January 29, 2012
Gordon MacDonald wrote an interesting article about Steve Jobs for Christianity Today. His spiritual journey was affected by four people in particular. I think this article will encourage you to reflect on the influence we can have over the people around–both for good or for ill purposes. Enjoy.
from “The Soul of Steve Jobs”…
We all know that Steve Jobs was not a professing Christian. While he respected Jesus, he walked away from Christianity at an early age—at least in its organized and doctrinal form.
So why write about him in a Christian journal? Answer: because his life yields valuable lessons, positive and negative, on the subject of leadership. It also highlights areas that Christian leaders can enlist to touch the souls of people like him.
The Steve Jobs biography reminded me of how many leaders are shaped by events in their earliest years (even days) of life.
Jobs, for example, was born to an unmarried couple who chose to give him up for adoption. The good news? The newborn child came to the home of a working class couple, Paul and Clara Jobs of San Francisco, who lavished great love and care on him.
Paul Jobs, Steve’s adoptive father, was a Coast Guard veteran, a man of exceptional mechanical and carpentry skill. When Steve was old enough, father and son began to tinker with cars, build furniture, and repair things about the house. “I wasn’t into fixing cars,” Steve Jobs said years later, “but I was eager to hang out with my dad.”
In their time together, the father planted a powerful work ethic in his son. All work, Steve Jobs learned, was to be marked with excellence. When father and son painted a fence together, for example, the boy learned that the unexposed side was to be treated with the same thoroughness as the visible side.
“(My father) loved doing things right,” Jobs reflected. “He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.” Decades later this principle learned in boyhood would shape the development of Apple devices. Jobs always insisted that the inner parts of anything bearing the Apple name be as perfectly designed and built as the outer parts, even though a customer would never see them.
(Note: you never see a screw or latch that permits you to open up and tinker with an iPod or an iPad. Jobs didn’t want you or me “screwing up” his stuff. A control freak? You betcha.)
But then there’s the perceived rejection of his biological parents. That’s the bad-news side of the story. What’s it like to know that your mother put you into the arms of someone else and walked away? This appears to have haunted Jobs all his life and may partially explain his shortfalls in many human relationships.
When Jobs began school, his parents and teachers soon discovered that he was a “problem child.” It showed in his rebelliousness, in his boredom with the curriculum, in his unwillingness to fit into ordinary classroom regimens. He resisted learning in the traditional cookie-cutter ways.
It’s startling to realize that Steve Jobs might have ended up a social discard—a delinquent—had it not been for an observant teacher who suspected that she had an exceptional child in her classroom. Under her guidance Jobs quickly accelerated in his learning experiences. “I just wanted to learn and to please her,” Jobs said, looking back on her efforts.
Unfortunately the same did not happen in his church experience. When Jobs was 13, he asked his pastor a simple (yet not so simple) question.
Isaacson writes: “In July 1968 Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church’s pastor, ‘If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?’
“The pastor answers, ‘Yes, God knows everything.’
“Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, ‘Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?’
“‘Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.’”
The pastor’s answer badly underestimated the young teen’s intellect and left him unsatisfied. According to Isaacson, Jobs walked away from the church that day and never returned.
For the pastor, that brief exchange was likely incidental and forgettable. Yet it was a turning point that would point Steve Jobs toward eastern philosophy.
The story generates a prayer in me: “Lord, make me aware of the implications of any (any!) word I say to people during the course of the day. Who can know when a spoken word directs someone toward the right path … or the wrong one?”