I wasn’t in the audience at the time, but the very first time I saw the video of Steve Jobs presenting the iPhone to the world I was in...
I do not have a personal Steve Job story. Until I bought a used iPad, I had never owned an Apple product or had much interaction with Apple the company. The outpouring of emotion upon his passing was both touching and encouraging however. It is rare that the CEO of a company and a brilliant entrepreneur achieves the iconic status of actors, musicians and athletes in the mind of most Americans.
That being said, much of the eulogizing of Steve Jobs seems fatuous, overwrought and trite. If I have to see another link to his Stanford speech or another quote from the tome of Jobs, I may have to throw up. Yes, he was an incredible entrepreneur and a genius in design and marketing. What seems to be lost on almost everybody however is how Jobs’ accomplishments reflect on the current state of innovation in America.
There has been plenty already written about finding the next Steve Jobs. Guess what, there is not going to be another Steve Jobs, even Jobs said that himself. What America does need however are more kids that aspire to be great like Steve Jobs.
We are in some rocky waters as a nation, stuck in a malaise. While clearly meant in humor, there is something to be said about The Onion’s lament about the passing of the very last American that had a clue. We do not seem to make a lot of things these days and have decided to concede whole entire sectors of economic activity to other nations. We have gotten a bit soft in the brain from the great wealth and creature comforts created over the past several decades. Now we are experiencing a severe hangover.
In the 90’s, you could not turn on the TV and not see a “Be Like Mike” commercial. There was no more famous an athlete at the time than Michael Jordan, who owned the airwaves as much as he owned the basketball court. It was absurd to think anyone could really “be like Mike”, but the inspirational messages were encouragement to have dreams and to work hard to achieve them.
We need similar inspirational figures to inspire the next generation of kids to create and build. We have plenty of resources and tools and wealth within our hands. What we seem to lack are the role models. No one is greatly excited about Edison or Ford or Curie or Einstein in this day and age. Though great figures and important to know about, their inventions and discoveries do not evoke the same passion as they once had.
The real genius of Steve Jobs and Apple was they created products that exuded passion and hit the core of our being. These are the things that get people excited, because they have relevance in our current time and evoke the promise of the future. Furthermore, the designs and technologies of today all evoke the fundamentals and discoveries from the past, so we do not forget our legacy and the great minds that came before.
We do not need another Steve Jobs or Steve Jobs clones. We need more entrepreneurs and risk takers willing to blaze their own trails and create the next generation of ground breaking technologies. We are starting to see some of this happen at the grassroots level with DIY culture, events like Maker Faire and Startup Weekend, “campuses” and incubators that are the nexus of tech innovation, and simply more people creating their own businesses.
If Steve Jobs’ legacy is anything, it will be in the dawning of the Maker Generation. We are moving away from the static and unemotional information age. Where we are really heading as a nation is a country that creates things, whether it be hardware or software across the spheres of technology, medicine, manufacturing or farming. We need to rely less on the “information”, which we are rich in, and rely more on the process of innovating, creating and making. In that sense, we need to raise a generation that aspires to “Be Like Steve”.