Steve Jobs could connect the dots and how. Apple Computer, which he co-founded with Steve Wozniak in 1976, has been a world-beating success under his visionary leadership. It soared from its start as a garage venture into a technology giant with a market valuation of $350 billion, and an unmatched reputation for inventing disruptively brilliant gadgets. Apple's orchard has been sprouting wonderful things starting with the Macintosh computers and going on to the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, each testifying to the value of fine minimalist design and excellence in performance. What makes the legacy of Mr. Jobs remarkable in the fast-changing world of consumer electronics is his ability to come back to the core of innovation after fighting tough battles, and set the bar higher. Neither a 12-year absence after his 1985 exit due to an internal power struggle nor serious health setbacks seemed to curb his spirit. Now that he is stepping down as CEO, the question naturally arises — can Apple maintain its pre-eminence without the boss at the helm? The answer would seem to lie in the leader's own philosophy of life and work.
Mr. Jobs, who was raised by working class parents, did not graduate from college. But he continued to learn. He listened to intuition. He is listed as either primary inventor or co-inventor in more than 230 awarded patents or patent applications. Talent must be allowed to speak and experiment with ideas, even if every move is not bound for immediate commercial success. Mr. Jobs has a timeless message for everyone — the only way to do great work is to love what one does. A second powerful message from the 56-year old tech wizard is to learn from failure. Mr. Jobs is on record that his departure from Apple in the mid-1980s was one of the best things that happened to him — the heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of becoming a beginner once more. He proved himself all over again before returning to the company. Perhaps even more extraordinary is his triumph over life-threatening health challenges. Yet, as events show, indomitable spirit must also defer to the constraints of physical ability. Today, legions of fans look differently at music, video, and the web with each wave of innovation at Apple. The iPad tablet computer is the latest. They will look for the same game-changing impact in future products, an expectation that incoming CEO Tim Cook will have to meet. In a competitive future, Apple will have put its trust in itself. As Mr. Jobs told Stanford University graduates in a 2005 commencement address: “You have to trust in something. Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” A fine thought from someone who has lived it.