The philosophy of epic entrepreneurs: Steve Jobs

"Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually do." Tech superstar, genius innovator, mega-influencer, magician, artist, mystic, tyrant and rebel soul. Aspiring Zen master and restless yogi on the eternal quest to spiritual enlightenment. Here's to the crazy one... the epic Steve Jobs.

San Fransisco, USA, 1955.

"I was always a loner." Somewhere, in a famed valley where dreams turn to gold, a little boy was born, abandoned and found in the hands of a family that unconditionally loved him. Steve was always the outsider - at school, with friends, at work, in love. Hurt, bullied, and misunderstood. But all that was about to magically change, and turn melancholy into endless inspiration, lack into creative imagination.... the lost boy from Los Altos to the legendary Prince of Silicon Valley. The rising star of Steve Jobs would conquer a place in the highest spot of the sky.

11161 Crist Drive, Los Altos, California.... The most iconic garage in the world.

On April Fool's Day, 1976, a legend was born. Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak founded the Apple Computer in the humble garage of Steve's home. The leading vision was absolutely clear - to disrupt the tech industry; commercialize their talent and pioneering ideas; humanize computing and elevate design to become the 'Apple of the eye'.

Through the high energy of youth and the bonding of true friendship, a powerful duo emerged that in the years to come would take the ever-shifting tech world by storm. Just before starting to scale their fame among the earliest visionaries into the future of electronics, the pair took a pause to indulge in a more liberal way of life in tune with the wild spirit of the sixties. Steve and Woz, as Stephen Wozniak is widely known, shared and bonded over common passions - computers, Bob Dylan, perfecting their skills in hacking and indulging in the naughtiest of pranks. Though one can only conceive of the incident as urban legend, the truth is that when showing off their hacking skills to gain free long-distance calls, they got through to the Vatican and almost succeeded in waking up the Pope for a chat in the middle of the night!

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A rare myth surrounds the uniqueness of Steve Jobs, whose legend lives on as intense as ever. Indisputably, in the eyes of many, he is perceived as an edgy tech hero, an archetypal cult business leader and one of the most visionary strategists in the history of the entrepreneurial world. His genius was mostly profound in his talent to complement technology with an artistic edge through his passion for sophisticated elegance and perfection. Guided by his strong intuition, he excelled in fusing the hardcore engineering skills of his team with higher levels of imagination that challenged the boundaries, and resulted in a series of star products that would capture the heart of millions of loyal Apple fans across the globe. As he would emphatically remark: "A brand is not so much about rational arguments, but the way that the company resonates with people emotionally. Marketing is about values."

A known player of hardball and gifted with emotional intelligence as well as an intense character, trapped in the psychological controversy of childhood years, his life and career resemble a whirlwind of brilliant virtues and dark flaw. Against superficial misconceptions, the truth might lie somewhere in between. Indeed, Jobs had great respect for those who he admired and aspired to, but had zero tolerance for ignorance, dogma, compromise and all things second-best. He was certainly not interested in developing a diplomacy to hide his seismic personality. 

Glorified or vilified? So, who was the notoriously charismatic Steve Jobs and what were the real threads that made up the tapestry of his unconventional path in life?

"I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates." If Jobs was 'usual', he would not have lead such an utterly unusual life. A philosophised innovator, he was mesmerised, since his student years, by the wisdom of ancient philosophers, poets and Zen masters. Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, along with sacred texts of Eastern mysticism and Zen Buddhism, were the source of his awakening and the constant beacon navigating his spiritual journey. 

"There is no reason not to follow your heart," he whispered to himself, and left it all behind including his job at Atari, to set off on a journey to India that would change him forever. Seven months in the land of mystical wisdom and Hindu gurus, across old cities on the shores of the Ganges and all the way up to the Himalayas.

"The main thing I learned is intuition, that the people in India are not just pure rational thinkers, that the great spiritual ones also have an intuition." From then on, Jobs valued the virtue of intuition and experiential wisdom even higher than intellect, and that would become a major influence in shaping his character and defining his leadership style.

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"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 important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." In these words, his whole life philosophy is distilled.

A loyal yogi, in and out of ashrams and secluded meditation retreats. A seeker of the deeper truths of life, lost and found in his intense search to ground his identity and the quest for spiritual enlightenment that lasted his whole lifetime. He passionately aspired to the Zen philosophy of eclectic minimalism and the power of deconstructing complex elements - a talent which is evident in the sophisticated designs and sleek details of the niche products that Jobs envisioned, and launched in the market. In his own words: "That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."

Like a modern day 'antevasin', he stood in-between perceived reality and the idealism of perfection; the inter-play between philosophy, arts and tech sciences. That Jobs was a man egoistically playing by his own set of rules was no big secret. Stimulated by mind-games, he created an intense aura to impact people around him.

The dilemma of 'free will against determinism' intellectually challenged him from a young age. Out of all this multi-dimensional search throughout his life, was born one more of his signature constructs - the famous 'reality distortion field'.

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"We are here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?" In his quest for extraordinary achievement, Jobs became a master in applied imagination. The 'reality distortion field' was about creating a psychological atmosphere under the single aim of transcending limits and convincing his teams that everything is possible. To put it simply, he believed in the power of strong will and focused intention to bend reality. To some, it may sound like an out of this world, theoretical concept. But, Steve was indeed practicing 'secrets' of Zen mysticism and proven principles of quantum mechanics. A quick look into the proposed outcomes of scientific experiments such as the 'Observer effect', 'Schrödinger's cat', and the theories underlying 'the collapse of the wave function', will reveal enough about the depth of beautiful curiosity and universal intelligence of the legendary Steve Jobs.

The  star of Steve Jobs lives on eternally. In that famous pitch black stage, where he mesmerized thousands of awed fans, he would perform the last of his magical shows. A poignant rebel, a misfit, a troublemaker.... The one who saw things differently: "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become... Stay hungry, stay foolish."

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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