I read an article when Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO about how he met the designer who created the Mac Books shown above and other innovatively designed products. When they met, Steve had just returned to Apple. This designer was working in a small office in the basement with no funding or support. Steve looked at his designs and saw the way to move the company forward. Look at the picture above – and although staged – it shows how revolutionary these products were.
I thought about this today when I read this article by Dan Mitchell of SF Weekly – R.I.P. Steve Jobs, an Insanely Great Capitalist. Here are some excerpts:
As I write this, many of my Facebook friends are expressing their profound sadness, and actually issuing “thanks” to Steve Jobs, who died on Wednesday. I’m feeling the same way.
It is astonishing that such sentiments can be felt, at this moment in history, about the CEO of any American corporation. But Jobs has been astonishing us for decades, and through his products and his legacy, he will continue doing so for decades to come.
What’s more astonishing still is that Jobs can evoke such feelings despite the fact that he could be, well … kind of a prick. That’s another of his legacies. In recent decades, we’ve finally come to fully realize that even pricks can do great things, because we are all, to one degree or another, pricks.
Wealth, fame, and power are shallow goals, pursued by shallow people. What Jobs taught us is that greatness should be the goal, and maybe those other things will follow and maybe they won’t. He sometimes treated people terribly — employees, corporate partners, even customers sometimes. By itself, his bad behavior wasn’t laudable. But at least it was mainly in the interest of creating (or defending) great products. If your interest is in wealth, fame, or power for their own sake, few people outside your family will be posting weepy tributes to you on Facebook when you die.
A few paragraphs later he pivots to talking about the Occupy Wall Street protests (you didn’t think I could do a post without mentioning it did you?).
Lots of pricks have been making fun of the Occupy Wall Street people. In doing so, they concocted what they thought might sound like a legitimate reason for their criticism (as opposed to just ridiculing hippies, which was their real aim): The lack on the part of the protesters of any specific “demands.”
But they do have demands, even if those demands are somewhat amorphous and even if the protesters aren’t so great at defining what they are demanding. Their demands are that we stop pursuing these shallow goals and, as a society, start pursuing something more meaningful. In general, the Occupy people aren’t calling for an overthrow of the capitalist system; they’re calling for the greedheads, the famewhores and the powermongers to be stripped of their outsized influence over our culture, our government, and our economy. They’re calling on us to reshape our values. To have values. To care. The details of reforming, say, the financial system, the economy or the government would naturally follow from that.
By creating Insanely Great products, Jobs and Apple achieved success. As Mitchell points out, there is nothing wrong with this.
But few begrudged either Jobs or Apple for their wealth, because their priority wasn’t to get rich — it was to achieve Insane Greatness. Getting rich was a byproduct. That’s how capitalism should work.
Please take the time to read the whole article. It is a great reminder of why Steve Jobs mattered and maybe a way forward for the rest of us.