Steve Jobs died last week. It was in a few papers. You may have heard about it. Since then a lot of people have been writing and talking about his contributions… which changed the world or something like that. No doubt he changed my everyday life. I’m typing this on an Apple computer. It’s the fourth mac I’ve owned in my life. It will be very hard to get me to buy a PC again.
It’s strange to me how genuinely sad I felt when I heard the news. I mean, we weren’t exactly friends. The night he died, I wondered aloud how different my life would be if I lived like Jobs. I was thinking about the risks he took. Sometimes I wish I took more risks in life. Today I read a piece about Jobs that really made me think about what his kind of success costs. He was, by all accounts, a revolutionary.
It’s the dream of any entrepreneur to effect change in one industry. Jobs transformed half a dozen of them forever, from personal computers to phones to animation to music to publishing to video games. He was a polymath, a skilled motivator, a decisive judge, a farsighted tastemaker, an excellent showman, and a gifted strategist.
In a completely unrelated conversation last week, I heard myself say, “Everything costs something. Nothing is free.” Steve Jobs leaves a legacy of great achievement with his company. It cost him everything else.
“He clearly didn’t have the time,” is what the director of Jobs’ short-lived charitable foundation told the New York Times. That sounds about right. Jobs did not lead a balanced life. He was professionally relentless. He worked long hours, and remained CEO of Apple through his illness until six weeks before he died. The result was amazing products the world appreciates. But that doesn’t mean Jobs’ workaholic regimen is one to emulate.
To be clear, I don’t judge him harshly for his choices. He was given more intellect than most people and made clear choices about his priorities. He was allowed. But let’s be serious, he wasn’t overseeing the iPhone production during 8-5 office hours, then going home to help with homework and coach soccer. He was Apple. That was his identity.
I’m not in any danger of revolutionizing my industry. Of course, I haven’t set out to do that either. Maybe I could. Maybe I could turn the world upside down. But right now, I don’t really want to. I don’t particularly want to coach soccer, but I do enjoy taking my son to karate class. He’s really cute in the outfit.
I’ve written something similar to this many times before: Balance is hard. Finding the place between being in the present tense with my kid, my husband and friends and fulfilling my own ambition feels impossible. And I’m not doing it very well.