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Steve Jobs, poster boy heretic, dies prematurely

World changer, but his personal aim was simple

Make consumer tech beautiful and user friendly – and flawless

Alone amid the mediocrity of tech marketing, he led towards the future

Let’s hope that he wasn’t despatched early by medical myopia

steve_jobs young replace 592x1024Supersalesman and tech market seer Steve Jobs is, sadly and predictably, dead from pancreatic cancer, as long expected. Kept alive for seven years by the barbaric techniques of modern medicine when faced with a particularly difficult form of cancer – surgery, poison and eventually a liver transplant – he finally died under the assault. Let’s hope that the alternative that is increasingly pointed to by recent decades of stunningly promising research into how phytochemicals – plant chemicals – aid the body in fighting off cancer was not neglected by his doubtless expensive medical consultants.

Did Jobs benefit from phytochemicals?

One might expect it probably was, of course. Awakening the medical profession to what may be the most important modern trend in medicine – how a range of chemicals extracted from food have proven especially over the last five years to be strongly effective against human cancer cells in the lab and in mice – is proving an uphill battle, even though a flood of research has appeared in mainstream peer reviewed journals in the last ten years.

Perhaps, however, it wasn’t . Perhaps Steve Jobs was helped by his own core character as instinctive heretic, if not also by good advice from his wife and other people who can be wiser than the professionals. We understand that Jobs was interested in alternative medicine, and did take advantage of what some Chinese herbalists had to offer. This may have helped keep him alive far beyond the three to six months his doctors originally forecast that he had left of life when he was diagnosed. Luckily, it was a rare kind of pancreatic cancer which forms about five per cent of the cases of this terrible killer, one which responds to surgery. Surviving seven years is evidence that he benefited from good treatment, though, as well as luck.

The great heretic, flipping the world of personal tech into art

It’s not surprising if Jobs was one of the few to take a look at what alternative medicine might have to offer him when he fell sick. After all, Jobs spent his life trying to move beyond the norm, forcing the merely talented to craft the ideal consumer tool from the geek idea of computers as digital engineering incarnated. He made ugly and unreliable products user friendly, beautiful to look at and reliably useful in ways which seem beyond the engineering and technical talent to concieve, for some reason. Even the marketing arm of computer companies seemed to think of this aspect only after Jobs led the way, and only Sony and eventually HP seemed able to compete in looks, though, saddled as they are with Bill Gates’ atrocious mishmash of an operating system, never caught up to Jobs in the realm of reliable and easy use.

Why was this range of virtues mysteriously beyond the leaders of other technology companies and their marketing people before Jobs showed the way, and even after he did so? The source of this odd design blindness to what now seems so obvious remains a bit of a mystery, but it must reside somewhere in the blocked mental arteries of of the group mind. Jobs thought for himself, on behalf of the average user. People who think in group terms cannot think independently very well, it seems.

So it wasn’t surprising to hear Jobs at the 2005 Commencement at Stanford where he gave the address saying the following:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Jobs was not a genius in mind but in action

What kind of genius did this man have who changed the personal world of, ultimately, billions of people? The questions which Jobs asked were not after all rocket science. We remember ourselves asking them in print and on the Web as early as the mid nineties. Why shouldn’t computers be easy to use? Why shouldn’t they be reliable and easy to tinker with? Why shouldn’t their cases be colorful, chic and even simply beautiful in the manner desired, consciously or not, by all sane people, and most especially by women?

These are not difficult questions to pose and Steve Jobs was not a genius for asking them. What was unique was his strength of purpose in bringing them about. Like all pioneers and visionaries who try to move the mass of conventional me-too thought in any arena, he faced a great edifice of inertia born of lazy thinking, self-interest and the frequent assumption in a complex field that if consumers didn’t know better or demand better then there wasn’t any point in exerting oneself in one’s job to take the initiative and create something more attractive and usable. The problem is not only complacency but that most of us are sheep frightened by and antagonistic to change, which is a threat to established comfort.

Jobs knew how to put himself in the place of the buyer and work out what that buyer might grow fond of without that buyer telling him or even knowing what it was that he would learn to like, once he experienced it. Jobs spurned focus groups for that reason. He liked to say that “it is not the job of the consumer to tell us what he wants. He doesn’t know until he sees it.”

Or as Jobs explained to Fortune, as quoted by James Stewart in his fine Times piece today, How Jobs Put Passion Into Products:

Mr. Jobs made no secret of his focus on design; in a Jan. 24, 2000, interview, Fortune magazine asked if it was an “obsession” and whether it was “an inborn instinct or what?”

“We don’t have good language to talk about this kind of thing,” Mr. Jobs replied. “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service. The iMac is not just the color or translucence or the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible consumer computer in which each element plays together. … That is the furthest thing from veneer. It was at the core of the product the day we started. This is what customers pay us for — to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”

Jobs the supreme heretic

The trait that you believe you know exactly what the world needs and wants is of course is shared by many crackpot inventors who are sure they know what the world needs, even if they show no sign of wanting it when offered, so it was truly Jobs genius to be correct in his forecasts, especially, for instance, we think, in dreaming up a product such as the iPad when Microsoft’s clunky tablet computers had failed so dismally six or seven years earlier. Jobs must surely have recognised the future of the iPad notion once he encountered the touch screen, which makes all the difference. But why didn’t others? Incidentally, the capacitive touch screen was invented at CERN in 1976, and that home of the LHC also boasts that it was where Tim Berners Lee invented the Web – on a NeXT screen!

In fact there is a video that Apple produced in 1987 that shows that even then Jobs was mapping out a path to the iPhone, the iPad, and Siri, the voice activated personal assistant which is making a hit on the latest iPhone 4. It is quite remarkable to see how early Jobs envisaged what he brought about later.

The originator who could lead

Steve Jobs was a man who not only followed his own star, but brought the world along with him into a new era where the resources of the Web could be as portable as an iPhone. To us he is the epitome of the maverick, the heretic, the originator who comes up with something new because he has freed himself of the chains of group think.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

What was truly marvelous though was the fact that he could combine all the roles needed – not only the independent minded visionary, but the team player who could lead a talented group to win the marketing world series without losing sight of his personal dream.

Here is the whole of that speech which he gave at the Commencement at Stanford in 2005:

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I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

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.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.
Stanford Report, June 14, 2005
‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says

This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

6 Responses to “Steve Jobs, poster boy heretic, dies prematurely”

  1. Baby Pong Says:

    If Steve Jobs’s initial pancreas surgery was successful, what led to the liver transplant? Was he given chemo drugs that destroyed his liver?

    Jobs really had no choice but to accept the conventional medical treatment that slowly killed him. Had he rejected it and flown to a country that has medical freedom in order to seek out the many natural and herbal cancer cures that have reportedly saved many people, that would have attracted too much attention because Jobs was a famous, high-profile person.

    For him to have gotten cured by alternative means would have been unthinkable to the allopathic medical establishment.

    Had he attempted to do that, the medical mafia’s covert action force, perhaps a part of the US government’s black ops agencies, would have devised a plan to secretly poison him with chemicals or radiation to make him get sick and die, same as they probably did with Christine and other dissidents who made the mistake of maintaining a high public profile.

    Very easy to do this when you have infinite funds, total secrecy and zero accountability.

    Then the media would have been all over the story, shouting that Jobs’s death is more proof that alternative medicine is deadly quackery.

    So, ironically, even a guy with Jobs’ wealth was not free to do what he perhaps would have preferred to do had he followed his inner voice. He had to accept conventional medical treatment.

    Just my opinion, and admittedly I am only a baby.

  2. Truthseeker Says:

    Did his liver crumble under the assault of chemo? Good question, highlighting the key to his fate, in all probability.

    These high profile types certainly do seem to fall into the hands of the high priests of conventional medicine only to serve as their sacrificial lambs on the altar of tradition, the current blatant example being Christopher Hitchens, a sad case now having been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and having followed the advice of his good friend Francis Collins, director of the NIH, who apparently slotted this erstwhile champion skeptic – not when delivered into the hands of the medical fraternity, however – into a clinical trial, where cynics say the objective may only be to see how long people last.

    A few days ago Hitchens was featured in a New York Times piece showing he had lost his hair again but regained his voice, so perhaps the magic potion being tested really works, let’s hope so. We may put up posts on him, having held off out of the kind of mercy thinking who leads so many people who know better not to trouble patients with any idea they could be in better care for fear of the almost inevitable disbelief arising from the same vulnerability which leads them not to question standard protocol. But it is sad to see it arise in such a renowned free thinker.

    Jobs took LSD in his youth and always had a bohemian streak, so he may have done better, but we think that he probably was still unaware of the last decade’s extraordinary streak of papers confirming the power of phytochemicals against cancer in the dish and in mice. As noted he did take up a diet of some kind, according to reports, which we are further investigating. Whether anyone would have strong armed or sabotaged him we doubt given the power of his personality, but your theory is a good one in principle, since it probably added up to the same in the end.

    Since most victims of pancreatic cancer die in a few months, the story in the straight media is that he had this particularly unaggressive form which allowed him to linger. What a tragedy if he was lost simply to needless chemotherapy. Rather like Mozart dying young. What breakthroughs would he have brought us next? Still, there are some in the pipeline. But the more one views interviews with him, especially from the early years, the more cogent he sounds, and the more accurate a visionary.

    But given the immune suppressive drugs used against cancer and needed to enable a transplant it is not too wild to say that Steve Jobs died of iatrogenic AIDS. Which is why he looked the way he did.

  3. Baby Pong Says:

    Paul and Linda McCartney went through the same thing when she got cancer. They went to all the top medical specialists in the world and asked what to do, and they were told chemo, chemo, chemo.

    I remember reading an interview in which Paul said that some of their friends had warned them about chemo, but that he and Linda decided they were nuts and listened to the experts instead.

    She was dead within a very brief period of time, as I recall.

    Dead of cancer, of course. Not chemo. So wrote the media.

  4. martinkessler Says:

    Hi Truthseeker, Christopher Hitchens is indeed a skeptic but to me only limited to religious topics. I have watched and enjoyed many of his YouTube debates and I have and read his infamous book. However he doesn’t appear to be a medical skeptic as in predominantly AIDS and psychiatry. To me the only flaw in his debating technique is diagnosing psychiatrically people he obviously disapproves of: insane psychotic psychopathic etc. Sigmund Freud diagnosed Adler and Jung as psychotic because they disagreed.

  5. Baby Pong Says:

    We could be mistaken, of course. This page,
    says that Jobs did use alternative medicine, and thus his sad fate. It’s interesting to read all the vehemently anti-alternative medicine comments, remembering of course that Medical Mafia’s PR agencies are thought to pose as normal people and post internet comments as part of their standard array of client services, and also that Harvard Medical School professors are sometimes thought to receive massive consulting funds from the drug industry.

    This page suggests that there’s more to chemo research than meets the eye:

    How Chemotherapy Companies Fake the Results

  6. Truthseeker Says:

    Nice discussion there at Amazon, yes, and at Quora. So at least some people are aware that the cure rates claimed by studies and the American Cancer Society are wildly skewed by the loony but self serving maneuver of excluding everybody who dies from the chemo:

    “Critics have correctly identified that some patients do not survive the treatment and in many studies these deaths are excluded from the statistics because, strictly speaking, the patients did not die of cancer, and nor were they able to complete the full schedule of treatments due to their premature deaths. A published study might therefore state that 197 people were in the study, but this number might exclude 100,000 patients who died of the therapy instead of cancer.”

    And Steve Jobs? The speculative attack on alternative medicine written on Quora by the Harvard guy is worth reading for its inconsistencies, but with other coverage makes it even more difficult to assess Jobs without more information.

    Meanwhile this remark in the second post at Amazon is painful for those who worry about Jobs to contemplate:

    “But what happens is that over time, the cancers come back, they get other problems because of the treatments. They’ve got liver disease, they could die of liver failure and all kinds of other things that go beyond this five-year period. And that really skews it downward.”

    Of course, Steve Jobs is counted as a success by his docs according to the five year survival measure.

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