Sunday, April 3, 2011

What You Can Learn from Steve Jobs

     I've never owned an Apple computer. I don't have a iPod or an iPhone or an iPad. Yet Steve Jobs has changed my life immeasurably, simply because of his impact on the personal computer and the electronics revolution.

     Steve Jobs, at age 56, is one of the most influential Baby Boomers. I don't want to write his obituary prematurely, but apparently he's in real trouble. And I don't submit this post to give any credence to a sleazy newspaper that may sensationalize his health problems, but to pay homage to a brave and creative genius. And honestly, until I saw this item, Ten Unusual Things I Didn't Know About Steve Jobs, I didn't know much about him. But Steve Jobs is one fascinating guy.

     I didn't realize that he was adopted. His biological father's name was Abdulfattah Jandali, and his mother was an unmarried graduate student who felt too young and unprepared to raise a child. So she put him up for adoption, with the only proviso that his new parents be college graduates. But after the first adoptive parents fell through, the next in line was a couple -- one of whom didn't go to college; the other didn't even graduate from high school. This couple ended up getting the boy only after making the promise that they would make sure he would go to college.

     I did have a vague awareness that Steve Jobs was a college dropout. He spent a semester at Reed College, a good but not especially highly rated college in Portland, Oregon. The reason he dropped out? He felt he wasn't getting that much out of his experience, and he knew that paying the tuition was impoverishing his parents. So he dropped out, but stayed around campus auditing courses for a couple more semesters, sleeping on the floor of friends' apartments, picking up some knowledge and skills at little to no cost.

     Before he started Apple with partner Steve Wozniak, he worked briefly for Atari, creating those primitive shooting and "pong" type games we all remember from the '70s. He then co-founded Apple Computer in 1976, when he was just 21 years old.

     We all know about the success of Apple. But who remembers that Jobs was unceremoniously fired in 1985? He was the loser in a corporate power play, and found himself publicly humiliated and out of work at the age of 30. Some people thought he was washed up. But he quickly prove them wrong. He immediately founded another company, Next, followed by Pixar, the animation company eventually acquired by Disney. Jobs went back to Apple after Next was bought out by Apple in 1996.

     Jobs was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004, and underwent surgery to remove a tumor on his pancreas. In 2009 he had a liver transplant, and reportedly went to Switzerland to receive an experimental treatment for pancreatic cancer. In January 2011, Jobs took yet another medical leave of absence "so he could focus on his health." Since then he has been observed, according to Mail Online, looking "thin and frail," and he has been seen going in and out of Stanford University's state-of-the-art cancer center.

     People have written Steve Jobs' obituary before. Literally. Apparently Bloomberg news published a Jobs obit. in August 2008, much to their embarrassment. Let's hope he will defy the odds one more time.

     For a look at Steve Jobs, here is the graduation speech he made at Stanford University in 2005 (skip to 7:30 unless you want to hear the long-winded intro.), where he talks about the three pivotal moments in his life. When he dropped out of college. When he was fired. And when he was diagnosed with cancer and learned to ask himself:  If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?

    "Remembering  that you are going to die," he says in his speech, "is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."


June said...

A moving speech.
There's nothing like a threat to one's mortality to clarify, to apply a perspective that one has heard about but never truly believed.
Lessons like this are never learned until they are lived, I think.

nacodoches said...

This post just goes to show that not all successful prople had "an edge" when it came to their families of origin. Genius is special. I think Beethoven was the 11th or 13th child of a mother with syphillus. Dianne

Anonymous said...

I ran the 1st 100% Apple Computer retail store back in 1998/99. I stayed open till 2001 which coincided with Apple opening up their own retail stores. I met, spoke and received personal emails from Steve Jobs. I think he is the greatest American businessman and entrepreneur of all time!

One time, I actually touched his hand, felt that famous mock turtle neck, black shirt. LOVE HIM!!!

But with all businesspeople, Apple Computer was always first and foremost to Steve. On February 8, 2001 I received one of those infamous letters from Apple that every independent dealer dreaded: I lost my Apple license in order to make way for the Apple Retail store. I only wished the company the best. But for me losing my business, well, it was a financial downfall I still haven't recovered from yet. But, I am not bitter. As I said, I had given up my life for Apple. We Mac folks are dedicated like that. I only wish Steve Jobs and Apple Inc the best. They have transformed this world for the better!

I just had to get used to being poorer than what I had been.

Oh well.

Dick Klade said...

Positive proof that we still have real American success stories. Could Steve Jobs' career have happened in another country?

MerCyn said...

We can either give in to the obstacles and problems we face or determine to prevail. Jobs is a powerful positive example of the saying - when thrown a lemon, make lemonade.