Role Models & Heroes: Steve Jobs (2014)

By May 21, 2014 November 15th, 2018 Bnei Mitzvah, Heroes & Role Models
The following essay on Steve Jobs was written by Andre Schoolman, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; an example of this can be seen below. The process  improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as his/her self confidence and overall maturity.

Andre Schoolman
May 10, 2014

I like to “think different.” I like math, building things, taking things apart, seeing how things work. There was someone else who “thought differently,” and because of him, everywhere we go today, almost everything we do has been touched by him, my hero/ role model. Life would be very different if it hadn’t been for the unorthodox genius of Steve Jobs.

We know him as the face of Apple Computers, but his reach has gone farther than that. Not only was he a businessman, but he was a visionary, inventor and creator. He once said that he looks at where things are going, not where they have been.

As an individual, he was very “flawed,” which means that he was like us all – he had his strong points and what we as outsiders can call personal failings. Again, as with us all, how he did his job and how he related to other people was very complicated and I’ll get to that later.

But his legacy is his creativity and intelligence, and I bet if I met him I would want to get to know him. How could you not want to get to know a person whose ability to “think differently” led to such amazing changes in the four or so decades since he tinkered with computers in his parents’ garage? I believe this because when I look around in the subway, or on the street, or even as we get out from school, I see people having a great time with something that he created. That’s why I’m thinking, “What would the world have been like without Steve Jobs?”

Other than my obvious obsession with anything touch-screen and computer-oriented, one of the main reasons I picked Steve Jobs as my role model was that if he had an idea he did not let it fade away into oblivion. He made it into reality. That is what I wish to do when I grow up.

The second main reason I chose Steve Jobs as my role model occurred to me when I read this quote by him: “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

This is what I think of when I think of Steve Jobs – he was someone who explored what he wanted to explore, thought about how his products would affect other people and despite sometimes hurting people along the way, he ended up using his imagination and creativity to change the way we live. He didn’t play down the importance of what he did. Here’s something he said: “What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

Many things that we look at these days have in some way been directly or indirectly affected by Steve Jobs. For example, when you use your Smartphone, something everyone but me, it seems, has. Or, the Ipad, to read or play games while riding on the subway. Any touch screen when you go into a restaurant, a store, the doctor’s office. The touch screen, the instant access to the Internet. Even when my mom asked a policeman for an address, he took out his Smartphone. Everywhere. I don’t even know what life was like before devices that had Steve Jobs’ imprint. I also have Steve Jobs to thank for some of my favorite movies, thanks to Pixar, the animation company he funded – The Incredibles, Toy Story, Finding Nemo….

Jobs seemed to “think different” from the get go. Maybe relevant, maybe not, he was adopted. He didn’t respond well to authority, something an author called “his refusal to be corralled by the status quo.” Here’s a bit of his biography.

He was born on Feb. 24, 1955 and was immediately adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. At age 30, he met his birth mother and sister, who’s a famous writer.

At age 12, he got his first job at computer maker Hewlett-Packard after calling the owner.

When he was 19, he went to India to find enlightenment and became a Buddhist.

He died of pancreatic cancer on Oct. 5, 2011. At his death, he was listed as either primary inventor or co-inventor of 342 patents, from the Mac and iPads, to the glass staircases in the Apple stores, to the packaging of the iPhone box.

Like other late bloomers, for example, Einstein who supposedly didn’t speak until age five and spent his time as a patent clerk, Jobs wasn’t a great student. But his parents indulged his interest in computers by letting him build things in their garage. By 19, in 1974, he had dropped out of college and gotten a job at Atari, the electronic games company. Atari founder Nolan Bushnell said in a new book that Jobs dressed like a slob, was difficult to get along with and offended some of the Atari employees so much that he was asked to work at night when no one else was around. I don’t think Jobs minded. I think this gave him the means and opportunity to let his “different” thinking blossom even more.

Jobs used his experience at Atari to help mold the new culture of Apple, which he and childhood pal Steve Wozniak started in 1976. He used some Atari pieces in their earliest Apple computers. Jobs wanted to make work seem like play, as it was at Atari. There were pizza and beer parties and beach get togethers. It was also expected that Apple employees would work 24-7, just like Jobs did.

Jobs not only wanted to change technology, he wanted to change design. He studied calligraphy, and this helped in his designs of all of his devices. Most importantly, he wanted to create a club for the different thinkers who reshaped society. He wanted the Apple users to be the coolest people around. When the “Think Different” ad campaign came out in the late 1990s, its stars were Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, and Amelia Earhart, people who Steve Jobs considered visionaries.

Jobs had his own role models. One was Land, who created Polaroid Corp., and also created night vision goggles, bombs and target finders. Dylan was a role model because he used words for creative thinking. And also the Beatles – “four people who kept each other’s “negative tendencies in check,” showing that, “Great things in business are never done by one person, they are done by a team of people.”

As Humanistic Jews, we speak a lot about values. So, what were Steve Jobs’ values and how did they affect his life and his legacy?

Creativity: As “Star Wars” creator George Lucas said, “he saw the true potential in everything he touched and never compromised on that vision.” Apple, Macs, Ipad, Ipods…..the list goes on. He had the idea, and while he may not have built the item himself, he was able to get people to build and design computers and other items based on his visions. Finally, he had a thought to change the world, and so he created (or designed) things that seemed like they came from science fiction, like computers and Internet based technologies.

Honesty: Maybe Steve Jobs was too honest. He told people what he thought and sometimes was very harsh. He had fights with people at Atari, Microsoft and even Apple Corporation, which fired him in 1985.

Far from perfect on a personal level, he was said to be a negative person and when it came to friends, he also betrayed people. In one huge example, when he and Steve Wozniak were creating the first Apple computers, he took all of the credit even though Woz, as his friends called him, really was the designer. On the day Steve Jobs died, he took a walk with Woz and when his friend was tired, and said let’s go back, Steve Jobs didn’t listen and kept going.

He denied having fathered a daughter until the mother of the girl went public. Then he acknowledged the girl, and later named a computer after her, the Lisa.

You could say one of his values was bragging: He appeared to have a huge ego, or as you’d say, was full of himself. He was personally selfish and a bragger. He said about iTunes, for example, “This is landmark stuff. I can’t overestimate it.” He also thought of himself as a leader and told other people that to be successful, “don’t be a follower, be a leader.”

In conclusion, Steve Jobs to me was a person who had amazingly creative thoughts and did great things. He helped create and design technologies that are so much a part of our lives today that a whole generation does not know what life was like before touch screens and “i” anything. He is my role model because he didn’t just have an imagination, but he put it to work. There is no other person that I believe fulfills this role besides him. And again, I say: “ where would the world be without Steve Jobs?”