Thursday, October 6, 2011

Help Wanted: The Next "Steve Jobs"

I have no memory of Steve Jobs. Until very recently, as far as I was concerned he might have never existed. Today I feel almost utterly alone (and certainly quite selfish) in my assessment of the passing of this great innovator.

Until today I have never researched Steve Jobs. I have never particularly followed him in the news. I have never owned an
Apple Computer, never owned an iPod, never owned an iPhone, and never bought music through iTunes. I am, in fact, an MP3 man. When one of the partners I work for scoffed at my boast some time ago of being "tuned-out" of Apple's little music monopoly (which is modeled after Microsoft's near-monopoly over PC operating and office productivity systems) I simply pointed out to him that MP3's are what someplace called amazon.com sells. Google that sometime.

Then, my daughter and wife (both iPhone fanatics - technology really does have a strangely alluring quality to human beings) bought me
an iPad2 for my birthday. Suddenly, I got it. I got what made Steve Jobs into this worshipped corporate guru, this technology wizard, this re-inventor of the way people communicate and interact with each other and - more fundamentally - with media.

iPads are the coolest gadgets I have come across in recent memory. And just think, Steve did that. With a lot of help from his friends, I'm sure, but it was his vision that drove the endeavor. My iPad connected me to Jobs. But, it turns out we had at least one other thing in common.

Like me,
Jobs once ventured to India. He followed a spiritual path. From what I read today, I believe it was this spiritual basis that drove his life and his innovations.

All over the internet today, it was easy to find
a speech given by Jobs at a graduation commencement in 2005 at Stanford University. This portion struck me as particularly worthy.

"When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: 'If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.' It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?'"

"And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life."

"It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true."

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

They gave me an iPad on my 52nd birthday.
Jobs died yesterday at age 56. Though he had battled cancer for a long time and I am - as far as I know - a healthy man, anything can happen in four years. Or sooner. So, when I researched Steve Jobs and read those words for the first time today, I saw him and myself in a different light.

I know that what I do is not who I am and I also know that Steve probably lived a more authentic life than I have because he was lucky enough to meld his work and his passion. I use the word "lucky" because, best I can tell, it is a matter of luck as much as skill. Steve was brilliant and had exceptional vision but his timing was pure luck. After all, the PC was already invented and the world was ready for it. Steve had nothing to do with any of that. To listen and read some of the stuff online today you'd think Jobs created the micro-chip. Come on guys.

But, hey, luck (karma?) counts more than most things, and Steve Jobs was exactly the kind of innovator that we need to rescue us from
the Fog of Growth in which our economy is currently shrouded. His innovations can not save us, however. The man's legacy is - or should be - about his innovative spirit and not the consumer products that made him rich and fed into our pathetic consumer culture.

It will take far more than a better phone or tablet PC to save our economy. We need the next "Steve Jobs" and whatever that person envisions. We need something no one has thought of that will make people economically necessary again.

And it will take a lot of luck for that person to come along soon. But, for today, the first day I ever googled "Steve Jobs", let me just say...

Thanks for the iPad, Steve.

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