This post was originally published on coreyscottnaas.wordpress.com on 26 January 2020.
Steve Jobs is one of those people that are the definition of “grey” in a world where we try to squeeze people into “black” and “white”. Although cut short, there are plenty of lessons from Steve Jobs’ life, as it was full of highs and lows, both from his own actions and the actions of others.
I admire Jobs’ adoration of quality, his quest for perfection, and his focus on form as equal to function. Jobs realized that form did not have to be sacrificed for function when it came to technology, and quality did not have to be sacrificed for fiscal quarter goals. in his younger and more vulnerable years, Job’s father (in reality his adoptive father, but Jobs never made that distinction), a carpenter, told a young Steve not to skim on the quality of the backside of a kitchen cabinet, because even though no one else would see it, you would, and there’s no reason to cheat yourself out of a perfect creation. Jobs’ application of this was including the signatures of the entire Macintosh team on the inside case of the Macintosh (Not intended to be seen by consumers, as the Macintosh was the first of many Apples computers made difficult to be self-serviced), because “real artists sign their work.”
Made known to the general public by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s veritable biographical oral tome of a musical, Alexander Hamilton is the textbook definition of “contribution.” I couldn’t find even an estimate of how many words he wrote in his tragically short life, but considering the length of the entire Harry Potter series is only just over a million words, I would have no doubt that Hamilton’s word count is in the dozens of millions. And hundreds of thousands of those are the backbone of the structure of the most influential country in the world.
I admire Hamilton’s productivity, his obvious success in time management (although his strategy in managing time may well have been “If I’m awake, and I’m not talking I’m writing”), his broad, high-level thinking and ability to see the big picture yet write in the little, and his understanding of how all of the little details trickle together to become big details that, in his time, would come to form the cornerstone of American government.
Feynman is the proof that scientists and engineers can be people too. Comfortable enough to name his book after a social faux pas he made (“Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman!”, said to him after requesting both cream and lemon in his tea), Richard Feynman understood the earth, the planets, and every molecule in between. Smart enough to not understand quantum mechanics, yet smart enough to teach it, Feynman’s life was full of stories of normal life, as normal as someone like Richard Feynman could be.
I admire Feynman’s ability to explain complex ideas in simple terms and his down-to-earth nature despite obviously being smarter than the rest of us put together. Feynman understood the importance of full understanding, and that the key to understanding was to teach. I don’t know if it’s legitimate, but the phrase “If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it” is commonly attributed to Feynman, and it perfectly sums up my perspective of learning and understanding.