Steve Jobs said we are here to make a dent in the Universe.
Given the size and longevity of the Universe, that may be asking too much, but Jobs certainly made a dent in his time. The success of the iPhone and iPad means his influence on the human race is at its height at the time he leaves it. He has transformed the way tens of millions live and work. Unlike the great statesmen and leaders who make the same claim, he has done so without coercion; instead he has provided them with things they believe improve their lives.
He also leaves a story. This story may prove a more enduring legacy than any of his proverbially transient products. How its most unlikely hero became successful should give hope to everyone, especially to those who seek to follow him into entrepreneurship. Aspects of the story now seem like clichés, so it is hard for us today to imagine how difficult it must then have been to do what had never been done before.
He was born into the hippie counter-culture in San Francisco. This might seem the worst possible start for a successful career in corporate America, but it gave Jobs two advantages that most of his better-connected and better-educated contemporaries lacked: first, he developed an unconventional way of looking at things which proved particularly useful in developing an entirely new industry from scratch; second, he grew up without the usual sense that he had to ask someone else’s permission before he did something.
An unpromising child and then a college drop-out, he developed an interest in emerging computer technology and began networking with fellow geeks through the “Homebrew Computer Club” – the name says it all. Through sheer nerve and dogged persistence, he obtained an order from a local computer shop, and only then got the necessary parts, using the order to obtain credit.
...And, yes, he really did start Apple Computer in the garage of his parents’ house!
It must be said that his lack of a solid business background did come back to haunt him later, when he was forced out of his own company by a board room coup. However, he used his time of exile to develop a broader understanding of the corporate world, and returned to Apple stronger than ever. The last decade of his life was his most successful. Nevertheless when his i-Pad is forgotten, it may be the story of his garage that is remembered. It should be.