Lessons from Steve: ‘Don’t be trapped by dogma’

By David Lim

I encountered my first “magical” Apple product almost 11 years ago as a kindergartener walking into a room full of shiny blue iMacs at my elementary school.

The only computer I had known before in my life was my parents’ monolithic block of a Dell that stood in the corner of the living room, occasionally coming to life with the cranky tunes of a dialup modem. I mostly stayed away from it. There really is only so much entertainment Microsoft Word can offer. But the toy-like iMacs at school seemed a lot friendlier and approachable, and with the first click, I headed off into the golden days of my early childhood: avoiding cholera on the Oregon Trail, shooting at pterodactyls in Nanosaur, making new artistic masterpieces on KidPix and perhaps even learning how to type a word or two from the always friendly Mavis Beacon.

Two weeks ago, the man responsible for iMacs as well as the iPad I am currently typing this column on died.

Obituaries landed on the front page of newspapers across the country and praised him for an unmatchable number of hit products, all prefixed by a lowercase “i”. Television specials aired portraying the inspirational story of his return to Apple 20 years after he had been cast out from the company he had started when he was 21. Facebook was flooded with statuses of his most obscure philosophical musings.

In the wake of his death, Steve Jobs has been nothing short of deified and recast as a legend of our time. Yet his impact on my life has been a lot more personal. Jobs took technology, once only usable by the technological elite, and turned it into accessible consumer product. He did not invent the decades of technological innovations that made his products possible, but invented the notion that a tech product could shape our lives.

Although rows of computers with Windows 7 grace our school, iPods and iPhones fill the pockets and backpacks of students at Harvard-Westlake and are even used for audiobooks in the library. We fill our personal devices with every element of our lives, from the music that we listen to to the websites we check up on to the iHW app that keeps us going from class to class.

Jobs was never the philanthropist Bill Gates became after his retirement from Microsoft. Jobs was a demanding, tyrannical boss whose employees avoided encounters with on the elevator, fearing exacting critiques of their work. Jobs even falsely denied under oath the paternity of his out-of-wedlock daughter. He later reconciled with his daughter when she was a teenager and paid for her education at Harvard.

His human failings do not make him any less of an icon or an inspirational force to us all.

We all see a little of ourselves in the legacy Jobs has left behind or, at least, can aspire to his ideals. He is the outcast turned into the comeback kid, the relentless perfectionist dedicated exclusively to his work, the fearless innovator and even the jerk, who eventually came to terms with his mistakes.

Jobs was a man of his work and he has inspired us all to do what we love and what we do as he said himself: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”