Steve Jobs' Mantra Rooted in Buddhism: Focus and Simplicity


Buddhism a Wake-Up Call for Steve Jobs?

The catalog also delved into spirituality. In one 1974 article, author Rick Fields wrote that Buddhism is "a tool, like an alarm-clock for waking up."

That may have been the case for Jobs. He said in his now-famous 2005 Commencement speech at Stanford that he lived each day as if it were his last, admonishing graduates not to "live someone else's life."

"Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking," Jobs said. "Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice."

In that speech he told students to follow their passions, recounting the time after he dropped out but continued to audit non-credit classes like calligraphy. The elegant typefaces -- serif and sans serif -- were later introduced for the first time in the Macintosh.

"I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5 cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple," he said. "I loved it."

Jobs was also influenced by Richard Baker, who was head of the Zen Center in San Francisco from 1971 until 1984, when Baker resigned after a scandalous affair with a wife of one of the center's benefactors. But Baker helped the center grow to one of the most successful in the United States.

He was receptive to Baker's message of change, "helping the environment and empowering the individual."

Jobs admitted to experimenting with the hallucinogenic drug LSD, which he has said was "one of the two or three most important things" in his life.

In an unauthorized biography by Alan Deutschman, a college friend said that Jobs had even been a lover of folk singer Joan Baez, who was 41 at the time, and the attraction was largely because she had also been intimate with another '60s icon, Bob Dylan.

He was a fan of the Beatles, who also embraced spirituality and made a similar pilgrimage to India. Jobs told television's "60 Minutes" he modeled his own business after the rock group.

"They were four guys that kept each other's negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other," he said. "And the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people."

Jobs said that "focus and simplicity" were the foundation of Apple's ethic.

"Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple," he told Businessweek in 1998. "But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."

Even the minimalist design of his products -- from the first Macintosh to the sleek iPad have a "aesthetic simplicity and keenness of line" that smacks of Japanese Zen, according to Columbia's Thurman.

Former Pepsico President John Sculley, who eventually fired Jobs, said walking into Jobs' apartment had the same design feel.

"I remember going into Steve's house, and he had almost no furniture in it," Sculley said in a 2010 interview with Businessweek."He just had a picture of Einstein, whom he admired greatly, and he had a Tiffany lamp and a chair and a bed. He just didn't believe in having lots of things around, but he was incredibly careful in what he selected."

Jobs reportedly convinced Sculley to work for Apple when he asked, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?"

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