Everything Costs Something


My Desk: The View from Here

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.



Filed under The view from here

6 responses to “Everything Costs Something

  1. Jennifer

    Love this and completely identify. I’d like to meet the person who does it all well. Actually, I’d probably say snarky things about such a person behind his/her back, so it’s probably best we don’t meet.

  2. Thanks for writing this. Here’s another article that I read today … http://www.forbes.com/sites/quickerbettertech/2011/10/10/steve-jobs-was-a-jerk-good-for-him/

    I love the headline: “Steve Jobs Was a Jerk. Good for Him.” I struggle with my thoughts on this … clearly the man was a genius, and as an Apple Fanboy, I have much to thank him for. But, on the other hand, the dude was an obvious jerk. And pretty hateful to people at his own shop, from what I’ve read. Unfortunately, I know another genius CEO like this in my own dealings. You admire him for what he’s built with his company and his brand (it’s remarkable), but you don’t admire the man he is. But, really, can you be both? Is it possible to create perfection without being a jerk? I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that demanding excellence at every level takes someone with balls. It takes someone who speaks their mind and doesn’t let half-ass work come across his desk. But being mean to people? Well, that just sucks.

    As for journalists’ and bloggers’ comments about Steve Jobs’ charitable side …. I don’t blame him for that. I know in my own personal life, juggling owning your own company, raising a family and volunteering is TOUGH! And although I hate it, the thing that has to go is the volunteering and charitable involvement. And this is coming from a person that rarely says no. But we can’t do it all, and especially if you’re spending 24/7 running one of the most innovative companies of our time …. yeah, volunteering just isn’t going to happen. I can only hope that some of that wealth will go to others who do have the time to find worthwhile charities and causes and change the world for the better.

  3. You’re given a choice to hire a complet jackass who you know has a history of innovation and excellence, or you can hire the nice person who will give you a good, solid 40 hour work week. I know who I hire.

    For some people balance is just not in their genes, and ultimately the world is a better place for it. Except for Stalin. That dude was a total jerk.

  4. I was having this same conversation this morning. And I could try to type something enlightening here, but I don’t have anything. Like many others, I am caught between the man’s amazing genius and ability to inspire, and what appear to be severe shortcomings in his ability to relate to others.

    I’m glad you wrote this…

  5. You are doing fine. Don’t beat yourself up because you :
    1. don’t want to do more.
    2. find it physically debilitating to do more.
    3. are doing just fine-thank you very much.

  6. I’ve been feeling the same way lately. Balancing my dreams with being a good wife and working full-time because we have to pay bills is really hard. Sometimes I feel selfish and I just want to do what matters to me. And sometimes I feel that being a good wife and employee IS what I want. It’s hard to have it all… Steve Jobs proved it.