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Fortune Magazine recently named Steve Jobs CEO of the decade. It wasn't his greatest accolade. In 2006, American Heritage magazine published historian James Gordon Steele's list of the top 100 most influential Americans in history. He listed Steve Jobs as number nine, evoking a heated debate with author, and former Democratic congressional candidate, Joshua Heitz--not because Steve Jobs did not merit listing, but because he was ranked higher than F.D.R, who was 14th on the list. Two months earlier, Atlantic Monthly published its list of the top 100; it included Bill Gates, but Steve Jobs was conspicuously absent.
Whether Jobs merits listing in the pantheon of the top 100 most influential Americans in history may be debatable, but his standing at the pinnacle of marketing and technology's Olympus is not. Steve Jobs is perhaps the most successful marketing and sales guru the world has ever known. Business Week called him "the world's greatest storyteller," and noted that he " has raised product launches to an art form." PC Magazine concurred: "Apple makes beautifully designed products, but that's only a starting point for why it's become such a success. Its real genius is in marketing. Apple has accomplished what few corporations have ever done -- it's successfully tied its products to people's sense of value and self-worth. Many people will buy whatever product Apple sells because it validates their sense of themselves."
The frequent appearance of his name in major magazines and newspapers, at times on a daily basis, is a profound testament to the surreal and mythical standing he evokes. Even a pronouncement of a forthcoming public appearance by the head of Apple sends the blogosphere into hyperdrive, with speculation on what new product he will introduce. It's a form of adulation--of his marketing, sales, technological and business genius, not his personality.
Jobs' marketing and sales expertise has not only derived immense profits for his enterprises, it has led to an evolution in American technology and culture. More than anyone else, he has ushered in the world of personal computing with the Apple and Mac line of computers, changed the way we buy and listen to music with the iPod, iTunes and the iTunes Store, introduced us to a new wave of animated films and technology through Pixar, and gave us a new paradigm for mobile telephones and computing with the iPhone. So it is inevitable that questions are raised about his motivation, background, knowledge, all with a view to attempt to discern what characteristics have made him so successful. It is not an easy task; perhaps almost as complex as the man himself.
Jobs was born on February 24, 1955. His parents were unmarried University of Wisconsin graduate students; his biological father later became a political science professor and his mother a speech therapist. They placed their son up for adoption, determined to arrange for his adoption by college graduates. In what could best be described as misplaced academic elitism, when Paul and Clara Jobs agreed to adopt him, his biological mother at first refused to sign the papers because Clara was not a college graduate and Paul had not graduated from high school. The adoption ultimately took place, Paul and Clara named him Steven Paul Jobs, and made him a part of their family; Jobs has always regarded Paul and Clara as his parents, no one else.
Growing up in South San Francisco, Jobs was as bright as he was hyperactive, constantly pressing the limits of childhood--as he would later do as an adult--testing, trying, prodding, always determined and in constant motion. This did not sit well with some of his teachers; a mutual disaffection with the exception of his fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hill, who seemed to understand what he needed. He thrived in her class. "I think I learned more academically in that one year than I learned in my life," he said. He skipped a grade but by the time he was 11, he planted his foot down