Please don’t be angry. Hear me out.
I deeply regret Steve Jobs’ death. I share the pain, sorrow and anguish of his family, friends and co-workers. He was too young. He had too much yet to give. We had become dependent. We had high expectations for him. We looked to him to change our lives.
I never met Steve Jobs, but I think he would have been bemused by our neediness. We were always looking at his products and spent too little time studying him. His commencement speech at Stanford should be required reading for all high school students. I didn’t say college students—high school students.
Let’s go back to the 1970’s.
The US economy was characterized by two words: malaise and stagflation. World economists predicted that Japan and Germany would soon rocket past the US in GDP and economic growth. Many Americans shrugged and bought into that fate.
Two men almost single handedly changed that. Neither one graduated from college–Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Their work, and certainly that of co-workers and others in Silicon Valley changed the world and led the US through a nearly unprecedented era of growth, with heretofore unknown “tech jobs.”
Passion, energy, and belief enabled them. A degree from a university was deemed a waste of time and money to them. Steve Jobs called dropping out of college “one of the best decisions I ever made.” He did not stop learning. He merely framed his learning around his passion.
One could reasonably argue that had Jobs and Gates stayed around to attend their college commencement speeches, we would not be the country we are today.
I’m not against education. I have benefited from it, but education must fuel your passion. A degree does not confer passion, and sadly the pursuit of it can take time off the clock, create debt that stifles risk taking, and actually prevent people from pursuing their passion.
I look out at the protesters on Wall Street and to a degree can sympathize with them. Many have degrees, but can’t find a job. They are angry and dejected, but looking in the wrong place.
Steve Jobs had neither a degree nor a job. After a brief time at Atari he started Apple with Steve Wozniak. Not only did Jobs secure his own employment, he created over four thousand good jobs at Apple in the first ten years. No government loans, no fancy degree on the wall, just passion and unending determination.
He didn’t wait for someone to save him. He saved himself.
Then he did it again after Apple fired him. (Fired from the company he founded—how much would that hurt? It would be like being strapped into the electric chair by your own child who giggles as she throws the switch. I can’t imagine the anguish that employment decision caused. Yet, he was undaunted.)
Then, yet again, Jobs saved himself and the company when Apple brought him back.
Here’s the lesson.
In death we have reflection. The country is reflecting on Steve Jobs today. That is good. It should not be about the products he launched. It should be about the life he lived.
Sadly, the passion that drove him seems to be missing from most of our “best and brightest” today. Maybe in reflection we, as a country, can in some way get Jobs’ passion back.
Don’t wait for the government to help you. Don’t wait for Big Corp to give you a fancy job and make your life cushy. Don’t wait.
If you are a writer. Write.
If you are a painter. Paint.
If you are a salesman. Sell.
We can’t wait for someone to give us permission. It isn’t someone else’s problem to fix. It is ours.
From Jobs’ commencement speech:
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.
This is why Steve Jobs’ passing may be a good thing for our country. Forget about the I-phone, the I-pad, the mac. The country needs to focus and reflect on the man. If as a nation we did that, the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates might step into the light–or maybe a whole new generation of them.
Steve Jobs would smile at that.
From Jobs: “Death is very likely the single best invention of Life.”
We can be saddened by his passing or energized by his living. The choice is ours.