Steve Jobs led Apple to a remarkable rise in influence in our time. To create such an amazing corporation, Jobs had the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, technological brilliance, and sheer will unlike few others of his time. His uniqueness sets him apart as one of the rare geniuses in American history. Only the rarest of geniuses like Jobs can really make an impact, right?
Not so fast. His entrepreneurial spirit could be only half of the story.
Was his genius really that unique? Or were there other forces at work beyond him?
In his book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell argues that saying men like Jobs, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer did what they did simply because of their genius and technological savvy gives only half the story. For instance, if you were to name the who’s who of leaders in the computer and information age, you would come up with a list like this:
-Paul Allen (founded Microsoft with Gates)
-Steve Ballmer (runs Microsoft day-to-day)
-Eric Schmidt (ran Novell in the Silicon Valley/later head of Google)
-Bill Joy (founded Sun Microsystems)
What is interesting about these men, as Gladwell notes, is their age. Their birthdates:
-Jobs: February 24, 1955
-Gates: October 28, 1955
-Allen: January 21, 1954
-Ballmer: March 24, 1956
-Schmidt: April 27, 1955
-Joy: November 8, 1954
Okay, so they were all born within 15 months of one another. Why is that important? Because they became adults just at the time computers emerged. Add to this the fact that they also had opportunities to practice on the primitive computers in their day. Why 1975 is so important, a year they were all college aged? Gladwell writes:
If you talk to veterans of Silicon Valley, they’ll tell you that the most important date in the history of the personal computer revolution was January 1975. That was when the magazine Popular Electronics ran a cover story on an extraordinary machine called the Altair 8800. The Altair cost $397. It was a do-it-yourself contraption that you could assemble at home.’
These men were all just the right age to seize their moment. That’s the other half of the story.
Sometimes we get things right, but only half right. Like when we quote Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church,” right? Wrong. That’s half the verse. The rest: “and gave Himself for her.” THAT kind of love, not just any love.
Here’s a verse that doesn’t fit our American Christianity: Paul wrote, “For a wide door for effective work is before me.” We all want that. But that’s half of it: “and there are many adversaries.” Not exactly your Americanized prosperity gospel, right?
I’m afraid we too easily settle in our discipleship for half of what we need. Holiness is not only turning from evil; it’s running to Christ. Salvation is not only rescue from hell and a home in heaven; it’s also revolutionary to every facet of this life as well. Spirituality does not only impact our church life; it touches all of it–what we eat, how we spend, how we manage our time, everything.
Jesus promised us life to the full, not halfway (John 10:10). Let’s live that way.