I had an awareness of Steve Jobs while he lived and knew he was an amazing guy. My respect for him was solidified when viewing a video of a speech he gave at the 2005 graduation at Stanford not long after one of the times he beat cancer. Now with his passing and more material coming to light about his life, my opinion is evolving. In greater depth I have come to know he wasn’t perfect, but he was damn good!
From an article in USA Today, Wednesday October 10, 2011: “There’s a phrase in Buddhism – ‘beginner’s mind’ – it’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind,” Jobs would tell people. This means approaching things without any preconceived notions, judgments or expectations, just like a child. It was the core of his innovations and what fundamentally made him such an original thinker. He was not remotely afraid to experiment, and more important, not afraid to lose either. He once said, “I am the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year… its very character building”. He never equated failing with being a failure.
In death, some people get eulogized beyond what resembles the life that was lived. That does not seem to be necessary with Steve Jobs. He was the “real deal”. Not everyone loved him, but few did not respect him.
Steve Jobs was fully human and had flaws. As early as 1981, Macintosh project founder Jef Raskin wrote a note to Apple president Mike Scott complaining:
Jobs regularly misses appointments
He acts without thinking and with bad judgment
He does not give credit where due
Jobs often reacts ad hominem (with feelings rather than intellect)
He makes absurd and wasteful decisions by trying to be paternal
He interrupts and doesn’t listen
He does not keep promises or meet commitments
He makes decisions ex cathedra (by virtue of one’s position)
Jobs is often irresponsible and inconsiderate
There are stories that include Steve getting mad and firing employees on the spot. One particular account that has made the rounds has him firing someone on an elevator and another tells about how he let someone go for bringing him the wrong type of mineral water. There are lots of tales about Steve Jobs. Often they are likely to be exaggerations, but many of them are probably based in some truth as well.
When my time comes for a few stories to be told after I am gone I wonder what they will be. Will the stories be about moments when I was emotional or irrational and made bad choices? Or will they be about the times when I was creative and originated some semblance of original thought? Will what is said be about me as a person or my professional persona? Will those who respect me be the story tellers or will it be the naysayers who never “got me” who spin the tales? The answer? Both I imagine. You know, it really won’t matter much to me then. I’ll be DEAD!
Steve Jobs was quoted as saying “Death is very likely the single best invention of life. Almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure: These things just fall away in the face of death.”
In the Stanford Speech Jobs said “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
At 5.8 decades of life, more than ever I am aware that “time is limited”. However, I am more grateful for my remaining days than I have ever been before. A discovery of recent months is one of the best uses of some of my limited time is to come here each day and express my thanks for another day of life. Thank you for sharing the journey with me and witnessing the growth of my gratitude.
If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance. George Bernard Shaw