With the sad death of Steve Jobs earlier this month, and release of his biography last week, a number of articles have been written that give both depth and detail to his groundbreaking career as well as to the ups and downs of his professional and personal life. Yet what has most resonated for me, has been the steadfast philosophy and vision that guided him throughout his amazing career. This philosophy and it’s two simple, yet powerful principles, can serve as great reminders, not just for businesses, but for parents as well.
His first principle was to keep the emphasis on simplicity and focus–two components clearly reflected within his products–from their ease of use to their simple and elegant design. And yet this idea of simplicity and focus seems to run counter to so much of what we are told and come to believe as parents. Think of the sheer volume of advice and information we get from the internet, parenting books, Super Nanny, school guidance conselors, fellow parents, even well-meaning family members–on ALL the things we should or shouldn’t be doing in order for our children to be (fill in the word of your choice here): successful, happy, confident, competent, Ivy League material, an athletic star, other.
And simpler doesn’t always mean easier. As Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple”. How true this is for parenting as well! Because to really determine and break down our family goals or mission into a few simple concepts or phrases, not to mention to keep the focus on those goals, is hard–much harder, many times than following the collective parenting herd of signing up for as many enrichment classes, sports programs and individualized, elite training sessions as possible , just to be sure we cover all our bases.
Yet, just like Jobs’ products, keeping a simpler focus on what is most valuable and important to our family, will more likely lead to the goals we strive for than doing all that extra stuff would. If our goal for example, is to cultivate connection and simpicity in our children, wouldn’t keeping focused on regular and shared family mealtimes and conversation be more likely to teach our children to value those attributes than an overscheduled, overstructured, time pressed schedule would?
Which leads to his second, equally important guiding principle of listening to and following your own inner voice. “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” he reminded us. “They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” And one look at Apple products tell us they embody the very esssence of his trust in intuitive thinking.
For me personally, a self-described “techno-phobe” who neither likes nor really understands computers and the world of technology, the decision to become an Apple exclusive user is a testament to his goal of providing intuitive and simple products that even toddlers (like me) can undestand. Whether it was the design of the products or the ease of use, the goal seems to be to trust the user’s inherent wisdom and intuitition.
So what if we parents had that same courage to trust our inherent wisdom and intuition when it comes to decisions we think are best for our families–even in the face of opposing and often contradictory information we get from the sources mentioned above? And what if we sent a similar message to our children; that we trust their intuitiion, and want to help and support them to follow and listen to their inner voice as to the best direction their lives should take (even if that direction sometimes differs from where we think their lives should go)? As he once told Businessweek, his philosophy, however difficult is, “…worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Imagine the “mountains” that we and our children can move, if we trust and are guided by that intuition and wisdom within ourselves?
Does this mean we won’t get it wrong sometimes? Of course we will. Certainly many, many times. And not unlike Steve Jobs. In fact, reading about his imperfections and failures, of all the times he made mistakes or “got it wrong” felt encouraging and empowering. Because in mistakes and mishaps is where we often find clarity. And Steve Jobs’ numerous mistakes made his perserverence, resurgence and success all the more admirable, because it seemed that through it all, his focus, vision and confidence in his inner voice remained.
So next time we are texting with ease on our iPhone or downloading the entire Beatles White album on our iTouch, let’s take a moment to thank Steve Jobs for the revolution that his groundbreaking vision created, not just on how we access and use information, but on how his philosophy can remind us as parents on what is most important, as we strive to create the best life possible for our families.
As he once said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” Sounds a lot like raising children to me!
Mindful Parenting Playlist Song#10 “Revolution 1” by the Beatles