Steve Jobs, the man who “made us want computers and other products that we didn’t even know we wanted”, passed away on October 5th, 2011. Now his widely anticipated biography has just been released. Excited readers are claiming they want to learn about the personal side of this very private man.
No question that Steve had the drum major instinct. Martin Luther King said: “We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it.”
Perhaps we do not all agree with King that this is a universal human quality but in the genius of one Steve Jobs it was ever evident. Steve Jobs certainly knew how to harness the drum major instinct.
I am writing this blog on my MacBook Air while lecturing in Madeira, Portugal. I will finish and send it off into cyberspace to friends/ colleagues in many countries within a matter of seconds. This is just one of the many products produced by Apple under the iconic leadership of Steve Jobs.
Way back in 1984, I purchased my very first Apple product, which was called the Macintosh 128. I don’t remember if I even knew who Steve Jobs was but I vividly remember the excitement I felt as drove to pick up my very first computer. In that model, all the developers signed their names inside the computer. If only I would have had the foresight to keep that model as I am convinced it would now be a collector’s item.
I have been a loyal and devoted Apple fan ever since and have progressed through various models from the Mac 128, to the 512, to iMac, MacBook Plus, and others. And then of course I expanded to the iTouch, the iPhone, iMovie, iChat, and wanting to learn iEverything!
While lecturing in Shanghai, China in February, 2011, I needed a small problem resolved with my MacBook Air so I ventured out to the Shanghai Apple store. It was an imposing structure on a very busy street corner with the Apple logo in full view. The building is two stories tall with a glass 40 foot circular staircase from the first to second floor. As in North America, the store was packed with eager testers and consumers. The visit to the store was like a going home to a familiar, favorite place. Yes, there was the Genius Bar; the many products in full display for all to try, and all those young, smart employees eager to provide assistance. Everyone in the store was beaming with enthusiasm and energy!
When I told the young man at the Genius Bar that I was not able to access a couple of blogs that I follow, he asked me if I lived in China. I was taken back by his question but soon had it explained that if I lived in China, he could give me a code that would enable me to use the “underground system” of accessing items on the internet that their Government does not allow the general population to obtain. I am guessing that Steve Jobs would be pleased to know that these young people will not allow suspicious, controlling regimes to block their curiosity to surf whatever their wish on the internet. The Drum major instinct has found it’s way to China too.
Also while lecturing in Shanghai, I met a young woman who had changed her career from being a hospital nurse to a nursing editor with a publishing company. I asked her how this change had come to be. She told me that she listened to a talk by Steve Jobs (she pronounced Steve Joooobs) and inquired if I knew of him. I admitted that yes I had heard of him. She told me that he was the CEO of Apple and she listened to a talk by Jobs and he said that you should “follow your heart” to the work that will engage your passion. After hearing his talk, she went to her Supervisor at the hospital the very next day and resigned as a hospital nurse. She had a yearning for writing and publishing and approached her current company and to her great surprise, they hired her on the spot.
I wonder how many others have been inspired by Steve Jobs words and not just the beautifully produced Apple products. But I believe you have to be a drum major first before that kind of weight and credence will be given to your words.
The biographer of his book, Walter Isaacson, stated that Steve Jobs wanted his biography written because he wanted “his children to know him”. Sad statement from a man who was known worldwide and by my new, young colleague in Shanghai but he did not feel known by his children. What triggered his desire for more frequent production of Apple products that were produced at a high personal cost?
Since his passing, we have learned that in addition to the drum major instinct, it was life-threatening illness that drove his passion for innovation and distinction. When he learned that his life would be shortened, despite the best and leading-edge treatment, he let his instincts bear down even deeper to create more phenomenal products.
As he proudly announced each new product in more rapid succession, we witnessed his body becoming thinner and thinner even though camouflaged beneath his “uniform” of black turtlenecks and jeans. What we did not know was that as his illness progressed so did his desire to work longer, work harder, and produce more.
Martin Luther King invoked the drum major instinct was okay if we are guided by being first in love, moral excellence, and generosity. There are many kinds of drum majors and Steve Jobs was certainly a genius in advancing technology that has enabled new ways to show love, new ways of relating to one another,. How many babies have been born and grandparents enjoy a picture in another city or country within minutes of the birth via iPhone and iPhoto?
Thank you Steve for following your drum major instinct and for the countless hours of enjoyment I have had with your products. We hope that your children will come to understand, if they don’t already, (and forgive If need be) that it was life-threatening illness that drove you to step up the pace of your own personal parade as a drum major and offer the world your incredible brilliance!
What area of your life would you like to be more of a drum major and “be first in love, moral excellence, and generosity” but without the personal cost when harnessed by a life-threatening illness?