Lessons Learned from Steve Jobs
By kristin tennant
October 7, 2011
I’ll admit: I’m a big Apple fan. The first computer I bought with my own money was a Mac Classic, purchased in 1992 through my college bookstore. Since then I have owned only Mac laptops (my first, purchased in 1994, had a tracking-ball instead of a finger pad mouse). I love my iPad and iPhone—which I was on the other night when I first read about Steve Jobs’ death.
But it is not my love for technology or gadgets that makes me mourn the passing of Steve Jobs. It’s his attitudes about creativity and risk-taking, life and death.
Although Steve Jobs’ spiritual life was not explicitly Christian, and his best-known quotes are not religious in nature, I found myself last night, again and again, reading his words from a spiritual perspective. I was inspired to write a post about what Christians can learn from Steve Jobs, but I worried it would be seen as sacrilege from both sides—from Christians who think Jobs was only about expensive gadgets and capitalism, and from technology geeks who see any hint of spirituality as a fluffy distraction from their idol’s pure genius.
But then I saw this Washington Post blog—"The Theology of Steve Jobs"—which includes this quote:
"Steve Jobs was, without doubt, a technological genius, but he was also, in my view, a profound theologian because he understood the human condition as lived between desire and finitude. Together these define us, for good and for ill."
Yes, I was emboldened to write my spiritual reflections on four Steve Jobs quotes, starting quite fittingly with this:
1. Follow your inner voice
“Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
As a Christian who often feels torn between two worlds—the intellectual and the spiritual, the hipster and the churchy, the bad girl and the good girl—I sometimes find myself stymied into a state of paralysis. I worry too much what one side might think, then I worry about the other side. I want to make a statement, but I want to dilute it enough to give myself an escape route, should I need it. I wake up knowing what I believe in my heart, but then I filter it all through the mesh sieve of the world, and by the end of the day I’m left with only a few random pieces. I need to “have the courage to follow [my] heart and intuition,” because I believe the spirit of God speaks to me there.
2. Stay hungry and foolish
“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. … Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
When things seem good in my life, I tend to get content and too easily satiated. I lose my hunger for the more that could be. And when I’m seeing all that’s wrong with the world, I get cynical and practical. I am not hungry for change because I am not “foolish” enough to believe and hope for any of my wildest dreams about how things could be. Steve Jobs reminds me to stay hungry for my wildest dreams, because I have nothing to lose.
3. Show the love
“A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Jobs was talking about why he never designed products based on focus groups—what the average consumer thought they wanted in a phone or computer—but I think it applies to Christian communities, too. Sometimes we try too hard to be all things to all people, rather than just going all-out with the vision that’s been planted in us. It’s important to listen, but it’s also important to not get distracted and confused about the goal: Not giving people what they think they want, but living out the love and showing them what they didn’t know they wanted.
4. Don’t give up
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
I am guilty of giving up too quickly. If something doesn’t come easily to me, I conclude that I must not be “gifted” at it. If an idea doesn’t leap into form and immediately take off, I decide it was not “meant to be.” This is clearly an unhelpful attitude for a musician or writer or athlete; it’s even less helpful for someone who is working with others to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. That’s the sort of task that really requires perseverance—being true to an inner voice that not everyone else can hear, and staying hungry for a sort of world most people think is impossible and a sort of love many people don’t even know they want.
Kristin Tennant is a freelance writer and blogger at Halfway to Normal and The Huffington Post. She and her husband and their blended family live what she calls a“halfway normal” life full of stories, surprises and redemption inUrbana, Illinois. This article is reprinted from her blog with permission.