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I feel sad today hearing this.
My first computer was an Atari (thank you Nolan Bushnell), but many of my friends had the venerable Apple II. I bought Apple Stock right out of college. The company was struggling and I felt that it had a great brand, a great history and great potential. Steve Jobs was in exile and did not work there.
Everyone knows that during his return to Apple, the company obtained more cash than the US Treasury
and became the most valuable company in the world.
It’s astonishing what one person has been able to do, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Steve was responsible for this expansion of the company. He’s been an astonishingly bright light in the technology industry, and I think everyone is reacting in shock and is greatly saddened by his comment which reads simply
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
We could see from this letter that this day would come and Steve would succumb to cancer.
We rightly attribute almost superhuman powers to Steve Jobs, and I say rightly because he once ran Pixar and Apple at the same time, both with tremendous success. In his younger years he traveled extensively in India and sought the advice of Gurus. This is well documented here and elsewhere:
While he was at Atari, Steve convinced (Nolan) Bushnell of paying him a trip to India. Atari did pay his trip up to Germany, where he had to work on fixing some Atari machines. Then Steve was joined by his hippie friend from Reed, Dan Kottke, and they went to India in search for enlightenment. They came up pretty disappointed, especially after they met the guru Kairolie Baba, who, as they quickly found out, was a con man.
“We weren’t going to find a place where we could go for a month to be enlightened. It was one of the first times that I started to realize that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Kairolie Baba put together.”
(quoted in Michael Moritz’s The Little Kingdom“)
When Steve came back, he resumed his job at Atari, and would spend some of his days in primal scream therapy sessions or at the Los Altos Zen Center, where he befriended Governor Jerry Brown and his guru Kobun Chino. He also spent several weeks with his girlfriend Chris-Ann and Dan Kottke in a hippie commune in Oregon, the All-One Farm. Here they would cultivate apples and for some time, Steve would eat only that — when he wasn’t fasting, that is.
The word “Guru” Sanskrit गुरु has lots of meanings, and unfortunately in the west it has been associated with the kind of charlatanism that is well documented, above. However, the guru/devotee relationship is an extremely powerful model of teacher. In tradition, the Guru represents an aspect of the divine and essentially becomes a new non-biological parent that the devotee transfers their survival imprint to. This might be a controversial statement and definition, but changing human beings is tough business, and in psychology this kind of imprinting is referred to as transferrence. It provides a means for a student to imprint on a master in order to transform themselves.
When I say “survival imprint” I mean that those under his tutelage felt shock, awe, fear, reverence and many other feelings. He famously “chews out” engineers and other Apple employees who aren’t helping to realize his vision. This was well documented here:
In 2008, MobileMe had some problems out of the gate, and according to a new “Inside Apple” piece that Fortune magazine will publish later this week, that resulted in a sharp reprimand from Apple CEO Steve Jobs, an immediate change in executive leadership for the project, and changes in the team’s membership.
According to the magazine’s sources, Mr. Jobs called the MobileMe team into a town hall meeting in one of Apple’s auditoriums after the service launched with problems and garnered unflattering reviews from noted tech commentators like Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Jobs reportedly asked the assembled engineers and other MobileMe team members, “Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” When one of those employees then volunteered a satisfactory answer, Mr. Jobs followed up with, “So why the fuck doesn’t it do that?”
Steve Jobs did not find his guru in India. However, he became a guru to so many in the technology industry. This kind of leadership doesn’t come often and is clearly transformational.
Was he larger-than-life? Of course he was. So many people projected their fears, dreams, hopes and wrath onto him. Because of this, there are many legendary stories, projections and myths surrounding him.
This led to the creation of “Fake Steve Jobs“:
It’s impossible to say which one’s are true unless you were there (I wasn’t). I had the great pleasure to meet Steve Wozniak, but it was as close as I ever got to Steve Jobs unless you count WWDC.
As the Guru of Apple Computer, then of Apple Inc, he transformed the lives of so many people both inside and outside the tech industry myself included.
It’s extremely poignant to review this video “How to live before you die”
I’m reposting this with edits. This was originally written when he resigned from Apple, but still applicable.