Our art majors are the last great hope the US has

I’ve been sitting here at my desk today working to get a project out the door and something occurred to me about China, India, and how the United States compares against them in terms of STEM output from our students (STEM being the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math-related degrees).

China and India are likely to produce many top-notch critical and analytical thinkers. They’ll produce highly skilled and knowledgeable technologists at an insane rate we can’t compete with by the simple fact we don’t have as many people. But smart for the sake of being smart (by our modern day definition), and quantity for the sake of quantity doesn’t always produce innovative new products and services.

America’s advantage here, assuming we still have one, is that we are and will produce more people who are more creative and imaginative. But that’s only so long as we continue to invest in the arts, the liberal arts, and services that help kids, teens, and adults at all levels of education excel in those areas. Cutting art and music programs in schools and shunning the liberal arts at the college and career level is a dangerous thing to cut. Plus, we have to be willing to understand that a person with a strong background in the liberal arts can be just as valuable to a team as an engineer or math prodigy.

It’s these people, the ones who know how to stand at that famous intersection of humanities and sciences that Steve Jobs touted that will prove invaluable to us. They’ll be the ones producing innovative new thinking.

Steve and Me

2009 was a rough year for me. I was unsatisfied and unsettled at my job with the State and I kept trying, musing and dreaming of a day I could move on and start my own web business. I felt prepared, I had saved some money, I had work waiting for me.

But I couldn’t seem to make the leap.

Starting in October 2009, almost exactly two years ago, I put Steve Jobs’ Stanford University commencement address audio on my iPhone. You’ve probably heard it, but if not, you can read a transcript. If you haven’t seen it, the video is nice. It’s about 15 minutes long.

Every morning when I parked my car, I’d grab my iPhone, one of the first devices I ever truly felt an emotional attachment to, and popped in my earbuds and would start listening to Steve. As I walked the half mile to the office, often in the dark and bitter cold, I’d listen to Steve.
My walk every morning was exactly 15 minutes. The moment I’d sit down in my desk is the moment his talk was over.

Every morning until the latter part of November was spent listening to Steve:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

In November 2009, when I was 22 years old, I drafted my resignation letter to an organization I had spent nearly four years working for. I even noted parts of Steve’s talk in my letter.

The letter sat on my desk for a couple more days. And both days I listened to Steve’s speech, walking in the dark and the cold to a small box of an office to do a job I wasn’t willing to do anymore. Sometimes I’d even listen to it on the walk back to the car in the afternoon.

Two days later, I came into the office, having just finished listening to Steve again for the 30th-plus time. I took my letter, signed it, copied it and put it in the inboxes of my bosses.

“I’ve gotta stay hungry. I’ve gotta stay foolish.” “I have to take some risks.”

Leaving my stable, salaried, benefit-toting job was the best decision of my life, so far.

Now, I’ve been listening to that speech again on an increasing basis over the last few weeks. As silly as it sounds, I feel like Steve’s somehow talking directly to me. Not unlike how religious people feel about God (except, you know, Steve was actually there).

I’m preparing for the next phase. I’m trying to stay hungry and foolish.

Thanks, Steve.

Steve and Me

2009 was a rough year for me. I was unsatisfied and unsettled at my job with the State and I kept trying, musing and dreaming of a day I could move on and start my own web business. I felt prepared, I had saved some money, I had work waiting for me.

But I couldn’t seem to make the leap.

Starting in October 2009, almost exactly two years ago, I put Steve Jobs’ Stanford University commencement address audio on my iPhone. You’ve probably heard it, but if not, you can read a transcript. If you haven’t seen it, the video is nice. It’s about 15 minutes long.

Every morning when I parked my car, I’d grab my iPhone, one of the first devices I ever truly felt an emotional attachment to, and popped in my earbuds and would start listening to Steve. As I walked the half mile to the office, often in the dark and bitter cold, I’d listen to Steve.
My walk every morning was exactly 15 minutes. The moment I’d sit down in my desk is the moment his talk was over.

Every morning until the latter part of November was spent listening to Steve:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

In November 2009, when I was 22 years old, I drafted my resignation letter to an organization I had spent nearly four years working for. I even noted parts of Steve’s talk in my letter.

The letter sat on my desk for a couple more days. And both days I listened to Steve’s speech, walking in the dark and the cold to a small box of an office to do a job I wasn’t willing to do anymore. Sometimes I’d even listen to it on the walk back to the car in the afternoon.

Two days later, I came into the office, having just finished listening to Steve again for the 30th-plus time. I took my letter, signed it, copied it and put it in the inboxes of my bosses.

“I’ve gotta stay hungry. I’ve gotta stay foolish.” “I have to take some risks.”

Leaving my stable, salaried, benefit-toting job was the best decision of my life, so far.

Now, I’ve been listening to that speech again on an increasing basis over the last few weeks. As silly as it sounds, I feel like Steve’s somehow talking directly to me. Not unlike how religious people feel about God (except, you know, Steve was actually there).

I’m preparing for the next phase. I’m trying to stay hungry and foolish.

Thanks, Steve.

Steve Jobs Meets Mick Jagger

This is just great. Arguably my two favorite celebrities meet back in 1982:

Steve Jobs, Mike Murray and Bill Atkinson got out of the cab in front of Mick’s two-story brownstone townhouse, hauling along a Macintosh in its canvas carrying case. They knocked on the door at the address they were given, but there was no response for several minutes. Finally, the door was opened by two huge guys who were obviously bodyguards, who didn’t seem all that impressed to be talking to the co-founder of Apple Computer and his entourage. 

The Apple folk were led upstairs into an elegantly furnished room to wait for Mick. Bill set up the Mac and launched MacPaint, and started to fool around with it. Then, abruptly, Mick Jagger strode into the room, dressed casually in a T-shirt and blue jeans. 

Mick was polite, but he didn’t seem to have heard of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs or the Macintosh. Steve tried to strike up a conversation, but he wasn’t very successful. Steve told me that Mick couldn’t seem to put together a coherent sentence. “His speech was slurred and very slow”, Steve described it later, “in fact I think he was on drugs. Either that or he’s brain-damaged.” After a few minutes, it was clear that Mick had absolutely no interest whatsoever in Apple or the Macintosh, and an awkward silence ensued. 

Fortunately, Mick’s twelve year old daughter Jade had followed Mick into the room, and her eyes lit up when she saw MacPaint. Bill began to teach her how to use it, and pretty soon she was happily mousing away, fascinated by what she could do with MacPaint. Even though Mick drifted off to another room, the Apple contingent stayed with Jade for another half hour or so, showing off the Macintosh and answering her questions, and ended up leaving the machine with her, since she couldn’t seem to part with it.