Understandably we live in a cynical world, and cynics often times like to point out the fact that Steve Jobs sold overpriced products to enrich himself, that he exported American jobs to China, that he was not very active in donating his money, and that he turned a blind eye to poor labor conditions in the factories that made his products. Almost nobody, no matter how great they are can make an impact in life without offending or upsetting someone. However, I am confident that Steve Jobs absolutely made the world a better place and it demonstrates that one can make the world a better place by pursuing profits with the inadvertent consequence of enriching humanity.
Although I never met Steve Jobs, he had an indelible impact on my life. My father is a bit of a visionary in his own rights and as a father in his mid-30’s he was captivated by Apple’s commercials. Despite the fact that my family came from a humble background, my father felt that if he could purchase a computer with his middle class civil servants salary, that the computer would provide his son with boundless opportunities.
So my father went out and purchased an Apple IIe when I was only 3 or 4 years old. Because of my father’s foresight I started using a computer 5 to 10 years before most of my peers, even much earlier than many of my peers that came from wealthy families. I remember that I turned in my first book report in the 2nd grade typed out neatly on several pages of printer paper. All of my classmates turned in their book reports handwritten, and in fact it was the first time my 2nd grade teacher had received a typed report.
Steve Jobs had succeeded in his goal, which is that he made an interface so simple and engaging that even a 4 year old boy could use his product. That Apple IIe sparked my life long interests in computers. I never had the aptitude to become a programmer, but the computer helped me to quickly type out school assignments, which was a crucial aid in speeding up my school work despite my challenges with ADD. The computer was the source of hours of countless entertainment when I played simple games such as Dr. J Vs. Larry Bird, and Robocop, but then later graduated to games that truly challenged my mind such as Civilization.
My first experimentation with entrepreneurship was when my friend and I started a company designing websites for small businesses when I was 15 years old. My first job was also because of a computer. I helped my grandparents input their invoices for their small business into a computer based accounting program. When I graduated from high school in 1998 my parents again looked to the future and splurged on an IBM laptop. It wasn’t an Apple product but our family’s previous positive experience with computers via the Apple encouraged my family to continue to invest in computers. Again I was sort of ahead of the curve with technology as very few of my classmates at UC Berkeley had laptop computers in 1998 (by the time I graduated everyone had laptops). My computer allowed me to take notes in class, and isolate myself in the library with my computer at my side (again excellent ways for me to combat ADD).
My first job in college was helping one of the university publications to develop their website. I received investment from an angel investor for an Internet start-up company that I founded, and when I lost all of the angel investors money and found myself in personal debt, I went to work for a retail store that sold computers.
I started my company relying on what I knew best, which was the computer and the Internet. I built our company’s first website and began finding customers by using Google Adwords. The Internet has been a crucial part of our business. Our IT platform that I developed with my team of programmers far surpasses any of our competitors in the embroidered patches, embroidered caps, and woven labels industry (not that I am really bragging here, because I understand that these are very small niche markets, but still).
The personal computer has truly enriched my life, and the reason that I never put the computer down 26 years ago was because of a man I will never meet, Steve Jobs. He made a computer that was easy enough for a 4 year old boy to use.
I have read a lot about Steve Jobs. Some of the lessons I already had learned and they just reinforced what I already knew, such as pursuing what you love to do, following your intuition, no matter what you do, do it perfectly and keep an eye out for detail. I also learned knew lessons from the stories that I read about Steve Jobs, such as the importance of design and simplicity.
In a lot of ways I am like Steve Jobs. I have lived my life against the grain, and I have followed my own inner voice towards the path of success and happiness, and rarely listened to others. But Steve Jobs was a lot more successful at 30 than I am, and I think it was because Steve Jobs was more focused than me and wasted less time than I did. He has reminded me that our time here on Earth is short, and that every minute should be spent in the pursuit of perfecting whatever it is that we decide to pursue.
Steve Jobs wasn’t great philanthropist, but I think he has demonstrated that someone can pursue profits and still do good and perhaps even have a greater impact than a humanitarian that does not pursue profits. As the proverb goes “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Steve Jobs created millions of jobs both directly, through his companies and through the vendors that supported his companies. And he also created millions of jobs by inspiring entrepreneurs such as myself who later went on to collectively employ millions.
Steve Jobs was a great American icon, someone I am proud to say is my countryman, and he will always inspire me. RIP Steve Jobs.