During my entire professional career, I used a PC both at home and the office. The Apple computer seemed geared for geeks and not suitable for an office environment. But as it happens with all machines, eventually they break and it was time to buy a new computer. I consulted my son, Benyamin, and he encouraged me to buy the iMac. Now that I was not working in a school office and had more flexible work hours, I decided to seriously consider the Apple. After several months of indecision, I finally bought one.
There was a steep learning curve, but Benyamin helped me navigate it successfully. My Apple experience sparked my curiosity about the CEO and founder of the company, Steve Jobs, who went against the prevailing notion of what a computer should look like and how it should function when he developed the Apple.
Steve Jobs traces his career by focusing on three product launches that defined the company. Watching him overcome technical challenges and keep his eye perpetually focused on his goal is a lesson in management worth considering.
The film opens with old news footage of famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke talking about how personal computers will be an essential part of the future. It then shifts to California in 1984 on the eve of the Macintosh computer launch. The Macintosh is a financial bust. In 1998, Steve launches NeXT, a computer workstation for schools. Even though its cube shape looks sleek and cool, it also is a financial disaster. In 1998, Steve launces the IMac computer and it is a resounding success both in terms of its design and its user-friendly interface.
Although Steve Jobs in presented in an unflattering way as an egotistical genius of marketing who fails to recognize the achievements of techies who built the IMac, he, nevertheless, impresses us a person totally focused on achieving his vision of success: he wants the ultimate consumer experience for the Apple user. Failure along the way does not intimidate him. Rather it energizes him for future innovation, for Steve Jobs always fails forward.
The Bible provides many examples of people who persevered in the face of adversity. Rabbi Jonathan Saks cites the example of Joseph who survived a plot to kill him, who was sold as a slave, who withstood the calumny of Potiphar’s wife, who spent time in prison, but who eventually became a chief administrator in the court of Pharoah, enabling his own family to survive during a time of worldwide famine. The history of the Jewish people is replete with similar stories of heroes who overcame challenges that would have deterred lesser men from achieving their goals.
Indeed, Steve Job’s journey from anonymity to fame is punctuated by a series of obstacles that did not deter him from continuing to work towards his goals. He did not abandon hope. During his rise to fame, he was fired from Apple and diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Yet these setbacks did not curb his enthusiasm for life and accomplishment.
Saks concludes his article on Joseph with a telling quotation from Winston Churchill: “success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” This echoes the Jewish mantra that “seven times the righteous will fall, and yet they will rise again.” Failure is a part of life, but our tradition reminds us that failure does not have to be terminal. The life of Steve Jobs is a clarion call to persist in the face of adversity and not give in to despair.