6 Reasons Why Steve Jobs Was Truly One of a Kind
From wanting to be a monk to being top secret about his philanthropy, here is why the Apple genius was in a class by himself.
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Steve Jobs wasn’t regarded a philanthropist. He ended the Apple’s corporate philanthropy program shortly after he returned to the floundering company in 1997. The late-Apple CEO, who grew up in Silicon Valley, was worth $8.3 billion in Apple stock at the time of his death in 2011, making him the 34th richest man in the United States at this time of this death. However, as of that year, there is no public tax record of Jobs donating directly to charity, according to The New York Times.
His reason for cutting the corporate philanthropy programs when he returned to helm Apple in 1997 was at least partly due to the fact that the company was in dire financial trouble reporting hundreds of millions in losses and $1 billion in unsold products.
But just because Jobs wasn’t on any public giving lists, doesn’t mean he wasn’t generously giving, said Adriene Davis, manager of public affairs at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, who tracks such gifts, to The Washington Post.
Leander Kahney, the author of the unauthorized biography Inside Steve’s Brain, also supported that theory, writing, "For a person as private as Jobs, who shuns any publicity about his family life, [giving enormous sums of money to charity anonymously] seems credible.”
We can speculate what he might have done, but here’s what’s on record. In 2013, Jobs’ successor at Apple, Tim Cook, publicly stated that his late boss gave $50 million to Stanford hospitals, which went towards building a children's medical center and a new main building.
In addition, U2 lead singer Bono, who’d friended Jobs during a collaboration between Bono’s AIDS/HIV nonprofit Product Red and Apple, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in 2011 praising Jobs' contributions to the fight against AIDS in Africa. In 2014, AdWeek reported that Bono went on record to state Apple had quietly helped raise $75 million for a nonprofit that Jobs had a primary role in supporting.
Even Jobs himself admitted that what he gives will not necessarily be on public display. In a 1985 Playboy interview he was asked what he’d like to do with his wealth, the then 30-year-old Jobs said, "That’s a part of my life that I like to keep private. When I have some time, I’m going to start a public foundation. I do some things privately now."
It’s entirely plausible that Jobs had simply continued his policy of doing certain things privately throughout his life. He died at the age of 56 in 2011, and his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, who sits on many boards for education and health-related initiatives, has embodied privacy as well in her philanthropic work, according to The New York Times.
In 2013, she founded the Emerson Collective LLC, a charitable organization which is structured like a small business and allows the organization to make anonymous donations to various causes, such as College Track, the college-preparatory organization for the underserved that she co-founded in 1997, and the NewSchools Ventures Fund, an education nonprofit the Jobs’ family has donated millions to, according to its CEO Ted Mitchell.
It’s impossible to say whether Jobs would have grown into someone who focused as fiercely on his philanthropic projects as he did on his business. However, one can confidently surmise that if he had, he wouldn’t have done it half way. Love him, judge him or hate him, Jobs was a true radical and a visionary.
Check out five more reasons that made the Silicon Valley entrepreneur truly one of a kind.
1. Jobs nearly became a monk.
The young Jobs had seriously considered becoming a monk, according to Alex Gibney’s 2015 documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. During his lifetime, Jobs was often compared to a monk with his single-minded dedication to Apple and his restrictive vegetarian diet -- sometimes fasting for periods -- and austere choice of wardrobe.
In the film, a very tortured teenager, Jobs had befriended a Zen monk from Japan by the name of Kobun Otogawa and showed up at his doorstep late one night to tell Otogawa that he had become “enlightened,” and he didn’t know what to do. The monk’s response was that he needed proof of this enlightenment. Jobs returned to Otogawa a week later with “a little metal sheet” -- a computer chip he said that both he and Steve Wozniak had built.
Jobs studied with the monk throughout the 1970s, repeatedly asking Otogawa to make him a monk. Otogawa refused, saying that Jobs’ work was elsewhere. However, their relationship eventually led Otogawa to becoming Apple’s corporate spiritual advisor, and he presided over Jobs’ marriage ceremony in the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. In 2002, Otogawa drowned while trying to save his five-year-old daughter. Jobs was devastated.
2. Jobs failed -- big time.
Jobs had big ideas -- and some of them belly-flopped. One of his most epic failures was the Lisa, a personal computer for Apple -- referred to as an “early Mac” -- released in 1983 that used graphic icons instead of text and came with a price tag of $10,000.
Jobs had lead the team on the Lisa -- until he was forced off of it and joined the Macintosh team. Being his typical combative self, Jobs poached engineering talent from the other team and contributed to the Lisa’s demise by giving multiple interviews to publications talking up the Macintosh and touting it as a less expensive version of the Lisa.
The Lisa only sold 10,000 units and was discontinued a year later. After disappointing sales with the Macintosh, Jobs was pushed out of Apple in 1983.
Related: Steve Jobs: An Extraordinary Career
3. Jobs lead a tech company -- but he wasn’t a technical person.
For a man who founded a computer company, Jobs lacked the sophisticated engineering know-how that someone such as Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg possessed.
According to Apple co-founder Wozniak in an interview with I Programmer:
“Steve Jobs played no role at all in any of my designs of the Apple I and Apple II computer and printer interfaces and floppy disks and stuff that I made to enhance the computers. He did not know technology. He never designed anything as a hardware engineer, and he didn’t know software. He wanted to be important, and the important people are always the business people. So that’s what he wanted to do.”
So, what did he bring to the table? Jobs had a wonderful eye for design and had the gift of vision mixed in with a searingly intense personality. He knew what he wanted to accomplish and adopting (some say stealing) great ideas along the way.
However, Jobs knew he could not accomplish anything alone and had a great knack at recruiting top-notch people and getting them to do anything to get the job done -- even if it was a detriment to their personal life, according to former Apple employees’ testimony from Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.
Whether Jobs had programming skills or not, Wozniak admitted in the same interview in I Programmer that Apple would not have done as well without Jobs.
4. Jobs was a mentor to Mark Zuckerberg.
There were several influential people who were mentors in Jobs' life -- one of them was the Zen master Otogawa -- and it only seemed natural for Jobs to eventually become a mentor himself.
One of his more famous mentees was Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who during a town-hall style meeting last year with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recounted a story about Jobs’ role in guiding him during an uncertain time at Facebook.
"Early on in our history when things weren't really going well -- we had hit a tough patch and a lot of people wanted to buy Facebook -- I went and I met with Steve Jobs, and he said that to reconnect with what I believed was the mission of the company, I should go visit this temple in India that he had gone to early in the evolution of Apple, when he was thinking about what he wanted his vision of the future to be,” Business Insider reports Zuckerberg saying.
Jobs had a special connection to a particular temple in India that he visited after he dropped out from college and recommended that Zuckerberg visit -- which he did. The Facebook founder spent a month traveling the country and said that “seeing the way that people connected made him feel that the world would be much better if everyone had a stronger ability to connect,” which reinforced his vision. Subsequently,
Zuckerberg rejected the offers to purchase his company and survived the tough times to grow Facebook into one of the largest tech companies in the world.
5. Jobs was a billionaire, but he lived modestly.
In a 1993 interview for The Wall Street Journal, Jobs said, "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. ... Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful -- that's what matters to me."
Jobs lived a modest life, considering his multibillion-dollar worth. According to Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, when Jobs became a successful CEO he didn’t go for the Silicon Valley mega-mansion and collection of cars. Instead, he leased a silver Mercedes Benz and lived in an understated and lightly furnished 5,700-square-foot home in Palo Alto, Calif. with his wife and three children, according to ABC News.
His one real splurge was his private Gulfstream V airplane (which cost $90 million) that he asked Apple to give him as an executive bonus in 2001.