10/06/11 — Genius lost: Steve Jobs was flawed, but brilliant; a true bellwether of progress

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Genius lost: Steve Jobs was flawed, but brilliant; a true bellwether of progress

There is no one definition for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs -- although there are many who say that "innovation" was his watchword.

He was quirky, maddeningly focused and sometimes, some say, prickly. His life was secretive, complex and full of choices that contrast the brilliant man he was.

But in the end, the man who helped bring Americans the personal computer, and generations of applications of that technology, changed the world -- all because he followed his own star.

And that is why Steve Jobs is an icon for what it takes to have a dream and to follow it to its fruition.

He met many ideas he did not like -- and took on some of them as his own projects, his critics and supporters say. And that is what made Jobs so controversial and so fascinating -- he just could not resist innovating, inventing and creating.

He embodied the American spirit of industry and entrepreneurship.

But Jobs' greatest lesson came at the end of his life, when the threat of cancer left him wondering what was next -- not the first time a setback or challenge made him look differently at his life.

He understood, finally, that there was no escape from death and that to let its threat loom and limit your life is to give up the chance to be fulfilled and happy.

And facing his own mortality also helped him make priorities -- in life, in business and in how he viewed the world.

He did not believe in wasting time -- and he didn't, right up until the end of his life.

Steve Jobs will be remembered for the inventions he helped create that changed the world. He will be admired for his business sense and determination -- and he will be studied and critiqued for how he lived his life and conducted his career.

That is what happens when you become a legend.

But in the study of his genius and its flaws, there is also the chance to learn the lessons taught by a man who knew he did not have much time left.

He cautioned a group of graduates in 2005 to pursue their own lives and to not let fear make choices for them -- and that is the best advice he could have given them.

It is just a portion of a legacy that will take years to fully appreciate and understand.

Published in Editorials on October 6, 2011 11:00 AM