A few months back I wrote an off topic article which depicted my own personal thoughts about Steve Jobs, and him standing down as CEO of Apple. Yesterday (Wednesday 5th October 2011) Mr Job’s died peacefully at home – with his family around him.
Naturally, and like many, many people around the world his passing has deeply saddened me – and my thoughts are with his family, friends and people whom worked closely with him.
One thing that has struck me throughout today is how my mind keeps returning to the image of a man whom I never met, didn’t know and had only ever seen through a TV screen or YouTube.
As mentioned in my previous article about Mr Jobs I cannot claim to be a massive Apple fan as I have always had some reservations about the firm (which mainly stem from an early part of my career when I was looking after a large network of Mac’s with a number of Apple Share file servers – I had some bad experiences with their pricing model and their overall clandestine support stances).
So, why has Steve resonated with me throughout my career, and why has his passing moved me so much?
I guess it is because I admire people with drive, passion, intelligence, vision and whom go and get what they want and achieve their goals. I respect people whom have the bravery to do things that I have not done – and may not ever do, as you can learn from them.
It might also be because Jobs was a consummate family man – protective of his personal life, and that he battled valiantly against a form of Cancer which ultimately took the life of my father – another very special man.
It’s true that there were what people consider to be “darker” traits to Steve Jobs – in the press we have been reminded that he was allegedly a control freak whom was an autocrat as a CEO – ensuring that everything down to the littlest detail was “just so” according to his own “exacting standards". We have also read that he had an attitude that was “his way or the high way”.
What I find interesting about these views are that they beg the question – “were they (are they) so bad?”
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance – Steve Jobs Interview with the Smithsonian”
Look at the context of what Steve Jobs was about professionally – a company that he co-founded, was then ousted from the firm at a time where it was losing its way. He went away and made some fabulously canny acquisitions in terms of NeXT and what later became Pixar – but I believe that his main passion was Apple – and when he finally got Apple back, nothing and no one was going to stop him from making the company work.
And that is exactly what he did – using that visionary spirit, and those “darker” traits to ensure that as a company it reached the pinnacle of what it could achieve at all times. I believe that you cannot run a company such as Apple without being a “hard ass” – and we should all remember that for all his touted faults – the people around him believed in him – and his vision.
It further saddens me to day to read comments which detract from his memory – made by on the whole ill informed people whom do not work within the IT industry, or if they do have not worked within it long enough to truly understand the impact that he has had. I have seen so many comments today which are founded in poor understanding, or out and out jealously of a man whom “went there” and “did it”.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose – Steve Jobs 2005, Stanford”
There are some people whom choose to remember Steve as a “sales man” – but, if they looked deeper and researched him they would know that he was far more; being able to identify with consumers and corporate customers alike and derive what they want and need before they do is a real talent.
People also forget that Apple has championed many great standards that the industry has adopted over the years, under Steve Jobs stewardship that have made a great difference to all our lives. This was also balanced against maintaining the company’s own intellectual property and “closed” developments.
He undoubtedly did some things wrong, and perhaps made some decisions at times which others question as morally wrong – but, as humans we are all guilty of this at one level or another – to purely judge someone’s life on a minority of mistakes where the greater whole was positive is reprehensible and short sighted.
Today (Thursday 6th October) Mr Jobs has been paralleled with a number of great figures throughout history – Edison, Einstein, Dr Martin Luther King et al – and some people have rebuked such remarks.
I feel that it is wrong to rebuke such comment as the judging criteria evolves over the years – Edison amongst other things created the light bulb but towards the end of his career time courted controversy with his “etheric force” principles, Einstein – we are all familiar with the theory of relativity – but need to remember that it was instrumental in the development of nuclear weapons to which he personally supported during the 2nd world war, Dr King whilst a leading light in the civil rights movement and undoubtedly did great things – but also had links to a number of “unsavoury” organisations to support his cause.
My point is, I am not betraying the memory of these great people in our histories – what I am saying is that they are all now judged on the sum of their respective achievements – a position that we should afford Steve Jobs in the context of our current history.
In my career, whereas I can say that it has not reached the heights of Steve’s; I can say that there are elements of his example that I do employ. I fundamentally believe in his presentation style – open, simple, smooth and professional. I also believe very much in his belief in creating elegant solutions – with attention to detail.
I also feel that if you believe in something within your work, you should fight for it –and not compromise your position and own conscience – even if that means taking a walk yourself – this is a legacy of Steve Jobs that so many people will be afraid to follow.
I will sign with the following thought -the next time that you are running in the park listening to your iPod, on the train (subway) reading the news on your iPad, designing your next “great” thing on your iMac or iBook, downloading music from any ONLINE store, or watching the next animated 3D classic – think of Steve Jobs – his influence and vision made it possible.
Rest in Peace Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011