Yesterday, the world mourned the loss of Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, who first started his multibillion-dollar empire in his parents’ garage. Though succumbing to pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, he undoubtedly left a remarkable legacy. According to a statement released by President Obama, Jobs “exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity” and “transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.”
While Jobs accomplished much throughout his lifetime, his fascinating story actually begins before his birth. In 2005, Jobs gave the details in an inspirational commencement address to the graduating class of Stanford University. His biological father was an Egyptian Muslim immigrant to the United States, and his biological mother, in his own words, was a young, unwed grad student who decided to put him up for adoption. She insisted he be adopted by college graduates, and arranged for a lawyer and his wife to take him at birth. But at the last minute, they had a change of heart and decided on adopting a baby girl instead. His current adoptive parents, who were on a waiting list at the time, received a phone call shortly thereafter asking if they wanted a baby boy. Although they enthusiastically agreed to take Jobs, his biological mother realized neither of them were college graduates and, initially, refused to consent to the adoption. A few months later, however, she agreed upon the condition that they would send Jobs to college.
Jobs’ parents delivered on that promise, spending their lives’ savings to send him to Reed College in Oregon. But after only a semester, he dropped out, feeling guilty that they were sacrificing everything to finance an education he wasn’t certain would help him discover what he wanted to do. Jobs maintains that this was one of the best decisions of his life, because it enabled him to drop out of the required classes and sit in on courses that interested him. One of these was a calligraphy course that taught him about serif and sans serif typography, which he says influenced his development of multiple typefaces and proportionally spaced fonts for the Mac computer.
Jobs went on to found Apple, Inc., one of the most dynamic, thriving and lucrative companies of this millennium. His exceptional success story, while not diminishing the immeasurable benefits of higher education, reminds us that a college degree does not dictate our capabilities or set the limits for our accomplishments in life. Furthermore, he is a primary example of the potential and impact one life can have on society.
Imagine if his birth mother, like millions of other women each year, decided to abort him instead of going the route of adoption? Like countless others, the circumstances of Jobs’ birth might have been “accidental,” but his extraordinary life bears witness to the fact that, in God’s economy, there are no mistakes.
In his commencement address at Standford, he said:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever…. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference.”
While Jobs might not have identified the source connecting all the dots in his life, he had the wisdom and insight to recognize that his existence was not arbitrary. The Bible teaches that even while in our mother’s womb, all of our days were ordained — by God — before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:13-16). We know that each person comes to this earth for a specific time and purpose, and while we might not choose how and when we die, we can choose to make the most of each day we have to live. What will your legacy be?