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“It was the humanity of Steve Jobs that made him a role model”
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“It was the humanity of Steve Jobs that made him a role model”

As young people in the prime of our lives, we tend to live life as though we are invincible. Steve Jobs had a different and rather refreshing approach to living, writes Alisha Lewis, 19, a Commonwealth Correspondent from New Zealand.

All of us have, in some way, been affected by Steve Jobs’ legacy.

Whether in purchasing our first iPod or simply in sticking vehemently to our Microsoft guns and renouncing all things Apple, this one man’s creativity has reached billions around the world.

His story is one of greatness. It’s one of inspiration. It’s the kind of thing those bad, made for television Lifetime movies are based on: born to a young, unwed university student, Jobs was put up for adoption. He was a college dropout. And, eventually, he changed the world.

In his life, Jobs held many titles: Founder, CEO, visionary, creative, husband, father, and friend. But of all his titles, the one that speaks the most volumes is the one he shared with the rest of us: man.

It was Jobs’ humanity that made him a role model – a person to be reckoned with, a person infamous for his short temper and a person to envy. Steve Jobs’ humanity was his greatest gift but also his biggest downfall. It meant that even the superhero of the technological era wasn’t immune to something as simple and as human as cancer.

As young people in the prime of our lives and on the brink of our entire futures, we tend to live life as though we are invincible. As though there is always going to be a tomorrow. Steve Jobs had a different approach to living. In one of his most memorable speeches, at the 2005 Stanford University Commencement ceremony, he addressed the huge role the concept of death played in his life.

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me… I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change.”

Perhaps it was this rationale behind Jobs’ decision to drop out of New York University after only six months of being a student. However, he remained at the university unofficially, ‘dropping in’ on classes that interested him. He later spoke about how trusting his gut on this decision was one of the best things he ever did.

“It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5c deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless.”

One such moment of curiosity led Jobs to attend an ostensibly useless but intriguing class on the art of calligraphy. Ten years on, the skills he learned there proved invaluable when it came to designing the typography for the first Macintosh computer.

It’s clear that life didn’t just happen for Steve Jobs, as it does for so many of us. He was an active participant in deciding which paths he wanted to follow – and he was brave enough to take the narrower ones, the darker ones, that helped make him extraordinary. However, he was still to learn that there’s only so much influence a person can have on the course of life.

Thirty-two years after he first read that quote about living every day as if it were his last, Jobs was forced to confront death again – this time in a much more personal way. At the age of 49, Steve Jobs was diagnosed with a vicious pancreatic cancer that had resulted in a tumour. Doctors gave him just three months – six, tops.

However, it turned out the cancer Jobs had was a very rare type that could be treated with surgery. He was going to be ok. However, the experience reiterated the staggering fact that death is always just around the corner and that realising this is just as much a blessing as it is a curse.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Not long after Jobs delivered his Commencement Speech to the students of Stanford University, his cancer returned. This time round, he was unable to fight it. On October 5 2011 (US) he lost the battle and the world lost one of its greatest visionaries.

Steve Jobs’ imagination saw no limits, nor did his spirit. He was relentlessly honest, both with himself and with the rest of the world, and I think this was his most powerful attribute – he admitted to losing his temper, to ‘stealing’ ideas, to being great and to being afraid of dying. Basically he admitted to being human.

But he was definitely an extraordinary human.

At 20, he co-founded Apple from his parents’ garage. In ten years it grew from two men in a garage into a two billion dollar company, and Jobs went from CEO to being fired by his own Board. He spent the next five years forming another company called NeXT as well as the animation studio Pixar. When Apple bought NeXT, Jobs was back in as CEO – now with more than one company under his belt.

He was the Thomas Edison of our lifetime. He is credited with bringing the personal computer, mouse, iPod, iPhone and iPad into our homes and our lives – permanently altering the way in which people interact with each other as well as with the media.

He is one of the most inspiring role models of our generation, not just because of his success, but because of the legacy he left behind – a legacy that transcended the technology he developed and was based just as equally on the ideals he lived by.

One of the final messages he left with the students of Stanford University was a much more valuable gift to the next generation than any iPod or iPhone.

“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 others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

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About me:

“I’m a journalism student from Auckland, New Zealand. Originally from India, my family moved to New Zealand when I was four years old. I love writing – both creative and transactional – as well as reading, theatre, travelling and dancing.

“Aside from studying, I work as an intern for ONE News – at TVNZ, our national broadcaster – and as sub-editor for my university magazine. I hope to enter into journalism, ultimately working for established editorial publications within New Zealand or overseas.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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