This will be the most controversial post you read all day.
You may have already seen the meme about what Steve Jobs, the cofounder of Apple, said on his deathbed. He explained that he regrets focusing so much on wealth, and that it is more important to focus on relationships. Reading his final words made me sad, but it's not because I believed he said a single word of it. It's sad because it's true.
Many people have already explained that Steve Jobs would have never said any of those things. For me, it's like another meme, the one that shows a picture of either Tom Hanks or Bill Murray. You can prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is Bill Murray, but I will insist until my final days on this Earth that it is actually Tom Hanks.
Why do we want to believe things that are not true? Because we want them to be true. In reading multiple biographies of Steve Jobs, and actually meeting him once in person at a conference, I've always wanted to believe that the most innovative entrepreneur of all time had a big heart. From everything I've read, Jobs was a different person at home with his wife and kids. Maybe he would cut you down to size in a business meeting, but he was more palatable at home. I choose to believe the parts about his creative genius, his marketing savvy, his business acumen.
I've always wanted to believe that business has a purpose and a deeper meaning. For me, it's not a pursuit of wealth. It is a pursuit of income as a way to support my family. Plain and simple, no complexities on that one. The goal is to provide. There isn't a Jaguar F-Type sitting in my garage, and there never will be. For me, purchasing a car like that, taking lavish trips to Spain, blowing a few thousand dollars on a slot machine in Vegas, or having my hot meals delivered every night by courier doesn't make sense. It doesn't lead to lasting satisfaction. Putting my kids through college? That has long-term benefits. One of them is that they might find a job someday.
What are we pursuing in life? What does matter? The reason that meme is making the rounds again, especially on Facebook, is that we all want to believe that the pursuit of riches and fame isn't worthwhile, that relationships do matter more than anything.
For someone who actually does own a luxury sports car, maybe there is some justification--you've earned it, you deserve it. I get that. I've been known to buy a lobster dinner or two at times. Yet, the difference is in our focus. Did you buy the F-Type because you wanted it to make you happy? It won't. Part of my job is reviewing cars, and after five years of testing, I've come to realize that every make and model is essentially a metal chassis on four tires with a radio. You might not agree with me about this viewpoint, but every material possession in life is fleeting. The car will be parked outside of your hospital room someday and you won't be able to drive it. On your deathbed, as the meme implies, the only things that really matter to you will be the people by your side. The Jaguar won't fit in the hospital room.
The reason the Steve Jobs deathbed meme is so profound (even though it's badly written and a little smarmy) is that there are things that we can choose to believe about the world. Problems will be solved eventually, even though starvation is not going away. By providing for our kids and loving them, they will eventually find their place. By showing kindness to others, we will reap a harvest because we have done what is right and noble, not what makes us rich and famous.
I'm curious about your viewpoint. Maybe the Steve Jobs meme makes you angry. It isn't true; he didn't say those things. I doubt any of us know what he really said; maybe he made a final call to his Wells Fargo account to check the balance. Who knows? But we can choose to believe that wealth, as described in the memo, is fleeting. Men or women who have a pile of cash at their bedside are not going to be more comfortable or happy in their final days. Wealth either owns us or we choose to believe it is not important. Which one will you choose?