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Steve Jobs, a life well-lived

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What is there to say about Steve Jobs?
There is everything to say, and nothing to say.
There is nothing to say because what Steve accomplished – the demonstration of his talent – says it all.
There is everything to say because of what can be learned from him.

Personal Stories about Steve

I met Steve Jobs twice.  It was in the mid to late 1980’s when Steve founded NeXT after getting booted out of Apple.  On both occasions a small group of people from research universities were invited to come see the NeXT factory in Redwood City California and talk to Steve about the NeXT computer in education and research.  We got treated to dinner with Steve at a nearby restaurant  and had some Question & Answer time with him. 

Many people have stories about Steve.  There is the public Steve and the not-so-public Steve.  At one of these events at NeXT, during dinner, I was talking with a 20-something CEO of a company that was doing NeXT software development.  Near the end of dinner we saw Steve sitting by the bar by himself.  We wandered over there to have a one-on-one chat.

On the day that Steve died many people were asked to tell a personal story about Steve.  Some of these folks were caught a bit off guard and really did not have too much time to think about what they were going to say.  They told a story of a personal encounter which portrayed a Steve Jobs that was very blunt, to the point, and had little regard for the use of delicate language.

That was my experience with Steve.  He is very direct, to the point, and has excellent use of the language – in all its forms.  What I did not expect is for Steve Jobs to give the 20-something year old some unsolicited advice about women.  But he did.

The Reality Distortion Field

I also did experience what some have called “The Reality Distortion Field”.  This is a field surrounding Steve Jobs when he is talking about an idea or vision.  If you are within the reach of this field it’s hard NOT to see the future he describes.  But once at a short distance outside the reach of the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field you wonder if it’s at all possible.  An example of the Steve Jobs RDF is NeXT to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate and personal investors.

“I want to put a dent in the Universe” – Steve Jobs

What is for sure is that Steve Jobs was the heart and soul of Apple.  Some people go through life never finding their passion or their place.  You ask people in grammar school, “What do you want to do?”  They don’t know.  You ask them again in High School.  They don’t know.  You ask them in College.  They still don’t know.  And in life, their job, is a choice by accident and they can’t wait to retire if they only had enough money.  Retire to do what?.  They don’t know.

I believe that Steve Jobs always had an answer the question, “What do you want to do?.  And the answer was simple, “I want to change the world”.  His whole life was a demonstration of that simple principle.

So, who’s next and what’s next for Apple?

Steve Jobs hand-picked Tim Cook as CEO of Apple before stepping down as CEO due to his illness.  Why?  It does not seem an obvious choice.  If you read this postI tried to make the point that there is a huge difference between those who are creative and visionary and those who are operations and support people.  A company needs both – Vision and execution.  Both sets of skills in the same person is unlikely

Who is Tim Cook?  From the Apple Web site

Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple and serves on its Board of Directors.Before being named CEO in August 2011, Tim was Apple’s Chief Operating Officer and was responsible for all of the company’s worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Apple’s supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also headed Apple’s Macintosh division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace.

Prior to joining Apple, Tim was vice president of Corporate Materials for Compaq and was responsible for procuring and managing all of Compaq’s product inventory. Previous to his work at Compaq, Tim was the chief operating officer of the Reseller Division at Intelligent Electronics.

I suppose I can ask the question many people are asking.  Tim Cook is clearly a guy that can keep the lights on and the “trains running on time”.  But can he lead a visionary company like Apple given the track record of the shadow of Steve Jobs?  Given Tim’s experience, I’d say, “no”.   (read more)

The Take

Having grown up using Apple Products and following the career of Steve Jobs I can say that Steve Jobs is an example of a life well-lived.  His life and his work should be an inspiration to everyone.

Some links which may be of interest
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Written by frrl

October 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm

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