chicken Thighs: Which Is More Nutritious?

For more than a decade, the preference for poultry, especially chicken, has been increasing in the United States. Eating away from home more often has been cited as one reason. For others, the choice was made for health reasons. Poultry (without the skin) is often recommended as a substitute for red meat, since it is lower in saturated fat. Although leaner cuts of beef and pork are available.

There are many options when it comes to chicken. It’s sold whole or in parts as chicken breasts, thighs, or wings and is available skinless and boneless.

Price can be an influence when choosing a thigh over a breast, but taste and how the chicken is prepared rank high as well.

Tastier…But Is It Healthier?

Some people prefer the taste of dark meat over white meat and consider it to be more tender and flavorful.

Both chicken thighs and breasts are good sources of lean protein. However, they differ in the amount of calories, fat and saturated fat. For example, a 3-ounce skinless, chicken breast provides about 140 calories, 3 grams of total fat and just 1 gram of saturated fat.

The same amount of dark chicken meat without the skin would provide three times the amount of fat for a total of 9 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat and 170 calories. This difference may not seem like much, but depending on the portion size it can really add up.

Another option is to choose dark turkey meat, which has fewer calories and fat compared to a chicken thigh. A 3-ounce portion has about 134 calories, 5 grams of total fat and 1.5 grams of saturated fat.

It’s also a good idea to look at the Nutrition Facts label. Some poultry products are injected with salt, which helps to keep it moist. Most Americans get too much salt from the foods they eat, so finding ways to reduce sodium by reviewing the nutrition facts can help.

Cooking Matters, Too!

Of course, how the poultry is prepared will also make a difference in the amount of calories and fat. Chicken and turkey can be baked, grilled, roasted or fried; seasoned, stuffed or coated with breading. Baking, grilling and roasting are considered healthier options, so look for these descriptions when eating out and limit all types of fried and deep fried foods, including poultry. At home, keeping the skin on while cooking will help keep chicken and turkey moist and removing the skin before eating will help reduce calories and fat.

Keep it Safe

No matter which type of poultry you choose to buy and prepare at home, remember to handle it properly. Raw chicken and turkey should not be rinsed before cooking, but be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw poultry.

Chicken and turkey that is purchased frozen should be thawed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Use separate utensils, containers, and cutting boards for the raw and cooked foods. All poultry, regardless of the cooking method, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part will help determine if it’s reached the appropriate temperature.

Storing foods safely is also important and will help to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Perishable foods, like poultry, should be refrigerated within two hours and within one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees. The same is true for leftovers when eating out, and they should be reheated to 165° F and eaten within three to four days.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Just a Little Weight Loss May Cut Breast Cancer Risk

It’s never too late for women to lose weight to lower their breast cancer risk, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that a 5 percent or greater weight loss after menopause could lower the odds of breast cancer by about 12 percent. For a 170-pound woman, a 5 percent weight loss would be 8.5 pounds.

“A modest weight loss that seems to be sustainable could have important health consequences,” said lead study author Dr. Rowan Chlebowski. He’s a research professor in the department of medical oncology and therapeutics research at the City of Hope in Duarte, Calif.

“These are encouraging findings. You don’t have to get to a normal weight to see a benefit, and you don’t need to lose a colossal amount of weight. A 5 percent weight loss is achievable on your own,” Chlebowski added.

Obesity is a known risk factor for breast cancer. But Chlebowski said it hasn’t been clear if losing weight could prevent breast cancer. And if weight loss could make a difference in breast cancer risk, it wasn’t known if there was an optimal time to lose weight.

This study included data on more than 61,000 postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative, a large, long-running study of older women by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The women were all ages 50 to 79 when they entered the study between 1993 and 1998. None had a history of breast cancer and all had a normal mammogram when the study began.

Women’s weights were measured at the start of the study and again three years later, Chlebowski said. Their health was then followed for an average of more than 11 years.

During that time, more than 3,000 women developed invasive breast cancer.

From the original group, more than 8,100 women lost 5 percent or more of their body weight. The researchers compared these women to more than 41,100 women whose weight remained stable.

The women whose weight remained stable had an average body mass index (BMI) of 26.7. BMI is a rough estimate of body fat based on height and weight measurements.

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, while 25 to 29.9 is overweight and over 30 is considered obese. A 5-foot-6-inch woman who weighs 170 pounds has a BMI of 27.4, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Women who intentionally lost weight in the study started out with a BMI of 29.9.

“Women who had a 5 percent or greater weight loss were heavier and less active,” Chlebowski noted.

The researchers found that when women lost even more weight — 15 percent or more of their body weight — the risk of breast cancer went down 37 percent.

There are a number of factors linked to weight loss, such as less inflammation, that could explain the lower risk of cancer, Chlebowski said. But the study did not prove that weight caused breast cancer risk to drop.

In addition to finding that losing weight was linked to reduced breast cancer risk, the researchers also looked to see what affect gaining weight had. More than 12,000 women gained weight during the study, and overall, that gain didn’t seem to boost the risk of breast cancer.

However, when the researchers looked at specific types of breast cancer, they saw a 54 percent increased risk of a type of cancer called triple negative breast cancer in women who gained weight after menopause.

Chlebowski said it’s not clear why weight gain would boost the risk of this specific cancer.

Dr. Virginia Maurer, chief of breast surgery and director of the breast health program at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., said this is an important study that shows it’s never too late to lose weight.

“Losing weight and increasing exercise are two things you have control over,” said Maurer, who wasn’t involved with the study. “You’ll lower your risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, joint diseases and other cancers related to weight.”

She recommends three to four hours of aerobic exercise a week, along with some strength training.

Source: HealthDay

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