Steve Jobs: what we can learn from how he lived

SMU Engineering School Dean Geoffrey Orsak talks about Apple founder Steve Jobs' "strength was in pursuing his vision when others were headed in different directions."

By Gloria Goodale
Staff writer

Steve Jobs would be proud.

Just like the inveterate tinkerer that he was, everyone from university-level educators to homeschooling parents have spent the better part of the past “i” decade trying to figure out the secret to the Apple founder’s genius – and how to teach it to, or maybe simply nurture it in, the next generation.

The key, say many who have spent both personal and professional time roaming the chapters of the Silicon Valley inventor’s life, is to appreciate his developmental years and grasp the principles that guided his mature efforts. . .

Jobs also spent time on an Oregon commune with an apple orchard, where, according to (author Carmine) Gallo, he birthed the name for his future firm. “Wozniak came to pick him up from the commune, and Jobs told him he had the name for their company,” he says. “It should be Apple, Jobs told him, because an apple is something everyone can understand.”

As for how the commune visitor became an epic entrepreneur, timing is everything, says Geoffrey Orsak, dean of Southern Methodist University’s Lyle School of Engineering in Dallas.

Jobs came out of a “post-hippie, Bay Area culture that began to feel the growing pressure of actually finding a career when the poetry readings and protests started to wane,” he says via e-mail. A few miles south, a small informal gathering of tech tinkerers was emerging as the crucible of the new Silicon Valley, and “Jobs was poised to become the coolest kid in the class,” he says.

He wasn’t a product of the cold-war generation that started HP and Intel, cemented in the notion of the orderly progress of both technology and society, Mr. Orsak says. Jobs had an innate sense of a new emerging generation whose members never saw themselves as consumers of technology, says Orsak. “His strength was in pursuing his vision when others were headed in different directions,” he adds.

So, asks Orsak, how do we grow more “mad thinkers” like Steve Jobs?

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