Steve Jobs? Nah, I'd Rather Raise the Next Bill Gates

Raise the Next Steve Jobs

This Month's Parents Magazine Cover

This month, Parenting magazine’s cover story (in their “Genius Issue,” no less!) is titled “Raise the Next Steve Jobs,” and it’s illustrated with a photo of a little boy giving his best Jobs impression, complete with black turtleneck.

 

Like most of the rest of the world, I find Steve Jobs to have been a brilliant, fascinating and iconic man, and after reading his sister Mona Simpson’s beautiful eulogy for him, I can see that he was also a much-loved father, husband, brother and friend. Plus, as the father of the iPhone, I basically kind of worship him for that accomplishment alone.

However, despite the many inarguably amazing things that Steve Jobs accomplished in his too-brief lifetime, when it comes to one area of his legacy, there is quite a bit of argument around what he left behind. What is that area?

Philanthropy.

While some see Jobs’ success in growing what is, at the moment, literally the world’s most profitable company as an act of philanthropy in and of itself (creates jobs, expands shareholder value, drives technology innovation that can expand opportunity in various ways), others question whether a guy with that kind of wealth and public profile really did enough in his lifetime to help others in tangible ways.

The bottom line is that Steve Jobs’ legacy is not primarily or even a little bit about giving back. And while that’s not something I fault him for – to each his own – it means that even though he was perhaps the most brilliant innovator and entrepreneur of the last century, I don’t want to raise my own kids to be “the next Steve Jobs.”

(Sorry, Parenting magazine.)

No, instead, if we’re going to start naming tech innovation icons to serve as a blueprint for how I’d like my own offspring to pattern themselves, I’m gonna have to go with the anti-Steve Jobs: Bill Gates.

Sure, Apple Macbook is a much prettier product than Windows 7. But to me, as a mother, the sight of another healthy mother somewhere in the world holding her healthy baby because of the billions of dollars Bill Gates pours into philanthropic efforts is the most beautiful thing of all.

Both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were obviously blessed with unique gifts of creativity and innovative thinking, along with a passion for entrepreneurship. And both of them took those gifts and turned them into business ventures that made them unimaginably wealthy. But as my grandmother always reminded me, to whom much is given, much is expected.

As my own kids grow up, their own unique gifts will reveal themselves, and whatever those gifts turn out to be, I will set the expectation that each of my offspring will use their talents not just for their own enrichment and well-being, but to also enrich the lives of others in some sort of tangible way.

Every time I deliver this message to my children — through my words or my actions — I am attempting to make an impact on their values, as well as trying to plant the earliest seeds of the legacies that one day, far in the future, each of them will leave behind.

The world could use more people like Bill Gates, and I hope that maybe, just maybe, I am raising a few of those kinds of people right now.

Here are some photos from last month of my children and their cousins writing notes and drawing photos to be included in the holiday cards sent out to donors of Henry’s Fund, the non-profit founded to honor their big brother, Henry, who died in 2010. We’re trying to get them all to start flexing their “philanthropy muscles” — early and often.

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To learn more about Henry’s Fund, and our mission to fund high quality drug addiction treatment for teenagers and young adults, please become a friend of Henry’s Fund on Facebook.

 

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How about you? Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? Or neither? And why? Do you encourage your kids to volunteer time and/or money? If so, how do you get them involved? Tell me in the comments below.

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More on Babble: Lessons Learned from Steve Jobs: How this late visionary reminded me to play


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