View from US: Sunset on Silicon Valley
In a little while you will be alone in shoreless space, to wander its limitless solitudes without friend or comrade forever… for you will remain a thought, the only existent thought, and by your nature inextinguishable, indestructible
— Mark Twain
Steve Jobs will come alive tomorrow. His autobiography based on 50 exclusive interviews over the past two years with Walter Isaacson, former editor of Time, is set to unravel his “passions, demons, desires, artistry, devilry and obsession for control.” When diagnosed with terminal cancer, the Apple co-founder authorised his biography because “I wanted my kids to know me,” he told Isaacson the very last time they met. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
Pity the father of this icon. Few know of the 80-year-old Syrian, Abdulfattah Jandali. Instead, the name that will live is ‘Jobs.’
Paul and Clara Jobs “were my real parents,” declared their adopted son, shutting tight the lid on his birth, Arab roots, religion and adoption. But what draws us to Jobs is his Arabian DNA writ all over his handsome face and the tale of a brother in search of his real sister, only to discover that she is the best-selling novelist, Mona Simpson. The filial bond snapped when the sister bid farewell to her famous brother on his deathbed.
Four years ago I saved a column written by Steve Jobs. I did not own an Apple. I did not know who Steve Jobs was. Yet ‘Purple Patch: Looking for love’ hit my gut right away. So did his photo — that certain smile lighting up his dancing eyes radiating energy. Steve guarded his privacy and rarely shared the magic he wielded. Himself a college dropout, he gave a stirring commencement speech to the students at Stanford University in 2005, after diagnosed with the killer pancreatic cancer. For once he opened himself up to let the world in and know more of the man who preferred to talk of his products instead of himself.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
He then told the students that he was lucky to find what he loved to do early in life. His partner Steve Wozniak and he started Apple in Jobs parents’ garage when he was 20. “We worked hard and in ten years, Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We’d just released our finest creation, the Macintosh, a year earlier, and I’d just turned 30, and then I got fired.”
The geek he hired to run the company staged a coup against Jobs. “What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating,” he told the students. Very much in love with computers, Jobs decided to start all over again. He’d been rejected but he was still in love with computers.
“Sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith… Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.” It freed him to enter one of the most creative periods of his life.
“You’ve got to find what you love, and that is as true for work as it is for your lovers,” he said standing on the Stanford University stage with the sun lighting up his face. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it, and like any great relationship it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”
So keep looking; don’t settle, he urged. “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Sure enough, Apple asked him to return.
Many mourn him today and will miss him terribly. The New York Times wonders whether there will be anyone at Apple with the “imagination to pluck brilliant, previously unthinkable visions out of the air — and the conviction to see them through with monomaniacal attention to detail?” It gives the answer itself: “The odds are zero.” Few, says NYT, have the “courage, energy, staying power to swim upstream, against the currents of social, economic and technological norms, all in pursuit of an unshakable vision.”
Steve Jobs, 56, did not invent the Mac or the wonderful gadgets that followed. But he visualised them and inspired a team of engineers, artists and technocrats to realise his vision. Never accepting ‘no’ for an answer, Steve’s dream of creating style and beauty even if it cost more, was his hallmark to fame. It was in his genes. When asked by Fortune magazine 11 years ago if design was an “obsession” with him, Steve said that most people think design means veneer. “It’s interior decorating,” he continued. “It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
He may not be around but his words and images will stay long before another Steve Jobs comes along, if ever.