gwen learns

Steve Jobs and Legacy

Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on November 11, 2011

A couple weeks ago, I read Steve Jobs’ biography.  I don’t really want to get into whether or not I think he needed to be cruel and manipulative to come up with beautiful products, whether I believe in open vs. closed, or whether I think he was more of an artist or a salesman.  I just want to talk about the last chapter, which, believe it or not, is entitled “Legacy.”

I’ve never really been that attracted to the idea of legacy.  It gives me a sort of sick feeling in my stomach, and words like “self-promoting” and “futile” come to mind.  But needless to say, whenever someone dies, everyone starts going crazy over this word.

Steve Jobs believed his legacy was creating a company that lasts.  He wanted to create a company among the ranks of Disney, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard, all of which he considered to innovate long after their initial innovator was no longer around.

But let me ask a question, a question that I’m grateful the author asked Steve in the last few paragraphs of the book.

What lasts?

What really lasts?  I remember asking myself this question when I was 15.  I wasn’t thrilled with my life.  I didn’t get high school.   I didn’t get why everyone had to get good grades, the first of many necessary achievements in life like college and having a family… all leading to this one ending point of death.  Steve Jobs didn’t like it either.  He even teased that’s why Apple devices never had an on-off switch.


The thing with this question is… it really has two branches.

The first: What lasts, given life is just an on-off switch? When I read the passage above as a 15 year-old, it was the first time in my life somebody was answering this branch of the question dead-on directly.  Nothing lasts!  No one is going to remember you!  If your life just ends, nothing you do matters!  Meaningless.

The second: What lasts, given we somehow live after we die?  This question doesn’t have a direct answer.  Some say it’s wide-open with possibility and hope; others say it’s crazy or a dream.

Statistics say most of you hang out in the second branch.  I don’t buy it… I don’t believe what people put on surveys.  When people fill out surveys they aren’t lying in their bed, alone, in the dark, and staring at the ceiling (what I believe to be the go-to setting for honesty).  I’ve believed in God since I was a teenager and I still have those moments in the dark where I question it all.

At the end of his life, Steve Jobs was 50/50 on that second question.  He hadn’t given up on it.  I don’t know how far into my life I am, but I’m not giving up on it either.

P.S. Eulogy for Steve from his sister

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2 Responses

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  1. Shawn said, on November 11, 2011 at 2:52 am

    Gwen. Been here before. Thinking these same type of questions. I remember feeling scared and lonely at the time. I hope that’s not what you’re going through. But, here’s what I’ve come to believe. While people might not remember your name, what you do and who you are has an indelible mark on what’s to come. Actions, I believe, reverberate, maybe with smaller and smaller effect the further you go into the future. But, they do reverberate. Do good, and good follows. Maybe you won’t notice it. Maybe it won’t be immediate or even lasting, but it makes a difference. My two cents. Good luck in figuring things out. Let me know what you discover.

  2. gwenlearns said, on November 11, 2011 at 5:18 am

    Yeah, I’m not sure I’ve figured it out yet. I think what I’m trying to say is… if we don’t live after we die, then any discussion of legacy is meaningless. If we do, it counts. I do believe our actions reverberate, but I believe that only has value if we live forever.

    I also wanted to say that I have days where I question everything, where I consider the possibility that life might just end and that’s it. But that possibility always brings me back to faith… sometimes I go back just because it’s the only alternative that offers hope, sometimes I reason my way back, and sometimes I don’t have a reason. But I guess I just wanted to call people out and say don’t give up when you’re in that place… Giving up to me means your only legacy is things that don’t last forever, like Steve’s great company and great products. Not giving up means believing in things that last forever, true legacy, which Steve was halfway on, he was 50/50 in believing in God.


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