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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Spirit of Steve Jobs

The artist as a young man

 Marcus T Anthony's new web site and blog can be found at:

Like many people I was shocked at the timing of Steve Jobs’ passing. In this post I am going to make a few somewhat dispersed points about this recent event.

When very famous and influential people die there is always an effect on the collective consciousness of humanity, albeit often a small one. In particular, individual egos will feel a slight increase in fear as the realisation of mortality deepens. The function of the ego is basically to keep you alive, so it’s no surprise that this is the case.

My sense is that the reason Job’s death has had such a strong impact is because of what he represents. He is the quintessential baby-boomer, born in 1955. Yet his influence transcends that generation to deeply effect generations X and Y. The mediator is of course, technology, and the Apple products that have become such a striking component of many people’s lives. Such has been his influence on the company, that Apple and Steve Jobs’ the man are sometimes difficult to separate.

Steve Jobs was a creative genius, and that genius has now gone from this world. This for me, and I suspect for many others, is one of the salient features of this entire event. For our power to take ideas and turn them into things lies at the very heart of the human experience. But now the mind that made Apple has passed. This is something of a shock to the ego, which likes to think of itself as immortal. The reality is that time waits for no man or woman, and that even the greatest expressions of human intelligence will soon be gone. It’s a humbling thought.

One of my prime interests as a researcher, futurist and thinker is in the way that people make decisions. In Discover YourSoul Template I write about how important it is to have the courage to follow your heart, to listen to the spirit within and then let that guide you through life. Steve Jobs was a man who very much agreed with this concept. In his famous speech at Stanford in 2005, he stated exactly this. 

Jobs dropped out of college because he did not like what he was studying. Instead he began taking courses that interested him. This included a calligraphy course that would ultimately inspire him when he came to design the various fonts for the first Macintosh computer.

Jobs’ intuitive decision making demonstrates another peculiarity of intuitive radicals. The actual outcomes of decisions are unknown, and may not become clear for many years.

"Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."

There is a tendency today to allow experts and impersonal machinery to make decisions for us. Indeed the later is becoming more and more of an issue, and increasingly invisible. Steve Jobs did not let the opinions of experts, including marketing experts, overrule his own intuitions about what creative directions to take. If he felt something was right, he overrode the experts’ authority and went with his gut instincts. This was not always successful. Apple brought forth a few products that flopped, such as Apple TV. But in the long run, Jobs’ brilliant intuitions and management style created the second biggest company in the world. I reckon that is something worth celebrating at this time.

One of the things about Job’s story that I find inspiring is the fact that he bounced back from adversity, and he did so quickly and successfully. In 1985 he was fired as Apple CEO, something that hurt him very deeply.

“I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods in my life."

During his absence from Apple he invested heavily in Pixar, the Disney animation company, and he helped produce animation classics like Toy Story. Then, ten years after his being fired, Jobs’ was invited back as Apple CEO, and the rest is history. The way Jobs rebounded should be an inspiration to all those who have ever failed or been rejected. It is easy to take such things very personally, and allow the slings and arrows outrageous fortune dim the spirit within. Steve Job’s life inspires us with the courage to keep going with our dreams, even when things look grim.

It is notable what Steve Jobs said in his Stanford speech, about the dark days after his being fired.

"I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did."

Finding what you love to do and then expressing it is a fundamental part of expressing the spirit within. Steve Jobs knew this intuitively.

Jobs was always something of a radical. He was no left-brained mechanist. In his youth he experimented with hallucinogens. He later became a pescetarian, eating no meat but fish. In his later days he had a strong interest in Buddhism. Skeptics might point out that this did not prevent him from dying of cancer, but this would be to miss the vital point that these were life choices which reflected his values and commitment to them.

But what was most important to this creative genius whom some have compared to Thomas Edison and da Vinci? It was his family. He once told a close friend that having his four children was ten thousand times more fulfilling than his Apple endeavors. That is something to ponder as we reflect on the importance of his life.

 Steve and his spouse, Laurene Powell

Rather poignantly, the last part of his Stanford speech was about death, and perhaps the words of Jobs that I find most deeply inspiring are the following. They remind us that Job’s death, while a time to feel the grief that allows us to let go and move on, also invites us to consider what it means to be fully alive.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice."



  1. Simple but profound truths, Marcus. I suppose there must have been elements of love for humanity (because of the gifts he gave us) and strong ego (the desire to compete and achieve) in Steve Jobs. Do you think he had more ego than most of us lesser achievers, or more love - or both? Anyway, we can all learn something from his example. R.I.P.

  2. I don't know enough about him to say whether he had less or more 'ego'. But he was determined and committed to what he did, and had great self-belief. I think any person like that needs to be at least a little bloody-minded. After all, any time someone pushes the boundaries there are going to be many naysayers who tell you not to do it, or that it can't be done. Like they say, there are always a thousand reasons why anything should not or cannot be done. For some though, all they need is ONE good reason to forge ahead.