Thursday 6 October 2011

Jobs: He being dead yet speaketh

Ever since I went on telly suggesting Apple was in some sociological respects a religion, people have asked me about Steve Jobs as Messiah. So today’s sad news does call for some comment, perhaps.

This may be time to stop all the clocks and disconnect the telephone, but I do not anticipate a literal resurrection.

Howbeit, quite apart from anything of historic import Mr Jobs may have achieved in his garage with Woz back in the eighties, he did resurrect a corporation.

I sometimes encounter the idolisation of business leadership, even among those appointing vicars. I never quite want to drink this particular kool-aid. When I was a lad the UK had the third or fourth greatest trading economy in the world. Its slippage to the low twenties has to have something to do with the quality of its business leadership since the sixties, that has not always been stellar. The Church hath little need for more of the UK's often class-ridden, stale, vain, self-indulgent business leadership. It’s already riddled with that stuff.

Furthermore what passes for business leadership often turns out to be no more than grumpy old men sounding off about their control fantasies, or low grade Pelagian boasting about their deservings, or saying nice things about a religion that is no more than top dressing for their own greed and prejudices.

Not so Mr Jobs. As well as providing a creative context in which the world’s greatest designers, men like Jonathan Ive, could flourish he did provide genuine moral leadership on occasion, rooted in his own experience, and free for all. In the often murky world of business leadership it shines out, as a Monty Python character once said of Oscar Wilde’s wit and wisdom, like a stream of silver bats’ pee in a dark cave.

So here, in memoriam, are two passages for pondering from Mr Jobs’ famous Stanford Commencement Address:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be
dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart..

Not to labour the point, he went on to discuss his own diagnosis of terminal cancer and say:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

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 important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.


Anonymous said...

A sad day and the loss of a great talent.
Requiescat In Pace.

UKViewer said...

A remarkable life and a remarkable man. Being so self aware and accepting your own mortality and living in that light, seems to be the way we could all live, even if we don't achieve as highly as he did.

He's had a profound effect on so many other lives - but he was just a man, like any other, but with particular gifts.

Just wondering if he was a Christian, even if not, he lived like one.

Revd Michael Johnson said...

A man of unquestionable innovative flair and an inspiring visionary leader. This loss I mourn. But I wish his "moral leadership" had extended to his suppliers and those who build iPhones and iPads in very stressful sweatshops in China. It says something about the way we perceive our world that many shocking truths are obscured by slick promotion of stylish desirables.

Jonathan Jennings said...

the python/wilde quote was

'you shine out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark';

which about sums it up in business terms, though I wish he had done more than feed people's desires to inhabit a beautifully created but nonetheless artificial interior world.

*sighs and reaches for ipod ...

Ann Memmott said...

I've had a number of parents who have children with disabilities who have said that the iPhone/iPad specialised Apps have transformed the lives of their children. They've been able to use them to communicate, to learn about social interaction, to stay safe, to be able to get help when they need it in ways they can manage. It's made a massive difference to their lives. If Steve inspired that work, it's a heck of a legacy in itself.

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