What drives Steve Jobs?

Recent news gets one wondering why was Bill Gates able to walk away from his business while Steve Jobs just can't?

I've never died, but I can't imagine it to be a terribly enjoyable experience.

So I can't imagine why death's proximity might encourage someone to go on working until they are grimly reaped.

That seems to be the case with Steve Jobs, however. His work seems to be his life. The Apple logo seems to be his heart. And, even with several bites taken out of his health, he appears to want to carry on being Apple until he enters the second life.

The hopeful, perhaps mythical one, rather than the virtual one.

After his pancreatic cancer surgery in 2005, Jobs gave a speech to Stanford University students who were about to embark on their own journeys through life's inequities.

He told the audience: "Remembering I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

"You know, Steve, it's only gadgets." CC Joi/Flickr

I was always told by those who claimed to know (which would be people at Microsoft) that Bill Gates was an obsessive, ruthless automaton whose need to crush all before him (in a business sense) was limitless.

Yet somehow this supposed machine in a man's body decided to unplug his working life at Microsoft while he still had his health and to dedicate himself to philanthropic pursuits. He even managed to laugh at his own supposedly cold persona in a couple of excellent ads for his old company.

It all makes one wonder whether Gates would have bothered to return to work, if a life-threatening illness had befallen him.

Some might say that when he walked into a calming sunset, Gates had nothing left to prove, while Jobs still has.

To which my question would be: "What?" He's been largely responsible for directing technological innovations beyond many people's imaginations. But much as one might love what he has created, at heart these are only gadgets.

They cure nothing but boredom. They take time just as much as they make it. And while they help people communicate with each other, they also contribute to helping people be a little more obsessed with their beautiful selves.

Is spending your time creating another lovely gadget as valuable, as enjoyable, as satisfying as, say, wafting up Mount Kilimanjaro? Is it as challenging as waking up in the morning, looking out at the dawn and having no idea what you might do today?

Of course, now that Jobs has been declared healthy, the worldly and the wise have felt free to write of his supposedly old-fashioned, dictatorial management style, even, in the same Harvard Business Publishing article, his utterly disrespectful attitude to parking.

At the core, though, is one man's heartfelt need to continue making gadgets. You can call it art. You can call it obsession. You can call it madness. Perhaps it's all three.

 

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