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Last revised: January 10, 2013

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Steve jobs, R.I.P. what he created is less interesting than  ...

... how he created it--and how much the creative process cost him. Some of that information is in the public domain. Steve Jobs deliberately made public much of the best information of that sort. Here's what I found. 

Until Steve Jobs (2/24/55-10/5/10) died three days ago (as I write this) at age 56, I didn't realize how much we could learn from him. I don't mean learn what he created. That information is readily available in a huge number of obituaries that list his accomplishments, and affectionate, emotional eulogies that praise the creations and the creator.

Moreover, all his creations, such as the Apple II, Macintosh, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iTunes, and Pixar, will soon be as quaint and obsolete as Henry Ford's Model T. I use some of these. I don't use others. Before many of you die, nobody will use any of them. Some examples may survive in museums. They will disappear from daily life, as did the Model T and Bear Stearns, before them.

The Model T was awesome in its day--15 million produced from 1908 to 1927. Now, for most people, it's a metaphor for something obsolete. The Apple II is approaching metaphor-status for something quaint in the computer world. 

For me, however, the Model T is a metaphor for a 20th century industrial revolution. The Model T demonstrated that Henry Ford's improved assembly line techniques could lower production costs and raise labor's productivity. The visible result was the large number of Model T's that Ford sold and the fat pay envelopes that Ford handed to its employees. Behind the scenes, manufacturers had to imitate and improve on Ford's methods--or go out of business. You can read more about the Model T, here, where I found my facts.  

So, how did Steve Jobs create and produce such "awesome" products? If we knew how he did what he did, and we actually did some similar things--just "some", because he had personal resources that few of us have--that know how he used could enrich us even more than the things he sold us. In other words, Steve Jobs gave us fish, but how did he catch them?

Fortunately, he told three stories that shed much light on this in his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, available here. If you don't have 15 minutes to listen to him, or somewhat less to read the text, I'll give you my executive summary.

He said:

  1. As a young man, he began collecting "dots". Later, he profited by connecting them.
  2. When former friends presented him with lemons as a good-bye present (i.e., fired him from Apple, the company he had founded), he started a lemonade stand that was so great that the company that had fired him bought the lemonade stand and hired him to run the whole shebang.
  3. He lived each day as if it were his last.

Of course, everything good has an opportunity cost. l this creativity--the inspiration and the perspiration--took time and came at a price that he acknowledged at the end, according to an article by Guy Adams. The article brings to mind Harry Chapin's song, "The Cat's in the Cradle".

If you want to read more about the life and methods of Steve Jobs, I recommend reading two pieces by Joe Nocera, a eulogy, "What Makes Steve Jobs Great", and close to a "dyslogy", "Jobs Agonistes (Steve, That Is)", ch. 2 of Good Guys and Bad Guys. The New York Times said this and this. The Wall Street Journal said this