Steve Jobs and George Harrison: 5 Things They Shared

Posted by Bernie Reifkind on October 7, 2011

On the very same night that the world learned of the passing of Steve Jobs, Martin Scorsese’s documentary on the life of George Harrison premiered on HBO.

I, like many people, knew in advance and was highly anticipating the George Harrison documentary.  George Harrison meant a lot to me and though I am sad that he passed away (10 years ago) at an early age, I was anticipating a night of celebrating his life.

Just prior to the broadcast, I learned of the passing of Steve Jobs.

Of course most people knew that Steve Jobs had been very ill and was most likely near the end of his life. 

Knowing something and and then having it confirmed can be very different. 

So I was extremely saddened to hear that Steve Jobs had passed away.  I never met Steve Jobs and yet I mourn his passing.  As does the world.

Much like the news about George Harrison’s passing 10 years ago.  I knew then that he was gravely ill, but when the news came that George had passed, I was stunned.  I mourned his passing.

Death is final.  As it is said, “no one gets out of here alive.”

Reflecting on the coincidence that the documentary on George Harrison’ s life broad-casted within hours of the passing of Steve Jobs, it became clear to me that these two legendary individuals shared 5 unique “takes” on the way they lived their lives. 

To be fair, both were extremely talented and born with unique gifts no different than an athlete who can run faster and jump higher than the rest. Or a math wiz that can master calculus at age 10. 

But we are all born with certain gifts whether or not we are aware of it.  The difference was that Jobs and Harrison “played out” their gifts.  Let’s explore this in the 5 things that they shared:

1.  Steve Jobs and George Harrison rejected conventional wisdom with regard to education.  Steve Jobs did not graduate college, he studied what he found interesting.  George Harrison did not even graduate high school.  He too studied what he found interesting, though not in a class room.  Life was calling and Harrison answered the call.  Both received a superior life education that can not and never will be found in text books. 

2.  Both Jobs and Harrison had no “fall back” plans.  George Harrison taught himself the guitar and then followed his friends at age 15 to play a vital role in becoming what is arguably the most important musical influence in history, The Beatles.  But he took a huge risk by putting all of his eggs in one basket.  George Harrison had no “fall back” plan.  If the Beatles didn’t become successful, who knows what George would have done with his life given that he quit high school, hung out, traveled and did all the things that most parents would never let their children do.

The same with Steve Jobs.  He also had no “fall back” plan.  Following high school graduation in 1972, Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Although he dropped out after only one semester, he continued auditing classes at Reed, while sleeping on the floor in friends’ rooms, returning Coke bottles for food money, and getting weekly free meals at the local Hare Krishna temple.  A humble beginning at best.  If Steve Jobs and a partner hadn’t started tinkering with electronics in a garage and start a company called Apple, what might he have done to earn a living?

3.  Making money (though important) was not their main motivation.  Both George Harrison and Steve Jobs probably would have done their jobs for free.  Of course becoming extremely wealthy was a bonus that gave each a life of options that most of us will never know.  But money was not the means, it was the ends.  How many people do you know who are doing the job they do, only because of the money?  Harrison and Jobs were passionate about what they were doing.  They were not to be denied, no matter what.  It wasn’t about the money.

4.  Both Jobs and Harrison were able to do the work that they loved to do.  It’s great advice to give someone: “find out what you love to do and then do it” but in reality life sometimes gets in the way of our best laid plans and dreams.  Having responsibilities and families to support is a game changer for most people.  So is being a responsible adult.

Doing what you love (for a living) is not realistic for most people.  When the rent or mortgage is due and the kids need braces, making car payments, eating, helping a parent, etc. can easily over ride doing what we would love to do to earn a living.  Most people do what they have to do.

5. Neither appeard to take themselves too seriously.  Observe or read about both Steve Jobs and George Harrison and you find a humility that is rarely found in the stratospheric lives that they lived.  They didn’t take themselves too seriously.  I often read and heard George Harrison say that he never could completely understand what all the fuss was about over him.  Harrison often said that he thought of himself as a “gardener” because he enjoyed working in his garden. 

Steve Jobs didn’t take himself seriously, though he certainly took his products sersiously.  Confident? Yes of course.  Humility? In spades. 

But have you ever seen a picture of Steve Jobs without the same black turtleneck shirt, dirty jeans, and scruffy running shoes?  He probably shaved 2-3 times per week.  I read an article that Apple had more liquid capitol then the US Treasury.  Steve Jobs wasn’t interested in personally impressing anyone.  He also wondered what all the fuss was about him personally.  If Steve Jobs did not appear in public, people always wondered where he was and conjectured all kinds of things.  He never appeared to care.  To Jobs, it wasn’t about him personally.  That is the personification of humility. 

Both are gone but never forgotten.

I am Bernie Reifkind, CEO and founder of Premier Search, Inc.  I can be reached at 1(800) 801-1400 or email at ceo@psihealth.com.  I welcome your phone call.

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