Amidst all the encomiums and panegyrics to Steve Jobs over the last week, the most notable thing to me was a celebration of Steve Jobs as an almost religious artistic entrepreneur.
While Jobs is certainly a great and seminal American businessman, very much the equal of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford , or Bill Gates, he also clearly thought of himself as an artist. Bob Rice, General Managing Partner of Tangent Capital Partners, in an interview on Bloomberg (10/6/11), speaks of Jobs as “living at the intersection of art and technology.” Indeed, Jobs defined himself specifically in terms of art. At his speech introducing the iPad in 2010, Jobs defined Apple’s success in the following words: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.” That very verbiage is the language of the poet. His lifework is as much that of the auteur as of the entrepreneur.
An artist illuminates and helps us understand the truth of existence in a way not unlike that of a religious thinker. l think great entrepreneurs are imbued with this sense, even if not explicitly acknowledging it, as Jobs has done.
“What comes to mind now is a forgotten PBS show in the 1980s that tried to explain what was then known as the ‘quality revolution’ in business. Interviewed was some wise old MIT professor who said, ‘Quality is love.’ Mr. Jobs determination to make superb products was, one likes to think, an expression of love for the world, life and possibility.”
Perhaps I am especially sensitive to these qualities in Steve Jobs, since I personally come out of an explicit background in the arts and in religion. It seems to me entrepreneurs who are unattached to the deeper values that make a meaningful, truthful existence are that much lessened in the value of their business life. Steve Job’s lived a uniquely successful business life that inculcated art, truth, ethics and also lucre. He was a uniquely integrated entrepreneur and an elegantly realized human being.
My favorite tribute to Steve Jobs this week came in a tweet from Michael Yang, CEO of Become.com, who says, “Steve Jobs will be remembered in the same vein as Einstein, Ford, and John Lennon.” That seems just right to me. Thank you, Michael Yang.