Hot Topics: Steve Jobs, the Ultimate Boomer
Aside from the Libyan revolution, the big transition news of the week came from Apple founder Steve Jobs, 56, who announced that he is stepping down as chief executive for health reasons.
Jobs is the boomer visionary behind much of the innovative gadgetry that's transformed our lives. In the 1980s, he and then-partner Steve Wozniak helped make point-and-click graphical computing ubiquitous. More recently, he's churned up equally towering waves of technological and social change by introducing the iPhone, which put the internet in everyone's pocket, and the iPad, which presages a future in which desktop computers and laptops are museum antiques.
Though Jobs is credited as an inventor on 313 patents, according to this New York Times compendium, it wasn't a knack for designing circuity that made him one of the most influential people in our society. Instead, Jobs was the business leader with the imagination and daring to see potential in inventions that didn't yet have a practical application or clear market. But that visionary gift is only part of how Jobs transformed Apple from a Microsoft also-ran to the dominant player in consumer electronics, a behemoth whose $350 billion market valuation is second only to Exxon Mobil.
Jobs in some ways is the ultimate boomer, in that he understands the importance that his fellow boomers place on looking and feeling cool. In his standard business garb of a black turtleneck, jeans and wire-rimmed glasses, Jobs emerged as the perfect salesman for a generation, the guy who made us all crave the iMac Blueberry or the gunmetal-colored iPhone4 the way that we once lusted after Mustang convertibles and Beatle boots. No wonder that at this 2010 news conference, President Obama, another game-changing boomer, cited Jobs as exemplifying the American Dream.
News outlets and the blogosphere are pondering myriad aspects of the Jobs phenomenon. Here's an in-depth Los Angeles Times piece that looks at what Jobs' departure means to the future of the company he built. This PCWorld slideshow looks at Jobs' evolution from a shaggy mid-70s hippie laboring in a spare garage to techno-mogul of the known universe. Our sister site, Entrepreneur.com, has this piece on 10 Things We Should Thank Steve Jobs For, while Ars Technica offers this intriguing rundown of five competing products that Jobs killed with his innovations. While Jobs didn't detail the health concerns that caused him to step aside, WebMD has this insightful article about the rare, treatable form of pancreatic cancer that Jobs was diagnosed with in 2004.
But perhaps the most insightful and thought-provoking glimpse of Jobs comes from this YouTube video of the commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005. He candidly talks about his life's lowest moments -- from being rejected by his initial set of adoptive parents, to getting forced out the company he founded at age 30, to his struggle with cancer.
Here's one bluntly candid -- and in its way, inspiring -- excerpt:
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me to make the big choices in life...remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
In other news this week:
Superstar Hoops Coach Takes on Toughest Opponent: University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, 59, reveals that she has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. In this interview with Washington Post reporter Sally Jenkins, Summitt says she'll continue coaching as long as she is able and hopes to become a spokesperson for those with the degenerative disorder. Knoxville News Sentinel sports writer Sam Venable opines in this column that "No matter what the cards hold, she'll play them to the fullest, with dignity and determination. That's the finest lesson she could ever teach, on or off the court."
Bestselling Self-Published e-Book Author Signs Major Print Publishing Deal: Back in June, my colleague Michelle Rafter wrote this post about former insurance man turned author John Locke, 50, whose mysteries, westerns and a how-to guide for authors made him the first self-published writer to sell more than a million e-books for the Amazon Kindle. But now, The Huffington Post reports that Locke is so successful that publishing giant Simon & Schuster has just cut a deal with him to distribute ink-and-paper versions of his Donovan Creed thrillers. The pact is a potential game-changer for the publishing industry, in which companies have long insisted on controlling both print and electronic rights. Locke, in contrast, will retain full control over the digital versions of his books. In a statement issued by the publishing house, Locke called the deal an " exciting departure from the norm."
New Jane Fonda Bio: The star of Barefoot in the Park, Klute, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? The China Syndrome, and other memorable films has been written about before. But The Daily Beast reports that Patricia Bosworth's new Fonda biography -- the first by a female author -- may be the most insightful and provocative yet. Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman, set for release on Aug. 30, traces Fonda's often-painful, invariably tumultuous romantic life and artistic evolution from an intimate perspective; Fonda, apparently still bristling over the treatment she received from male authors, cooperated with Bosworth and gave her considerable access.
New TV Show Offers Medicare Tips: Deborah Norville, better known as the longtime anchor of the syndicated news show Inside Edition and before that as a CBS News correspondent, has yet another gig. She's hosting a new Retirement Living TV program, Making Medicare Work for You, which promises to guide boomers "through the rules, deadlines and choices available to them as they prepare to enter the world of Medicare." To that end, Norville has assembled an impressive team of experts, including Hilary Dalin of the National Council on Aging's National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment, and Emmy-winning physician-journalist Dr. Kevin Soden.
Boomers' Retirement Could Drag Down Stock Market: As if there isn't enough bad economic news lately, a just-published study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco predicts that retiring boomers may drag down stock prices as they transition from work to retirement. To finance their golden years, boomers are likely to sell off assets from their portfolios, particularly risky stocks, Fed analysts Zheng Liu and Mark M. Spiegel predict. The fear is that this massive, ongoing sell-off could drive down stock prices and cause massive amounts of wealth to evaporate. However, it may also be that Liu's and Spiegel's gloomy scenario is based on the assumption that boomers will retire in the same style as previous generations. Instead, other studies suggest that we plan to keep working longer, either out of necessity or because we enjoy the challenges, and that many of us are even starting second careers in new fields. Here's a recent SecondAct piece on Why Your Retirement May Not Be Permanent.
Beer Aids Marathoners' Recovery: Given many boomers' affection for both running and quaffing a few brews, a lot of you probably got all excited about this story until you did a double-take and noticed the unfortunate qualifier "nonalcoholic." According to this New York Times article, Technical University of Munich researchers have discovered that healthy male marathoners in their forties developed fewer illnesses than a control group when they drank two to three pints of alcohol-free beer daily. They also showed less inflammation in their bodies and lower counts of white blood cells, suggesting that the beverage helped their immune systems rebound from the grueling effects of hard training. Scientists aren't yet sure why nonalcoholic brew, but not the regular kind, has this effect.
Website of the Week: Charity Navigator is a handy site that lets you check out a charity's track record before you cut a check.
The Last Word: "The idea that the internet is a place that's separate from reality has faded. People generally have online identities that map to who they really are. Outside of a few legitimate edge cases and the occasional sci-fi fantasy, who we are online is simply who we are." -- San Francisco web guru, designer and author Derek Powazek, in an essay reprinted in Gizmodo
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