Smithsonian Magazine said this about Steve Jobs at his death in 2011: "It's clear that Steve Jobs was an artist and that his artistry worked at many levels: it was a visual sensitivity that extended outward to a way of thinking about how things worked and how different variables could interact with each other in pleasing harmony."

I don't believe enough can be said about Steve Jobs as an artist. Amidst all the encomiums and panegyrics over the last few years, the most notable thing to me is a celebration of Steve Jobs as an almost religious artistic creature.

While he is certainly a great and seminal American businessman, very much the equal of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates, Jobs also clearly thought of himself as an artist first. Bob Rice, General Managing Partner of Tangent Capital Partners, in an interview with Bloomberg once spoke of Jobs as "living at the intersection of art and technology." Indeed, Jobs defined himself specifically in terms of art, famously defining Apple's success in this way: "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. It's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing." That very verbiage is the language of the poet. His lifework is as much that of the auteur as of the entrepreneur.

My sister (an entrepreneur and a musician) wrote me upon the occasion of Job's death the following: "With Steve Job's passing I feel the deep grief and sense of loss I experienced when Leonard Bernstein died. They are both great artists whose like we will not see again. They are unique. The best we can do is bring out our own unique artistry in whatever we touch."

An artist illuminates and helps us understand the truth of existence in a way not unlike that of a religious thinker. I think great entrepreneurs are imbued with this sense, even if not explicitly acknowledging it, as Jobs did.

(It is not surprising that the life of Jobs has begun to spawn new pieces of drama and art--the most prominent and interesting of these being The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, produced by the Santa Fe Opera this summer. (Steve Jobs' Life as An Entrepreneur Really Was an Opera.) Great stuff. Opera is a particularly appropriate form for the larger-than-life presence of Steve Jobs.)

Personally, Jobs was an unsentimental man. Yet I would say he loved passionately and that passion (love) was his unique entrepreneurial art. Before his death, after Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. wrote the following oped in the Wall Street Journal: "What comes to mind now is a forgotten PBS show in the 1980s that tried to explain what was then known as the 'quality' revolution in business. Interviewed was some wise old MIT professor who said, 'Quality is love.' Mr. Jobs determination to make superb products was, one likes to think, an expression of love for the world, life and possibility."

Entrepreneurs who are unattached to deeper values that make a meaningful, truthful existence are that much lessened in the value of their business life and soul success. Steve Job's lived a uniquely successful business life that inculcated art, truth, ethics, and also lucre. He was an integrated entrepreneur and an elegantly realized, if captious, human being.

Michael Yang, formerly CEO of Become.com, said simply, "Steve Jobs will be remembered in the same vein as Einstein, Ford, and John Lennon." That seems just right to me. Thank you, Michael Yang.

Published on: Sep 25, 2017
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