William Damon

The Education of Steve Jobs

After Steve Jobs stepped down from his post as Apple’s CEO, his innovative career was enthusiastically celebrated by the media and public alike. Starting with his founding of Apple Computer when he was in his early twenties, Jobs has left his mark on the personal computer, the laptop, the mobile phone, the tablet computer, recorded music, film animation, and several other communication technologies that have brought the people of the world closer together. Some commentators have gone so far as to describe Jobs as a historic figure, not just in business but also in the evolution of civilization.

Along with the celebration of Jobs’ splendid string of achievements has come a flood of speculation about the secret of his success. Which ingredients of character, talent, skill, and/or knowledge accounted for the explosion of entrepreneurial genius that erupted from this young man over thirty years ago? As he took on his new ventures, how did Jobs manage to turn innovation after innovation into astonishingly profitable products that transform the way we work and play? We will never arrive at definitive answers to such questions in the particular case of Steve Jobs, because the mysteries of any one individual life can never be wholly explained. But to address the broader question of how entrepreneurs develop their abilities to succeed is more than just an exercise in idle speculation—it can be a call to action. If we wish to promote (rather than discourage) entrepreneurship among today’s young, we need to gain an understanding of the conditions that favor its development. In addition, we need to make sure that these conditions prevail in places where young people spend their time—most prominently, in our schools and colleges.

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