It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
-- Ursula K. Le Guin

 

   

Daily Motivator Special Feature

The generosity of Steve Jobs

by Ralph Marston

With the passing of Steve Jobs, the world has lost a man of great vision. And yet while, sadly, the man is gone, the vision lives on. Though the brilliant and innovative Steve Jobs is no longer with us, the fruits of his brilliance and innovation are more widely available than ever before. Today, as the world mourns his loss, you can still buy a brand new iPad, or MacBook, or iPhone. In fact, in a few weeks you’ll be able to get a new and improved version of the iPhone. And no doubt in the coming months and years there will be many more “insanely great” upgrades to existing Apple products and services, as well as amazingly useful and valuable new products coming along.

Long after Steve Jobs the dreamer has been laid to rest, his dreams will continue to live and to grow and to improve the lives of billions of people. What makes such a thing possible? What is it that indefinitely sustains the dream, and in fact builds it ever bigger?

In a word: profit.

Steve Jobs was able to do what he did, to the outstanding degree that he did it, because what he did was financially profitable. Was that the reason he did it, to make a lot of money? Of course not. Decades ago he had already earned more than enough money for himself and multiple generations of his heirs to live sumptuously without ever having to earn any more. No, profit was clearly not the reason Steve Jobs continued to create and to innovate. Rather, profit was what enabled it all, and is what will continue to sustain his amazing work far into the future.

What if, years ago, way back at the very beginning, Steve Jobs had rejected the idea of making a profit? What if he had considered it to be greedy and immoral to sell products for more than what they cost? He still would have been a creative genius. But only a handful of people would have ever benefitted from his creativity and innovation. Had he simply made computers and sold them at cost, he probably would have lived a very happy and fulfilled life. But he wouldn’t have been able to hire others to assist him. He wouldn’t have been able to invest in new facilities and technologies. There would be some pretty cool computers owned by a few hundred, or maybe a few thousand people. But there would be no Apple Stores, no iTunes, no iPads or iPhones.

As it turned out, Steve Jobs chose a strategy that enabled him to share his dream in an ever-expanding and self-sustaining way. He chose to make a profit because he knew that profit would enable him to magnify the positive impact of each and every innovation. He chose to make a profit because he understood that profit would deliver his innovations to the highest number of people.

There were many who called him greedy. Apple products have always carried a premium price, and the company maintains incredibly high profit margins. But then, Apple does not force anyone to buy its products. There are plenty of lower-priced alternatives to just about every product the company sells. And yet people regularly and willingly wait in line for hours to purchase newly-released Apple products at a premium price.

In these times of serious economic strife, many people are quick to equate profit with selfishness and immorality. But as the brilliant and massively generous work of Steve Jobs makes clear, that thinking is precisely backwards. Profit is value that is added. It is not something that is taken. It is something good and useful that is given. During his lifetime, Steve Jobs added billions of dollars to his own fortune. He did so by providing many, many times that amount of value to others.

That’s definitely not selfish. As I wrote in my recent book, The Power of Ten Billion Dreams:

When value is created by anybody, it can benefit everybody. It’s not selfish to make a lot of money. It’s not even selfish to live a lavish lifestyle if you’ve earned the wealth to support that lifestyle. Yes, it may be very narcissistic and foolish, but it’s not selfish. It’s not selfish to accumulate as much money or other wealth as you can possibly accumulate, as long as you’re not stealing it. It’s definitely not selfish to live the most extraordinary dream you can imagine.

So what is selfish? What’s truly selfish is to let all your unique value stay hidden within you. What’s selfish is to not create great value, to not become fantastically wealthy when you are fully capable of doing so.

Steve Jobs didn’t “need” all that money. But it is a very good thing for all the rest of us that he continued working to earn it. For every dollar that he made, the world received many more dollars worth of products, services and gainful employment. The truly selfish thing would have been for Steve Jobs to stop when he had made “enough,” maybe a few million dollars. Fortunately, he continued dreaming and creating and innovating long past that point. Even better, he built an enormously profitable company that will continue his beneficial work indefinitely.

Just a few hours before the world learned that Steve Jobs had died, I connected through iChat with our younger daughter who was a hundred miles away in her college dorm room. In the screen sharing mode, I helped her make a few final edits on a paper she was turning in. Then we switched to the video mode and my wife and I had a delightful high-definition video chat with her.

Moments like that are now commonplace, affordable and accessible to more and more people every day, thanks in no small part to the inspired work of Steve Jobs—and to the profit his work has earned, and will continue to earn. Truly, his profit is our gain. Because of it, his legacy grows more beneficial and his contribution to the world grows more generous with each passing day.


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