Saturday, August 27, 2011

Paul Hsieh's Tribute to Steve Jobs

By now most people have heard the news that Steve Jobs has stepped down as Apple CEO. In that regard, I want to call attention to an excellent tribute to him published in the American Thinker. It is by Dr. Paul Hsieh of FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine).

In this piece, entitled Thank You, Steve Jobs, Hsieh draws on actual quotes by Jobs from an article in the Wall Street Journal. He concludes with this moving tribute:

So in the spirit of Atlas Shrugged, I'd like to thank you, Steve Jobs, for all the value you've added to my life. I know you did it for yourself, not for me -- and it is for that I thank you.

Why the reference to Atlas Shrugged? Let me first offer the passages Hsieh quotes, and then some.

* “We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

* “This is what customers pay us for–to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it. Take desktop video editing. I never got one request from someone who wanted to edit movies on his computer. Yet now that people see it, they say, ‘Oh my God, that’s great!’”

* “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

* “The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are.

“So when these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they’re gypping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their newfound wealth in perspective.”

* “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

* “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Do you recognize a particular sense of life? Hsieh cites Steve Wozniak, Job’s Apple co-founder, from TNW:

Despite times when Apple was in financial and structural turmoil, Wozniak believes Jobs’ speed of thought and endless drive helped the company move forward, believing that he may have adopted the ethos of the hard working, never failing Hank Reardon in Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged.

“Steve was very fast thinking and wanted to do things, I wanted to build things. I think Atlas Shrugged was one of his guides in life”

Ayn Rand is getting a lot of attention these days, primarily for her politics but increasingly for her radical new moral theories. But what gets lost in the shuffle is that Rand considered her body of ideas “A Philosophy for Living on Earth”. That philosophy, Objectivism, is first and foremost a set of principles to guide the individual in the pursuit of a flourishing life of his own.

It is not surprising then that Steve Jobs could have been inspired by one of Ayn Rand’s fictional heroes. It is also not surprising that so many millions have benefited from his work. As Hsieh implicitly points out in his closing statement, people pursuing their own dreams for their own benefit is the source of general well-being.

But Objectivism is not just a philosophy for productive giants. It is a philosophy for everyone.

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