Can a man influence the march of history? I have had a doubt about the matter. Left historiography believes that the material forces of human history give direction, and individuals inevitably come to tap the existing potentials. By and large no one can argue against this construct. But people like Steve Jobs sometimes make one wonder.
The developments in electronics would inevitably have led to PCs and Laptops and iPads etc. But the integration of various fields of calligraphy, music, visual arts and the sharp focus on the needs of the customer probably accelerated the process of marking computing as something for the common-man. I feel he advanced the march of technology by about two decades by involving an ever increasing number of people in the revolution.
The three legacies of Jobs that strike me as relevant for the world are – ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’, ‘don’t dream the dreams of others’ and ‘see the broader picture’. The second theme has been extensively discussed in India in the last few years in various forms – Chetan Bhagat’s book ‘Five Point Someone’ and Amir Khan’s movie ‘3 idiots’ based on it were inspired by this very thought.
But ‘see the broader picture’ is an aspect on which we Indians are missing out. No doubt the devil lies in the detail, but there must be sufficient thought given to the larger framework in which we live and operate. I feel we are living too much on day-to-day, crisis-to-crisis basis, both in our personal lives and in our public affairs. Our long term goals are not defined. Our principals are not clear. Our ability to rise above petty issues is decreasing by the day. The society I live in is failing to inspire me to look beyond the self. Inspiration and leadership of the kind given by Jobs is something we sorely miss.
Creativity and originality of thought, which comes with the ability to take risks, is the only way forward. In his life, Jobs lived that ideal. In his death he has left us a challenge – to adopt his legacy and make the world a better place. It needs lots of courage, as also the support of the society, for an individual to take to this path.
And that brings me to the most demanding of his concepts – ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’. It is a path of strife and struggle, full of failures and little tangible gains for the individual. But it does lead to greatness – and only great individuals can create great cultures. The lessons are all there to be learnt. Whether we wish to learn them, or just pay lip service to them, is up to us.