Steve Jobs: A businessman or an inspiration?

by Guruprasad

There have been tons of articles written about Steve Jobs in the recent past but the following article particularly caught my attention and is making a lot of rounds in facebook:

I spent some time in introspection and have come up with a reply to the author. Here is my letter:

Dear Mr. Neeraj,

This is with reference to the article which you had written about Steve Jobs not being great nor close to being great. I would like to present you my point of view as follows…

In my opinion, “How you do” is more important than “What you do” (but make sure that whatever you do is legal from the law’s point of view). If everyone on the earth wants to become a philanthropist, where will we have leaders in other fields? :)

For example, in 1930s, if Gandhi also wanted to become like Mother Teresa, we would not have got freedom for several more decades. We needed a Gandhi to move ahead in political field, we needed Mother Teresa to move ahead in the humanitarian field. We need leaders in every field, only then the world will progress in an overall manner. I would say Steve Jobs was the Messiah of the technology industry due to the simple reason that he wanted to bring something to the masses which otherwise would be catering only to the nerds who constitute just 0.01% of the population. Yes, he brought technology to masses and also made money for himself and the origanization. But that was a part of his job and he did his job with utmost dedication. Isnt that what the Gita also say? That doing your job with utmost dedication is what matter rather than the job itself. Can I downgrade a professional executioner just because of the fact that he sends the guilty to gallows which leads to their death? Thats his job. Similarly, when you have an organization, you have employees to feed, shareholders to impress. Your job is to show profit, and thats what Steve did. Can we downgrade him just because he is a businessman?

Technically speaking (from a bird’s eyeview), you are right about his re-packaging of the music player and introducing it as iPod. For that matter, the music player existed even in 1970s and was called Walkman by Sony which by itself was revolutionary. But again, technically speaking, Sony also had repackaged what was already existing i.e the cassette player which again was nothing but a prepackaging and transformation of the Gramaphone player. I can go on recursively but you get the idea :)

Although he must get credit for his innovative repackaging of existing gadgets, it is precisely not that reason we call him great. We call him great because of other reasons which is beyond technology and economics. The reason is philosophical. It has not got to do with how much GB iPod he introduced but it is about how much of inspiration he introduced. It is not about how many billions he added to Apple’s cash reserves, but it is about how much passion he demonstrated in achieving his goals. If Jobs has 80 or 10 billions, it is not going to affect me. But if Jobs shows that even with pancreatic cancer and being on medical leave, you can actively and passionately continue working like as if nothing has happened, it affects me, and it affects me positively.

Come to think of it, such a weak, old man who knows that death would knock him down anytime soon, voluntarily calls for a conference call throughout the day to make decisions about iPad-2. Did he do it out of greed? Making money would be the last thing one would think of in his deathbed. Then what did he do for? Passion and his strive for excellence in whatever he has chosen to do.

When someone overcomes all the barriers to follow his dream and is passionate about it, he automatically becomes a source of inspiration and a role model. The more success he achieves and the wider the audience getting impacted by his work, the more fans he has.
Thats the reason when an inspirational school teacher dies, 100 students mourn, when an inspirational local leader dies, thousands mourn, when an inspirational international leader dies millions mourn. The very fact that the news of Steve’s death triggered a flurry of obituaries on millions of facebook walls shows the extent of his influence on such a wide audience base.

In our world, we have 2 types of poverty. One is financial poverty (the usual poverty we talk about) and the other is mental poverty (lack of confidence, inspiration, faith etc). While some of the philanthropists like Buffet and Gates are helping allievate financial poverty in the world, people like Steve Jobs indirectly have allievated the mental poverty. We can easily see that out of every 100 entrepreneurs, 98 of them consider Jobs as their role model because he has demonstrated that impossible is nothing when you have the passion and dedication. I agree he did all those not for the uplifment of the poor people but to do his business of creating a successful company. But it is these actions which we see and learn from.

For example, in Mahabharata, all the moral lessons we learn is through a violent war which was fought to satisfy their own egos. They did not fight to uplift the poor. Their intentions were just like that of businessmen. Do anything but win the war. However, we learnt a lot of lessons and hence we have the Gita which lifts our spirits in times of confusion/failure/desperation etc. I dont want to compare Lord Krishna with mere mortals like Gates or Steve but you get the idea. Each of them should be seen as a character and their deeds as inspiration for us to take lessons from. If Krishna inspires a billion people to take right decisions during their course of action, Jobs inspires thousands of entrepreneurs. And his dedication to perfection even during his last stages of cancer inspires millions of us to desire for excellence in whatever we try to do.

Maybe if you had always strived for excellence in whatever you do, you would have tried to study a little bit about Steve’s history before coming to such half baked conclusions about him. (I could see you mentioning about iPod/iPhone from 2000s and first Mac from 1980s. Please do a little more research of late 1980s about NeXT & 1990s about Pixar.)

Or maybe you took Steve’s philosophy of “Think Different” very seriously. When everybody is showering respect and tributes, you might have thought about how to think different and downplay him. Anyway, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I dont intend to push my views down your throat. I respect your views because every individual is unique, and so are his views. Whether you think he is great or not is not going to change history..


Note: Those who have a facebook account might find the discussions here interesting: