Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit

Lessons I’ve learned from Steve Jobs


by Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Like Steve Jobs, I grew up at a time when huge mainframe computers would fill entire rooms.  The concept of having one’s own personal computer was unthinkable.   In Palo Alto the future Silicon Valley where Jobs grew up, virtually everyone was an engineer or worked in electronics.[i]  My dream from Grade 3 to Grade 10 was to be an electrical engineer like my father.  I will never forget when my dad gave me my first microprocessor, replacing the old vacuum tubes.   While completing my Masters in 1980, I submitted two papers written on the University of British Columbia mainframe.  My professor commented that this was the first computer paper that he had ever read, but not likely his last.

In reading Walter Isaacson’s recent Steve Jobs biography, I was inspired to think about lessons that we might learn from Jobs’ life.  Jobs was a world-changer, a revolutionary, and an artist.  One of his maxims was “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.”  Jobs once even hoisted a Jolly Roger flag with the eye patch being the Apple logo.   He commented: “we were the renegades and we wanted people to know it.”[ii]

Jobs had a genius for creativity, innovation and excellence.  ‘Good enough’ for Jobs was not good enough.  He wanted people to stretch, to dream and to risk everything on the next technological breakthrough.  Jobs said: “There’s an old Wayne Gretzsky quote that I love.  I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”[iii]  Curiosity and the joy of discovery propelled Jobs to imagine the unimaginable.  Through Pixar, iPod, and iPhone, Jobs radically reshaped movies, music and phones.  I remember the buzz of waiting in line at Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver for the iPhone 4.  I was given the eighth of the eight phones delivered that day.  A lady from the jewelry store rushed over and told me that this would change my life. It felt somewhat over the top but she proved to be right. Using my iPhone probably shaved about one to two years off my doctorate.

Jobs had a remarkable gift at integrating technology and beauty, science and art.  Robert Palladino, a former monk teaching calligraphy at Reed College, radically shaped Jobs’ passion for design.  Bill Gates once said: “I would give a lot to have Steve’s taste.”[iv]

Like his Microsoft rival Bill Gates, Jobs was a technological rock star.  Eight times, he was on the cover of Time, over twelve times on the cover of Fortune, as well as the covers of Rolling Stone and Newsweek.  Bono called Jobs the hardware/software Elvis.[v]  Bill Gates once said: “Don’t you understand that Steve [Jobs] doesn’t know anything about technology?  He’s just a super salesman… He doesn’t know anything about engineering and 99% of what he says and thinks is wrong….”[vi]

In the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, Jobs accused Gates of stealing ideas from Apple.  Gates memorably responded: “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”[vii]

Ejected from his own company Apple, Jobs picked himself up and dusted himself off, going on to a stunning financial success with Pixar’s Toy Story movie.  When Jobs returned to Apple, the company was very demoralized, just ninety days from bankruptcy.  Jobs rallied the troops, insightfully saying: “Apple didn’t have to beat Microsoft. Apple had to remember who Apple was.”[viii]

Our greatest weaknesses are often hidden in our greatest strengths.  Jobs’ passion for excellence often made him very painful to work with.  Many of his personal and business relationships were unable to survive his aggressive zeal for innovation.  Jobs’ ability to silently stare and then blow up at people allowed him to weed out unsuitable colleagues.  Karen Blumenthal commented that “he could be both charming and gratingly abrasive, sensitive and stunningly mean-spirited.”[ix]  Gates jokingly once said: “Steve is so known for his restraint.”[x]   In some ways, he was a Samson figure, talented and tortured.  At age 23, he abandoned his own child Lisa, denying his paternity, the same age that his birth parents gave him away.  Only fourteen years later, after naming a computer after her, did Jobs bring Lisa back into his life.[xi]

Raised in church, Jobs described his becoming disenchanted when the pastor seemed callous about the suffering of African children.  How sad that the pastor did not challenge Jobs to join him in making a practical difference in Africa.  The malnutrition of African children doesn’t have to be that way.  We can be Jesus’ hands and feet.  Steve and his good friend Bill Fernandez spent many hours walking and discussing spiritual matters: “We were both interested in the spiritual side of things, the big questions: who are we? What is it all about? What does it mean?”[xii]

Perhaps one of the best influences in Jobs’ life was Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.  Jobs and Wozniak’s partnership integrated the hippie and the nerd, bringing together vision and know-how.   Without Wozniak, there would have been no Apple.  Woz remarkably said that Jobs had been respectful to him on almost every occasion.  Ronald Wayne, another Apple co-founder commented: “Wozniak was a fascinating guy, fun to be with and the most gracious guy I ever met.”[xiii] Steve Wozniak observed: “Although I never went to church, I was influenced occasionally by stories about Christian things; values like the idea of turning the other cheek. If somebody does something bad to you, you don’t fight back. You’re still good to them and treat them with love from your heart. Values of caring about the communities I grew up in, the schools that I went to, the cities I lived in; putting proper value on that. Values of respecting other people; not being a criminal or stealing.”[xiv]  Woz embodied Jesus’ Golden rule to do unto others as we would have them do to us.

My ultimate lesson from the Apple co-founders is to be like Jobs in innovation while being like Woz in respecting people.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

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In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

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-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

[i] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999.

[ii] Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster, New York , NY, 2011) P. 144-145.

[iii] Anthony Imbimbo, Steve Jobs: the Brilliant Mind Behind Apple (Gareth Stevens Publishing, Pleasantville, NY, 2009) Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999, p. 97.

[iv] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999

[v] Karen Blumenthal, Steve Jobs: the Man who thought different (Fiewel and Friends, New York, NY, 2012), p. 263, p. 278.

[vi] Isaacson, p. 302.

[vii] Andy Hertzfeld,  A Rich Neighbor Named Xerox,  November 1983 http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=A_Rich_Neighbor_Named_Xerox.txt (accessed Feb 10th 2014)

[viii] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999.

[ix] Blumenthal, p. 2.

[x] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999

[xi] Laura Collins, Daily Mail, UK, “Steve Job’s ex-lover’s book reveals Apple founder”, October 29th 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2478339/Steve-Jobs-ex-lovers-book-reveals-Apple-founder.html (accessed Feb 10th 2014)

[xii] Blumenthal, p. 13.

[xiii] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999

[xiv] “An Interview with Steve Wozniak”, http://www.thetech.org/exhibits/online/revolution/wozniak/i_b.html (accessed Feb 10th 2014)

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Author: edhird

I was the Rector of St. Simon's Church North Vancouver, B.C for 31 years, from 1987 to 2018. Ordained in 1980, I have also served at St. Philip's Vancouver and St. Matthew's Abbotsford. My wife Janice and I have three sons James, Mark, and Andrew. I was Past President and Chaplain for Alpha Canada. While serving as the National Chair for Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada, I was one of three co-signers of the Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials For the past 31 years, I have been privileged to write over 500 articles as a columnist on spiritual issues for local North Vancouver newspapers. In the last number of years, I have had the opportunity to speak at conferences and retreats in Honduras, Rwanda, Uganda, Washington State, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Ontario. My book For Better, For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship, coauthored with Janice Hird, can be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Better-Worse-Discovering-lasting-relationship/dp/0978202236/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1535555614&sr=8-1 My sequel Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit, with a foreword by Dr JI Packer, is online with Amazon.com in both paperback http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/097820221X/ref=redir_mdp_mobile and ebook form http://tiny.cc/tanhmx . In Canada, Amazon.ca has it available in paperback http://tiny.cc/dknhmx and ebook http://tiny.cc/wmhmmx . It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook). Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form. Nook gives a sample of the book to read online: http://tiny.cc/vj3bmx . Indigo also offers the Kobo ebook version: http://tiny.cc/kreonx . You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook: http://tiny.cc/1ukiox The book 'Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit' focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus' healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how North Americans can embrace a holistically healthy life. In order to obtain a signed copy in North America of the prequel book 'Battle for the Soul of Canada', Blue Sky, or God's Firestarters, please send a $25 etransfer to ed_hird@telus.net . Cheques are also acceptable.

6 thoughts on “Lessons I’ve learned from Steve Jobs

  1. Ed,

    Very good! Are you going to integrate these lessons into your pirate book?

    I would love to hear how the iPhone shaved one to two years off your doctorate. Would any smartphone have done the same?



  2. Wonderful article! I learned things on how spirituality helped shape him and how he was led to rejoin Apple and integrate change in the application of technology.

    Well done.


  3. ” Jobs’ passion for excellence often made him very painful to work with…”

    This statement does a disservice to any of the impressionable minds being molded by you.

    Steve Jobs was a manager, a company leader who set high standards for his company’s staff and for the products produced by that staff.

    Steve Jobs was also a (flat-out jerk) to people… some very ordinary people that he had absolutely no excuse mistreating in that way. Being “painful to work with” is not a necessary prerequisite for having a “passion for excellence”, but your statement suggests that it IS a requirement. You can set high standards and high expectations without purposely and maliciously hurting people.

    If anything, I would suggest that Steve Jobs FAILED insofar as his “passion for excellence” failed to extend all the way to demonstrating excellence in his inter-personal relationships and his interactions with people. High standards are good, and yes sometimes you have to give people a splash of cold water in the face to get them out of their rut, but surely a “reverend” knows the difference between compassionate discipline and being a flat-out jerk. I’d suggest that you balance out your giddy enthusiasm for Steve Jobs with some more realistic and more appropriate heroes.


    • I would not suggest that Steve Jobs was exercising compassionate discipline. Yes, his passion for excellence did not extend to ‘demonstrating excellence in his interpersonal relationships and his interactions with people.’ It is wrong to ‘purposely and maliciously hurt people’. I fully agree that one can set high standards and high expectations without doing this. It is certainly not a ‘prerequisite’. It sounds to me like you are speaking from personal experience.


      • I was a “Mac enthusiast” long before the general population thought that Macs were cool…. and long before they thought Apple was cool….. and long, LONG before they thought computers were cool, or even necessary, or even knew what a computer was! My personal experience with Steve Jobs is limited solely to coming from that perspective of someone who was (at that time) a ravenous supporter of Macintosh, an independent consultant, and a hobbyist interested in the history and development of the industry. It was around the time of Steve Jobs’ Second Coming (when Apple purchased his company NeXT and he was installed as the “i-CEO”), that’s when everything started sliding down the slope and right on over the cliff. Not just his decisions, but also the elegance and simplicity of the design of the Operating System changed dramatically. (No, I’m not talking about the change-over to the Linux kernal, but even before that time, with OS 8.5, 8.6.) That is when troubleshooting a Mac stretched from a 5- or 10-minute endeavor to an all-day nightmare, and I also noticed all of the people I had pushed into buying a Mac were suddenly having issues with the ease-of-use and the quality. I was stunned and I had to re-evaluate and question the trust I had placed into them for so long.

        Besides Apple, I have also had many associations with Disney as well (myself and family have worked for them), so I am someone who has been indoctrinated to appreciate — and to seek out — the highest standards of quality. Today, Apple’s reputation (and also Steve Jobs’ reputation, by extension) have benefited from a legacy that does not exist in their current products and hasn’t for a long, long time. That spinning Starlite Candy icon you see on your screen, telling you that your Mac is busy…? That’s NOT supposed to happen… and would not have happened in the original Macs. But everyone assumes that is an acceptable level of quality. Also, Macs used to be backward compatible, but today it is most often the case that when a new OS is installed, you will probably need to go through and upgrade ALL of your software with it. That never used to be the case with the original Macs (and is not the case with Windows). And there are other examples of how bad Macs have gotten.

        Today’s Apple enthusiasts — and the Steve Jobs enthusiasts — they don’t know what they don’t know. For me, the Apple/Mac universe has slid into a disheartening and a discouraging state of affairs.

        My suggestions for superior CEO role models to emulate (in place of Steve Jobs) would be (1) Howard Schultz of Starbucks, (2) Robert Iger of Disney, or maybe (3) Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com. These are people who have demonstrated they can BALANCE the needs of the company with the necessary empathy for the people needed to execute that vision.


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