I am reading Steve Jobs’s biography. Why does this yoga teacher want to read about an arrogant nasty person whose work centered on technology? Really it was encountering the applications of iPhones and iPads in the disability world and the recommendation of a woman I met at the Colorado Center for the Blind.
A person could write about 15 different aspects of Jobs’s career, but I’m particularly drawn toward two of his work traits. He knew how to focus, and he usually knew what to focus on. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he said. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.” So he narrowed down the projects that Apple worked on and sought to perfect the products and services associated. The other trait I admire in him is realizing what people need before they need it and creating it (and yes, it can obviously be argued that we don’t need iPhones).
The truth is that my current greatest career challenges are learning to focus and developing the confidence to press forward to create something I think many folks don’t know they need. I have this problem of being distracted by some shiny existing job with a good salary when I am already on track in terms of creating my work.
Instead I need to hone in on my task, find others to work with, and follow Jobs’s example by going my own way, keeping my finger on the pulse of change, creating that which people do not yet know they need.
What did Jobs decide to turn away from as he moved toward his vision? He turned away from developing some products, from working with other companies in sharing software, from employees who were not smart, creative, and tough. Perhaps he decided not to focus on gentleness in his rush to produce. He certainly didn’t waste time with people or things or designs he didn’t like. What he did focus on was products he thought people would need, that would help them to be more creative, that would change the world.
What do I need to turn away from? Fear, fancy mainstream jobs, the latest “lucrative career fields” posted on Yahoo.com. I think that the need to belong and the fear of poverty are behind the process. Like everyone, I want to feel needed, valued, productive, and like I can make a good living. Such needs can supersede my creativity. In addition, we are trained and conditioned from an early age to take our places in the system as it is rather than to question it and create new things. Such conditioning has a strong hold on me and it slips in when I feel frustrated or isolated in what I’m doing. Jobs’s cantankerous personality and his rebellions streak may have actually helped him stay on track, to be immune to the above mentioned needs and fears. I do think his drive to create affected his behavior with others and was linked to his meanness. Yet it seems his internal value system influenced his ability to inspire those who are creative, intelligent, and self-motivated.
And how do I stay focused? I need to turn toward what excites and challenges me. And toward tasks that align with my personal characteristics. To calling attention to the failings in our health and mental healthcare system and proposing new models, to teaching yoga and writing. I need to keep poking my nose out there.
I keep connecting with organizations and individuals involved in health care as a yoga teacher and writer. My thought is to help individuals with health issues tune into their own inner wisdom, their own talents (re Jobs), their communities. I take inspiration from the part of Jobs that was committed, took risks, connected with bright individuals in garages and corporations, dressed to suit himself, and kept his sights on the product. Yes, many of his qualities were not as inspiring, but his focus and drive are. And I do choose to take his advice to “think different.”