Ashton Kutcher – A Rare Interview

June 2003                        By Philip Berk

Ashton won’t talk about Demi.

Ashton won’t talk about Mila

Ashton will only talk about his new movie Jobs in which he plays visionary Steve Jobs

But you find ways to circumvent his stock response (repeated three times.)

“I’ll tell you one thing and I’ll make it brief. I’ve learned the value of privacy.” 

Q: Steve Jobs was kind of a jerk when it comes to women — he refused to take responsibility for a daughter born out of wedlock essentially abandoning her for fifteen years.

A: I’m inclined to sympathize with Steve Jobs primarily because he felt  this may or may not be his child. He had to take responsibility for his company and the amount of work and dedication and focus it would take f to make that successful. He wouldn’t be able to dedicate the time and effort to raising a child, if it were his child which he didn’t want to believe. And in fact he refused to see that until he was advised by some people that it may affect Apple’s stock price if this was revealed; it could really affect the stock price. On the other had it would cost very little money to take responsibility for it.  So then he did take responsibility at which point in time there was a paternity test and then he publicly admitted that he had made a mistake.  And that’s the part that really gets into privacy —  we now live in a world where with FaceBook and Twitter and all these social media outlets and other media outlets, our lives are on public display and when people make mistakes and do things wrong, everybody wants to be the judge, trial, jury,  and they want you to go down.  They want to hang you and they’ll hold you up for it  – you get sent to the public court of opinion and people make a judgment. It’s happening to everyone from people that are going for job interviews, people who want to attain things. We all make mistakes and as the world becomes more transparent, the one thing that’s probably most necessary is that people become more understanding and compassionate and actually realize that we  make mistakes. Let’s not fire people that are great at their job for making a personal mistake because we all do it and if you really want to hold up the mirror, that mirror will be held up against you someday, and then you will find that you are not so perfect either.

(Is he having pangs of guilt?) 

Q: You have been at the forefront of the Twitter revolution. Do you think of yourself as a visionary?

A: I just try to be the dumbest guy in every room that I go in, and if you pursue being the dumbest guy in the room, what you’ll find is you’ll be surrounded by really smart people. So your vision usually isn’t your own.  Your vision becomes a collective of those really smart people that you get to sit in rooms with, and then you’re able to execute on the ideas they give you and share with you. 

Q: Are you brutally honest with people the way Steve jobs was?

A: I’m pretty soft  – how do I give feedback to people?  I usually start with a question and then allow the person to try to explain what it is that they were attempting to do, and then when I understand what they were attempting to do and why they were attempting to do it, I can have compassion for what the end result was and then I try to give that person a couple of things to think about or a different perspective on what may be a greater pursuit — it’s an iterative process – I had a lot of football coaches that were a lot like Steve Jobs where if you did something wrong they’d slap me upside the head and get you  go do it again — even though you didnt know why you were doing it wrong, but then I’ve had some teachers that try to get to the core of what the intention was and move from there. Most people want to do good work.  I think that when they don’t it’s generally a product of one or two things.  They don’t understand the mission or they’re lazy, and if they’re lazy you find that out really quick and then you stop working with them, but if they don’t understand the mission, you try to educate them. 

Q:  How is your brother doing and are you still taking care of him? (He has cerebral palsy.)

 A: My brother does a really good job to take care of himself. He’s one of my best friends and I try to support him in every way I can. 

 Q: On a lighter note what’s your fashion style and what are the five most important things  in your closet?

My personal style is probably more than anything a function of convenience and comfort.  If it’s comfortable and convenient that tends to be what I wear, and the five most important things in my closet?  I like to walk a lot and run and I’m pretty active so my shoes are really important.  Happy feet are happy people. Yeah, sneakers. even if they’re dress shoes I like making sure they’re really comfortable.  I wear a tee-shirt almost every day — fashion tends to work from the outside in and I tend to work from the inside out and so the most important thing I wear every single day is a t-shirt, So I started a company with a guy Ryan Donohue called Pickwick and Weller in the pursuit of making the most comfortable tee shirt in the world, and I think we’re getting extremely close and they’re very comfortable and very convenient and well priced and everything else; so my tee shirts definitely. Underwear? wear them every single day. My friend actually found a pair of underwear I have yet to try them but he claims that they are the best, they wick away sweat, they’re high quality comfort underwear.  My socks, I wear them every single day and I like to throw a little fashion flair in them.  I like a little design on them as well, it’s not just like plain socks so I would say those are my four, and everything else is a variable because I wear those things every single day but probably my hat would be my 5th.  I generally wear a hat almost every day.  I find it to be a pretty versatile tool so I would say that those are my five keys to men’s fashion.

How good are you on a computer?

Pretty good with a computer now. Before I don’t think anybody was really good with a computer but neither was the computers really good with us.  I remember my dad brought this computer home for Christmas.  He always tried to do a big family gift on Christmas and that year it was the Apple IIGS and it wasn’t really that useful especially not for a 7 year old kid, but there was a game on it that you could play the floppy disk and there was a decent word processor, but I think personal computers pre- networks computers weren’t as useful as they should have been. 

You have developed many startup companies. Where does your heart lie, in acting or being an entrepreneur?

My passion is in my craft.  I love acting.  I love it with a passion and having an opportunity to play a role like Jobs has ignited a passion to play other roles like this.  The challenge of creating the character and building something interesting; there’s a difference when you really care. I’ve always cared about the roles that I’ve played but when you really care and you honor that role t’s a different thing. Jobs has reignited a passion in me, but at the same time I would say I love creating things so whether I’m creating a character or helping someone build a company, it’s still creation and I love providing the people around me in the world with things that make their life better and more enjoyable. Whether I can do that artistically through the roles that I play or artistically through the companies that I advise, I gain a similar joy out of doing both 

What would you say was the best lesson you learned from Steve Jobs?

It’s really hard to say there’s one lesson.  Simplicity was  an aspect that came out of caring for the consumers and I really learned about that by studying Steve Jobs. It wasn’t just about making something useful, it was about making it beautiful and it was about making it simple and it was about painting the back of the fence; it couldn’t just be beautiful on the outside, it needed to be beautiful on the inside and the parts that people don’t even see need to be beautiful because you will know that it’s beautiful or not.

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