Suffering Yields Success
Worrying Yields Warts

As I look back upon over 7-decades of journeying down the yellow brick road of life, I have been reminded many times that life has not always been fair. Some of the pain of life is my fault and often it is not. Nevertheless, the pain is present. It was an important lesson to learn about the fairness of life, which I learned years ago when I was very young. My second lesson is that pain can be a benefit if one addresses the pain. That lesson I have also known for much of my life. When I address the pain, I do find the gain.

My third learning has registered, but I am still wrestling with it. This learning is that we need to live life facing the unfairness issue with some sort of abandonment. I understand the laissez-faire attitude intellectually. However, it is emotionally more difficult fully to appreciate. While suffering yields success, worrying yields warts. As I pondered this issue to quit obsessing about the pain to benefit ratio, I was writing an article about one of my mentors who I had never met...Steve Jobs.

Even though Steve Jobs and I never met, I have benefited from his wisdom and have used much of that wisdom in dozens of articles over the years. There was a person that life did not treat very well. Think about it. What follows is a brief outline of times when Jobs was dealt an unfair hand. His biological mother was single and a graduate student that for some personal reason did not wish to be burdened by a baby. She gave him up for adoption immediately after delivering him into the world.

This is Steve Jobs around one year of age

This is Steve Jobs around one year of age

After Steve Jobs' adopted parents promised the biological mother that her newborn would go to college, she signed the adoption papers. As he grew up and graduated from high school, he did go to college for a half year and dropped out. He saw many of the required classes as unimportant to him. Jobs started a company, Apple, from which he was fired. Later, he was diagnosis with pancreatic cancer and died six years later.

Talk about the cards being stacked against Steve Jobs. Several decks were stacked against him. What is intriguing about Jobs' journey in life dealing with its unfairness was that he wrestled with the identical issues, which I am dealing. Life is not often fair, dealing with the pain is beneficial, and dealing with the pain with a degree of abandonment.

Jobs understood the truth of all three learnings. Look what he did as he journeyed down his yellow brick road of life. It is legendary; he changed the computer world and helped change the larger world. Millions have benefited from what started out as a problem pregnancy.

Therefore, I have spent some time attempting to understand what allowed Steve Jobs to address the fairness issue. I came up with a handful of personality traits that Jobs emulated in his facing the cards that were dealt to him. This is my list of Steve Jobs' five personality traits that addressed the problems and pains of life: thinking outside the box, autonomy, self-confidence, drive, and fearlessness. He took the cards dealt him and applied especially these traits.

  • Thinking outside the box. Steve Jobs had the ability to think outside the box. He said, "I've always thought it would be really wonderful to have a little box, a sort of slate that you could carry along with you." He looked back to the Greco-Roman times and their use of a wooden slate that contained wax on which they could write. Then Jobs, thinking outside the box, develops a computer tablet.
 The old wooden slate The newer version
The old wooden slate The newer version

Further, Jobs' thinking allowed him to observe, "The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We're just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people-as remarkable as the telephone." That is thinking outside the box.

  • Autonomy. Autonomy was another of his admirable traits, which we need to use in our lives. Autonomy comes from the Greek word: αυτσνομος (autonomos). Autonomos comes from two words: auto, which means self and nomos, which means law. Blend the two words together and you get a person who possesses one's own law. Jobs was an independent thinker and not tied to what others thought. He possessed autonomy.

Steve Jobs thinking independently

Steve Jobs thinking independently

  • Self-confidence. Jobs also possessed self-confidence. He said, "I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I've done that sort of thing in my life, but I've always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes." Life for Jobs was filled with acting self-confidently...even when the destination that laid ahead was not clearly seen or understood; he acted.

He spoke of self-confidence in his commencement address at Stanford in 2005. He wanted that graduating class to understand what he learned in life.

I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

  • Drive. Steve Jobs understood the value of do things without worrying about what people might think.

But I think the things you most regret in life are things you didn't do. What you really regret was never asking that girl to dance. In business, if I knew earlier what I know now, I'd have probably done some things a lot better than I did, but I also would've probably done some other things a lot worse. But so what? It's more important to be engaged in the present.

  • Fearlessness. Fearlessness or a sense of abandonment is the one thing that I need to develop more in my life. I know that Jobs is correct. Both you and I will benefit from his sense of fearlessness and abandonment.

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

Steve Jobs is one of my role models and one for millions throughout the world. His suffering the unfairness of life was the reason for his success. Had not all those problems occurred, we would have never heard of him. In addition, personal computers, tablets, iPhones, digital publishing, iPods, iTunes, and animation would not be where they are today.

Therefore, it boils down to a simple choice for me, and it is a choice for you also. Steve Jobs has shown us that suffering yields success. The alternative is that worrying yields warts. Choose wisely.

Suffering yields success

Suffering yields success

Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford:

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