Why I decided to leave Steve Jobs in the past?

I decided to write this note after reading the recent In the Name of Love article by Miya Tokumitsu. Her article confronted one of the most worshipped mantras at work, and to support her viewpoint, she brought in Steve Jobs, also one of the most worshipped business leaders of our times.

But by portraying Apple as a labor of his individual love, Jobs elided the labor of untold thousands in Apple’s factories, hidden from sight on the other side of the planet—the very labor that allowed Jobs to actualize his love.
The fact that my company was founded with a name and mission aspired by his words of connecting-the-dots-when-looking-back urged me to take a stand. I realized I’ve already got it from my meditation teacher, Robert Bridgeman, when he delivered the first Google Search Inside Yourself Program in Ho Chi Minh City.
In one of the mindful journalling exercises, we were asked to list down 3 role models and the characteristics that we admire the most in them. We then found out that what we admire from others are either what we already have, or what we wish to acquire. One of the business leaders in the audience had Steve Jobs as a role model. He asked Robert if he thinks such a strong, dictatorship style is necessary to achieve great results. Robert's answer was a straightforward NO, that it is a dying out leadership style. This was when I had to confront myself with what I truly value in Steve Jobs and why I chose to name my company and follow the dots.
Matter-of-factly in Vietnam, Steve Jobs is worshipped by many people, especially the young and technology savvy generation. In some talks and workshops I did, my audience also mentioned Steve Jobs for his powerful advices such as 'Don't listen to the customers, they don't know what they want', 'Do what you love by loving what you do'... or for his controversial dictatorship style in spite of his being spiritual and vegetarian etc.
It became apparent to me that many things about his life are randomly quoted and/or overly rated mostly because of his huge success and global recognition.
In my personal experiences, there are a few things I’ve learned to separate from his life lessons that I’d like to share:


He is religiously passionate about creating great product designs. He spent younger years searching for it and later years actualizing it with all the resources he got. This is the trait you will find in many people with an urge for creativity and innovation around us. It is very different from taking ‘making a lot of money' or ‘becoming the youngest CEO' as a passion and mistakenly quoting Steve Jobs. What Steve Jobs was able to achieve financially came second to the fact that he put innovation first.



As a sharp-minded and opportunistic person, he was certainly not shy to express what he wanted. When he got hold of the Macintosh prototype, he went ahead and sold it at a price he believed worth, not what the customers were willing to pay for. He repeated this strategy later in many product launches. It became an exemplary story for marketeers and entrepreneurs. It made him a brilliant businessman, not a great leader.

He placed and skillfully portrayed a future value to what he did. To make people follow it, he did not change a thing in himself. The rest of the people around him had to do that, not excluding his family. The way he succeeded was one of the most single-mindedly self-centered and controlled way which we can hardly embrace nowadays. There are as many dark sides to it as the glory sides, but often the glory overwhelm the dark. I understand why Robert said such leadership style is dying out, given all the catastrophes already caused by leaders with the biggest egos of all.



Just like many of us, he managed through many of his ups and downs in life. His search for spirituality is also like many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, seeking to understand the world and its meaning to us or our meaning to it. To this sense, it is very personal and thus ordinary. Being a vegetarian said nothing about being spiritual, for example. Or going to India or practicing a certain ritual. In my experience with the search-inside-yourself journey, I’ve seen that a person can come out of it as someone who lives to give or someone who lives to gain. It both manifests in their work. Now it is my own interpretation of Steve Jobs’ going towards the gaining more and more when looking at the iPhone creation and all the versions and co-creations that follow it. It is thus to me a naive misunderstanding to quote Steve Jobs for awakening, spiritual, following the heart type of leadership and the like.



Now back to the point when I started this note. His speech at Havard was the inspiration for me to set up my company with a 'One Life Connection' mission. However it is also apparent that we all have experienced many dots in our life, some of which we may not choose to connect. So what we then choose to connect say more about our self belief than our reality. It is the story we choose to tell ourselves and others about who we are. I admire the legendary story of Steve Jobs’ life that were told and shared by many people and has inspired them to dare to be different and create innovative things.

Sometimes I still wonder whether Steve Jobs could have transitioned his leadership style had he lived a bit longer. But it’s time to leave him in the past and pursue a one life connection mission that manifest my self belief of sustainable development for our well-being and happiness.

The picture below is an exercise on empathy that we practiced in the SIY program.

This blog is about leadership values, more specifically, the role models whose values we choose to follow. I'm aware that these are rather personal and incomplete points of view about Steve Jobs. As we advance through many changes in life, it's important to keep checking on our values, our goals, our role models. For whatever we choose to follow, Is it because of us, our ego, or a higher cause that drives us to do what we strongly believe in? I hope we all find peace and alignment in the end with our answer.
You can read the full article In the Name of Love here. Highly recommended. 
Date: 22 Jan 2016
Author: Tien Luong

Once a creative advertising copywriter and winning writer of a public contest on the Youth Newspaper, now an aspirational blogger on various topics with a deep passion for life and human potentials. 

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