There are two stories competing for top billing over the last 24 hours – the passing of Steve Jobs and the Occupy Wall Street movement and all of its related protests. Ironic, on one hand people mourn the loss of a billionaire captain of industry, yet on the other they vilify the very system that created the one they mourn. One has to realize and accept that Steve Jobs was enabled and grew from the system; the very system they claim to despise.
Steve Jobs was wealthy. He was rich – he made a ton of money – billions. The system afforded him the opportunity to create, to improve upon, to develop and market great products. Let’s be honest, Apple has always been a premium priced product – always. He ran a company that minimized costs and maximized revenues. It did great things for its employees, its shareholders and stakeholders, but he ran it always with an eye on the bottom line, and I would imagine extreme sensitivity to taxation. He did exactly what any good CEO is supposed to do – he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts.
Steve Jobs the man is praised for what he created. How he did it is often overlooked. He was widely known to have a rather “interesting” leadership style. Above all else, he was a business man. Clearly there are issues in our world that need addressed – in business, in politics, on Wall Street and even on Main Street. However, declaring large companies, executives, banks, “the rich” and “the system” to be evil and fundamentally flawed is missing the real lesson of Steve Jobs.
It is the system that allowed an adopted son of a squarely middle class family to quite literally change the world. Steve Jobs gave us many gifts, or rather he afforded us the opportunity to buy things he and his company created. His is an example that we need to remember now more than ever. Hard work, vision, passion, committment and reward. Make no mistake, Steve Jobs was an entrepreneur. He saw opportunities and he took them. He took massive risk, multiple times actually, and reaped massive rewards. He created jobs and wealth – a lot of both. He did all of this on some level for the greater good, but he also did it for money. He was not so different from the majority of those in business; those who are being vilified.
Yes, Steve Jobs was one amazing visionary – he did change the world. We are all better because of him. Steve Jobs was exceptional, but he was not the exception. He was another business man who thrived in the system.