Steve Jobs: The “i”Genius
On October 6, 2011 Steve Jobs, inventor of the iMac/iPod/iPad/iPhone, died. And I, like millions of others, felt that something in me extinguished. I was deeply saddened when I heard that this charismatic and inspiring risk-taker was dead at 56!
It is because of individuals like him who jolt us and shake us and wake us up from our slumbering life that we learn how much we, as single individuals, are capable of doing, how much potential each of us has.
Yes, I am aware that, like any one of us, his life was contradiction of demonic and angelic traits. I read that he was petulant, abrasive, brittle, selfish, counter-culture, a control freak, nasty and ruthless. But his negative attributes morphed into positives. Let’s not focus on what was unpleasant about him but on his creative genius.
Jobs’ magic affected me with my first iMac. I had not paid much attention to this tech titan until my husband and daughters one by one gifted me with all Apple gadgets. With the iphone, seven different devices in one, and I, a technically challenged woman, felt pretty good about that.
It was as if Jobs knew viscerally what I needed. The Apple devices took away my fear of using thingamajigs. Each one of them is so user-friendly that the gizmos made by the competition appears pale in comparison. With hundreds of songs loaded in my iPod, more books than I can carry in my iPad, and an all-in-one timer and recorder in my iPhone that I use in my seminars, solitary drives and walks in the woods, they give me pleasure and a sense of security. My world is more efficient and I feel tech-savvy and smarter than I am.
Jobs created a company that respected creativity and the artistic mentality. One of the Apple ads titled, “Think Different,” cheers the “misfits, the crazy ones, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes” who see things differently. “They do not follow rules and do not like the status quo. We disagree with them, vilify them or glorify them but we cannot ignore them.” By being outrageous Jobs did not just put a dent in our reality; he bent it. We may consider him idiosyncratic or crazy to have such a high opinion of himself but he did change our world. And he changed it for the better.
Curious about the world, Jobs was crazy about the details and trusted his intuition with passion. He said, “… It is impossible to connect the dots looking forward but years later when you look backwards it is very, very clear. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” He followed his intuition wherever it took him. He believed this approach had never let him down, that had made all the difference in his life.
He did not pay attention to money when he did not have a penny and did not pay attention to it when he had millions of dollars. He did not let possession, power and position disrupt his life. He said money turns “simple ordinary people into bizarro people.”
In 1984 he was kicked out of his own company. Abandoned at birth, rejected by his coworkers, and forewarned of his own early death suffered a “hole in his heart.” But it also made him authentic to the core with his work and with his family.
Abandonment, rejection and knowledge of his early death did not devastate him. Each time he started his life it was with a fresh mind, with a clean slate. There must have been lightness in his beginner’s heart-mind. Whether it was Apple, NeXT, Pixar or back with Apple, he began each new venture with a Zen mind and he loved it. He said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle…. you’ll know when you find it…. So keep looking.”
His disease helped him understand his own mortality. “Death is our common destination”, he said once, “You are born alone, and you die alone. What do you have to lose?” Follow your heart!
He utilized his approaching death as a tool to help him make the big choices in his life. He said, when he discovered, he had cancer, all external expectations-pride, fear, shame, failure-just fell away. He felt unmasked and ungarbed. Naked! Only the truly important was left which he dealt with whole-heartedly.
Jobs successfully embodied two fundamental Buddhist values for the twenty-first century: wisdom and compassion. His wisdom was to create electronic gadgets for common people and his compassion to make their lives convenient, efficient and fun. As his mission was straightforward his final products shine with Zen-like simplicity. Jobs’ brilliant marketing mind and poetic sensibility-mercurial, compelling, intensely emotional–was driven by the power of perfection and simplicity.
Steve Jobs gave millions my mac, my pod, my pad, my phone and shrewdly labeled them i, i, i. I often wondered why he used “i” as a prefix for all of his inventions. Although I am aware that “i” is the first letter in the word Internet, yet to me, it means something more than a letter. It means something more than “mine,” something deeper, higher. It refers to that soundless voice in all of us, our Self, our “i” that always leads us only if we care to listen. At least that’s what I would like to think.
Did Jobs realize that what his American hero, Walt did to create Disney, he did to create “i” gadgets for his admirers? He filled the hole in our hearts with an eternal “i”? Through his i-ness he will remain in the hearts and minds of all those who are or want to be mindful of their “i.” What a genius! No, something “more than” a genius. Steve Jobs was an iGenius!