Saturday, August 17, 2013

Steve Jobs, Ashton Kutcher--a bridge too far...

The reviews are starting to creep in and it seems to be a universal opinion that Ashton did a yeoman's job in his attempted portrayal of the man who literally changed the face of our tech and entertainment worlds. Unfortunately, however, Ashton's (and, more likely, the filmmakers') attempt fell short.
This author has not yet seen the movie but this blog is not intended to focus on the film so much as to discuss exactly what magical ingredient is it that Jobs possessed, and what is it that left such a void after his passing. Does anyone know?
Maybe we could first touch on Steve Jobs the person. Contrary to many of the things we have all heard, Steve Jobs was neither a villain nor a saint, and his personal life was littered with as many failed relationships as it is was filled with life-long, loyal friendships.
Regarding his first child, Lisa Brennan-Jobs who was born in 1978, Jobs denied being her father for two years while Chrisann Brennan, a Bay Area painter, raised their infant daughter on welfare.  A paternity test ultimately proved that Jobs was not sterile, as he had claimed throughout the legal battle, and that he was Lisa's biological father.
After his death, Lisa Brennan-Jobs described her father, Steve, as the glue that held their family together. Obviously, this means that any past transgressions have been forgiven, which rings true given that she was invited (and accepted) to live with him and her three siblings when she was a teenager.
In 1991, Jobs married Laurene Powell, who birthed their son Reed six months later. In 1995 and 1998, respectively, Erin and Eve became Steve's third and fourth children. Steve's entire family, including his sister Mona (whom he never knew until they were adults because he was given up for adoption before she was born) remember the family workaholic with great respect, fondness, and love.
In short, Steve was a good husband, father, and brother but, nevertheless, simply a man. Neither better nor worse than others.
So that leaves us still wondering: What was it about Steve Jobs that will be discussed, studied, and eulogized for decades and centuries to come? What exactly made this otherwise normal man rise to the level of icon and, dare we say, legend?
We live in a world filled with skeptics that have heard too many sales pitches and seen too many false advertisements to trust hardly anyone. So when Steve Jobs pitched real computer achievements that were even better than advertised, people began to notice.
To be clear, Apple was not a first, second, or even third-time success. It was a company that rode some decent highs and some pretty bad lows until 1985, which was when Jobs fell prey to a corporate coup that led to his removal from nearly all aspects of day-to-day Apple business and ultimately caused him to resign five months later.
After his resignation (an event that Jobs would later refer to as "being fired") Jobs founded NeXT in 1985. Because he cut all Apple ties in anger and short-changed himself in doing so, it wasn't long before Steve's wealth (a seven million investment in the new company) started to run out.

Enter billionaire Ross Perot, a man who believed less in NeXT the company than he did in this young entrepreneur who boiled with such passion. Ultimately, NeXT was to build the computer used to invent the World Wide Web at CERN.

In a sweet irony, in 1997 Apple purchased the successful NeXT company, which by that time had become a software-only designer. It's WebObjects programing became the basis for what would become MobileMe and the Apple and iTunes Stores.

In the meantime, starting also in 1985, Jobs had become deeply ensconced in a new movie venture called Pixar, which led to a string of hugely successful movies and ultimately to its all-stock sale to Disney in 2006. This sale not only solidified Jobs' profile on Forbes' Richest People in the World list, it also gave Steve ownership of 7% of Disney's stock, making him by far that company's largest stockholder (Roy E. Disney, by comparison, had a stake of only 1%).
It's time to recollect that we were attempting to define exactly what it was that made Steve Jobs such a successful businessman and icon to millions. It is likely that we have already stumbled across the answer, but maybe we should step back to that ironic NeXT sale to Apple to best illustrate the Steve Jobs "something" that turned out to be everything.
In 1997, when Apple purchased Steve's NeXT company, it also welcomed its co-founder back into the fold. A few months later, he again rose to the level of CEO and the projects and personnel bloodbath that followed is the stuff of nightmares and legends.
It is right around this time, as Steve Jobs rose from the ashes, that his laser-like vision and devotion to perfection became evident. Steve was no longer a drifter on the high seas of silicon valley, he was instead one of its captains, and this time he knew it.
Steve had for the previous two years already been riding his Pixar employees to a state of fear and perfection, and now he started to do the same with everyone at Apple. Projects and people who were not pushing the company to greater heights were thrown overboard as surely as those more successful, vision-supporting efforts were coddled and rewarded.
We don't need to relive every success that followed, which were myriad and continuous, but we do have to recognize that Steve Jobs 2.0 brought to the table a vision so strong that it literally seeped from the pores of his employees and from the company itself. For years, tech enthusiasts became glued to every word that Steve Jobs spoke, and the reason was simply that Apple's (and Pixar's) product releases always met or exceeded every expectation that their captain had publicly established. If Steve Jobs said you can expect something amazing in two, three, or four months, it happened, and it usually caused jaws to drop to the floor when it did.
Compare that with Tim Cook today. Has he ever inspired anyone with any single word or phrase?
Now, let's not make this a pile onto the poor billionaire event, but suffice it to say that Tim Cook spends most of his time dodging questions about what Apple is or isn't doing. And when he's not dodging, he's usually setting the audience up for low-expectations, of which Apple usually goes on to fall short.   
So the Steve Jobs void is two- or maybe three-fold: we miss his unfaltering vision of a bright and beautiful technological future; we miss his simultaneous ability to lead his companies to that exacting level of achievement; and, most of all, we miss the knowledge that no matter the storms or condition of the sea, our captain would always take us there.
R.I.P. Steve Jobs. We will continue to remember.
If you'd like to learn more about Jobs, Ashton Kutcher's new movie, click here:



  1. Steve Jobs and Ashton K. Were born in the same month by the way! And Jobs story teaches us that we ordinary men can rise to be Icons. Ike Pius

    1. Ike, I love the sentiment and really do agree. Steve always had tremendous vision, but when Apple floundered and effectively forced him out of the company, he was wounded to the core...and that hurt forced him to go out and learn the skills to truly implement his visions. In short, he was an average guy who got better when the trials of life forced him to find something extra within himself.

      Unfortunately, the Jobs movie got this part very wrong. The movie is about the first part of his career at Apple, when he was not a particularly effective leader. The script, however, presents him as super-effective at that early stage in his career. Either the script should have been more truthful about his limits and interactions with coworkers at that younger age, or they should have made the movie about the latter part of his career when he was, in fact, nearly superhuman in his ability to get things done.

      Thanks so much for popping by :-)

  2. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)


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