Monday, October 24, 2011

Posthumous Lessons From Steve Jobs

According to a book I bought a few months ago, one good way to attract interest in a blog and build online community is to get an early scoop on a buzzworthy news story. In spite of this advice, I’ve never been inclined to write about current events here at Unintimidated by Convention. (The book also suggested choosing a short blog title.)

I’m making an exception now because I took genuine interest in an Associated Press story about Steve Jobs. AP reporter Michael Liedtke got an advance copy of Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of Jobs, which was released today, and he wrote about Jobs’s striking animosity toward Google, which he accused of corporate theft. Jobs personally mentored Google CEOs, and their two companies previously enjoyed good rapport. But, according to Isaacson, Jobs later accused Google of stealing their Android mobile phone operating system from Apple, and he declared a willingness to “spend my last dying breath… and every penny of Apple’s $40 billion… to right this wrong.” Clearly, he felt strongly about the issue.

All this is well documented, and I doubt there’s much breadth I can add to the story beyond what Isaacson and Liedtke have already published. But I want to give my personal take on the situation, hopefully adding to its depth in a few areas.

As I read the AP story this morning, two things immediately came to mind. The first was a four-line stanza from “Elegy Written in Country Churchyard,” a beautiful 18th century poem by Thomas Gray:

     The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
        And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
     Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
        The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Indeed. Doesn't matter if you're worth billions, at the head of the decade's most successful company, and revered by countless followers all over the world. When it's your time to go, there's nothing anyone can do about that.

The second thing I thought about as I read was the group of questions raised by Jobs’s accusations and how Apple, Google, and the legal system will respond. Just because Jobs is no longer with us to push the issue does not mean the alleged corporate theft will be ignored. Perhaps Google will be barred from selling any more copies of Android and ordered to pay Apple eleventeen gazillion dollars. Or the two companies will settle on a licensing agreement. Or perhaps someone will prove Jobs’s accusations to be baseless, the offhanded ramblings of a dying paranoid.

I think none of this matters as much as the tender feelings of any one survivor to whom Steve was a son, brother, husband, father, or friend. To them, he is more important than all of his accomplishments combined. But he is no more or less important to them than any retired bus drivers, middle-aged waitresses, or 22-year-old struggling college students are to their respective loved ones.* Another stanza from Gray’s elegy goes like this:

     Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
        Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
     Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
        The short and simple annals of the poor.

I will try to remember that what I do for my family and friends every day is worth more than all the Google Androids in the world, and I hope everyone reading this understands the same is true of their priceless lives. 

This gang is the reason I drag myself to work every day
...and run straight home every night.

* Or a 40-something government employee who sits down with his MacBook three or four times a week to write something on his little blog with a big name—add him to the list.


Love my blog but want more cowbell? Wish I would fall into an abyss, or at least throw my laptop in? Feel I should have chosen 12 pt. Arial instead of 14 pt. Verdana? Comment below! I’m not a mind reader.


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  2. Just was this. It's Steve Jobs sisters' eulogy for Steve.
    Thought you might like it if you haven't seen it.
    Ties in with what you've said above about Steve the Person.

  3. Thanks, what a nice eulogy!

    I knew very little about Steve, but now, having read this, I feel I understand him.

    It sounds like he was very affectionate--like a Romantic poet, but also grounded, humble.