I am reading ‘The Intel Trinity: How Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove Built the World’s Most Important Company’, written by Michael S. Malone. And I am totally enjoying it.

The book starts out with how Noyce and Moore along with 6 others jumped ship from William Shockley’s startup – he was the physicist who won the Nobel prize for inventing the transistor – and started Fairchild Semiconductors in ’57 before moving on to start Intel.

After a brief introduction the story picks up with Bob Noyce and gives the reader a peek into his formative years; growing up as the son of a congregational minister father and a mother who was also the daughter of a minister.

Anyway, it struck me today while reading about Noyce’s childhood how the quest for success can come from two distinctly different vantage points: A nurtured childhood or an oppressive childhood.

First, there was Noyce who grew up in home where both parents were educated and where both parents encouraged all four of their sons to learn, to experiment, to build and to create.

And then I got to thinking about my Uncle Glenn, another highly successful individual and how his motivation came from that entirely different place; a hatred of his father and being a kid who was constantly the object of undeserved criticism.

Glenn – like Bob Noyce – graduated at the top of his small rural high school class. But unlike Bob he did so probably because he was told by his dad that he’d never amount to anything. It is my opinion that Glenn strove for success if for no other reason but to rub his father’s nose in it. And the more his success the further he could push his father’s face into it. As in, ‘F**k yourself. You were wrong about me.’

And his first success came with being the first in our family to go to university; the University of Michigan where he got a BS in Civil Engineering.

When the war started (WWII) he joined up and became a commissioned pilot in the European Theater. And then when the war was over he returned and went back to school where he got an MS in Mechanical Engineering.

Ironically, shortly thereafter he discovered he didn’t much care for the profession and turned to medicine where he got his MD; all the meanwhile raising four kids with the most major support of his long-suffering wife, Helen.

Then it didn’t take him long to discover that he really didn’t like working with sick people so he turned to research. He eventually landed in tropical medicine studying infectious diseases where he had a pretty distinguished career that took him to 120 different countries.

He was pretty much a success at everything he did. He played scratch golf – and did a few rounds over the years with the legendary Arnold Palmer – and he was a talented cribbage player, among other things. (The last time that we played he beat me three straight games in California when he and my Aunt Helen came to stay with me and my young family in ’90.)

I loved the guy. He was really the only mentor that I had growing up and he was a great uncle to me. Extremely smart, sophisticated, 6′-2″, movie star handsome; all in all, a man’s man.

I looked up to him and he knew it. And growing up he always acknowledged me. Like he always sent me postcards from faraway places like Egypt. And when he came up north for a visit he and I would always play a game or two of cribbage.

But he was never able to shake the anger from his childhood. And like his father, he was mean son of a bitch to his family. His kids, especially his son, could never measure up to his standards. He was – it turns out – also a mean husband, and oftentimes sarcastic to those who he perceived as underachievers (which could be pretty much everyone else).

So here we’ve got Robert Noyce, the product of a good home, and my Uncle Glenn; the son of a mean oppressive father. Both men driven to success from two entirely different environmental models.

And as I think about my Uncle Glenn – although he was never once cruel or condescending to me – I forgive him for his transgressions to others.

Shaking off an evil childhood and having a mean bastard for a father can sometimes prove to be an impossible thing to do.

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