Jobs, Wozniak, and Obama: Saints and Dreamers

A reflection on how various public figures are dealing with the current economic downturn.
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I watch few reality shows but my guilty pleasure is watching Dancing with the Stars. This year one of the truly great men in the technology world, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, is being showcased on the show and, I think, he’s showcasing how we all should live in these difficult times.

But while Woz is waltzing, we are clearly missing a far more important Apple figure, Steve Jobs. The last two solid releases from Apple pretty much got yawns as a result of no one being able to wrap the new Apple products in magic.

This got me thinking about how few people there have been that could create dreams we could aspire to. Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King were men that drove change by creating dreams that lasted longer than they did.

I think many of us hoped Obama would be in that class but he is drifting closer to Jimmy Carter at the moment, another man with dreams, but unfortunately not one that could get us to dream with him.

Let's talk about the importance of saints and dreamers this week.

Steve Wozniak, the Patron Saint of Technology

I don't think there is anyone in the world that I personally admire for how they have led their life than Steve Wozniak. It's not because he helped create Apple but because he is known for his generosity, his kindness, and his willingness to put himself on the line to help children and those less fortunate than he is.

When he found out that Steve Jobs had stolen from him in the early years he didn't hire an attorney, he didn't bluster or threaten, he was simply deeply disappointed. When he felt that the other founding Apple employees were getting a raw deal with regard to options he put a huge chunk of his own options back into the pool so these employees could better share in Apple's success.

Contrast this behavior with what we are seeing on Wall Street, where rampant greed and the desire to get rich regardless of who is hurt in the process seem to rule the day.

Watching Woz perform on Dancing with the Stars has been painful. It is clear that, like many of us (and I include myself), he spends too much time with toys like his Segway scooters than outside exercising. But he put his heart into the effort and in all of the coverage of his training he appears to be working very hard, sweating, and complaining less than many – even though it’s clear he’s often in a lot of pain. I didn't think he was ever going to make progress.

However I watched him on the 23rd and while he was no Fred Astaire, he was vastly improved from the prior week, even though he had been injured during training.

Yet the judges who had been kind to him before turned nasty. It was as if that now that he was making progress they wanted to destroy him because he had made their positions that he wouldn't improve start to look foolish. I wondered if they had side bets on how long he would last.

Their criticism was scathing and, to my ear, unreasonably cruel given who he was, the fact he was injured, and that he had actually made good progress. Yet Steve never flinched, never said a bad thing about them, and smiled throughout as if he had a private joke. That joke is that when he goes home and looks into the mirror he sees Steve Wozniak, one of the best people who have ever lived; they see a bunch of dancers past their prime who tried and failed to tarnish a great man's star.

Watching Steve makes me want to be better and that is an important example for all of us this year. Most of us will likely have people attack us and try to tear us down, but if we can keep Woz's example in our hearts and minds it will be our attackers who are left looking foolish.

And, I think the most important part is to simply have fun. If we don't let anyone take the sparkle out of our eyes or the smile from our hearts we win. And, it is all about winning.

Obama, In Search of a Dream

It is unfortunate that there are so few people who can inspire us to do amazing things. I mentioned Steve Wozniak because he sets an example I wish I'd learn to emulate more myself. The other Steve, Steve Jobs, has a rare skill as well and that is the skill to get people to dream. It remains ironic that that skill was never used for more than pitching products, given his pitch to John Sculley.

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Tags: YouTube, search, IT, Apple, technology

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