Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Ultimate Grand Master: Steve Jobs

Why do you train in the martial arts? Why do I blog?  What's the point of playing chess?  What's the point of fidelity and morality? Why strive for perfection? Why pour your heart, soul, and energy into parenting? Teaching? Working?

I've long pondered these questions and I've developed my own understanding of The Journey is the Reward.  Simply, as one who is privileged/accomplished enough to have some comfort and security in life, I find meaning and satisfaction by setting and pursuing meaningful goals.

One of the life lessons that my my Dad articulated to me was that this was how he had found happiness: finding and pursuing goals. Another lesson that he taught be was there was a technology revolution going on and that the interesting jobs and careers would be ones that focused on the pioneering opportunities to do things that had never been done before. BTW my Dad was saying this through the 60s, 70s, and 80s: decades before the popular press and public had any understanding of what was brewing.

More than anyone, Steve Jobs understood and lived the vision that life, at its best, is a relentless pursuit of meaningful goals.  In doing this, he has accumulated a $8 billion fortune and a major place in history. I can say with some certainty that neither the money nor the fame ultimately meant much to him. I'm sure that he died content in that he had lived a life relentlessly pursuing his goals.  He did it his way.

I'd like to focus on one detail of his life and how it affects us all.  Steve Jobs was the one who built  the multiple fonts into the first Macintosh. Since then, user controllable fonts has become a standard feature on all writing, email, presentation, and even drawing programs.  And it enriched every write, draw, and presentation program for the foreseeable future.Would anyone else have cared or seen why fonts would be so enriching? In fact, as features go, it was a weird idea to put that in the first Macintosh. And it was all  due, according to Steve, to his sitting in on a calligraphy class which he attended. Remember, Steve wasn't going to classes to earn a degree (which he never bothered to get), he was attending because he wanted the education. While almost everyone agrees that education is a key to the future, Steve Jobs did not confuse earning credentials with education. In the early 70s, he sat in on many college courses.

When the dot com boom of the late 90s emerged and a whole generation of entrepreneurs seemed to thrive on starting companies designed to be sell-able for cash in a few years, he expressed sadness over the smallness of their vision.

Steve Jobs was the real deal. He seems to have adopted the challenge of making technology usable and empowering as his life's challenge.

Weaned like me on the 60s ideas that we should change the world for the better, he was technically sophisticated and earned his technical stripes early on. In the mid 70s, he was an engineer off and on at Atari (think Pong, early video games, and a crazy out-of-control business, culture, and technology vision) and a member of the HomeBrew Computer Club, a deeply-nerdy group of visionaries exploring how computers could be built that would be for a single person. Steve Jobs was then a purist wanting mostly to explore Far Eastern Religion and sitting in our various courses at college, but not taking the time to get credits.  Today, so many people think of college as primarily accreditation. Lets remember that Steve Jobs attributes the multiple fonts that he built into the first Macintosh and which have become a standard feature on all writing programs, as due to his sitting in on a calligraphy class. One class he attended, he learned something.

Steve Jobs was both a jerk and and a wonderful human being.  I suggest that those of you who want to know a little about him, watch this 15 minute youtube video of his graduation speech to Stanford.  What I really recommend is that those of you who really want some deep understanding, read the Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs which is long and worth the read

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