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EDITOR’S TAKE: Why Steve Jobs would probably not have wanted you to be a banker

It’s late in the day and the obituaries have been flowing thick and fast, so we will keep this brief: Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, bringer of the iPod and iPad and various devices favoured by financial services professionals, would probably not have approved of banking as a choice of career.

His reasons are embedded in this, much cited, commencement address, made to students at Stanford in 2005.

We are interpreting and summarising them as follows:

1) Steve Jobs would not have wanted you to be a banker because banking suggests a sterile and structured career path

Steve went for the unstructured option. He dropped out of college; he didn’t know what he wanted to do. He grew his hair. He grew a beard. He was fed by the Hare Krishnas and took an interest in calligraphy. Only over time did this coalesce into something that became Apple.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards,” said Jobs. “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. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Conclusion: leaving university or business school, searching for the structure of a banking career and reassurance that you will be earning six figures by the time you’re 25, may be the wrong way to go about it.

2) Steve Jobs would not have wanted you to be a banker because he thinks success stifles creativity

Ok, this didn’t appear to be an issue recently at Apple, but after getting “fired” from Apple in 1985, Jobs said success had been a burden.
“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

According to Jobs, being fired is therefore a good thing. Being too successful can be burdensome.

3) Steve Jobs would not have wanted you to be a banker because he advised doing what you love

Maybe you love being a banker, in which case it’s fine. But if you don’t and are just in it for the (non-existent) bonus, you’re making a mistake.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

4) Steve Jobs would not have wanted you to be a banker because you need to live every day like it’s your last

When Steve Jobs gave his Stanford speech he already knew he had cancer.

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something,” he said.

Have you spent the past week assembling pitchbooks or battling volatile markets? Would you choose to do this if you knew your time was more limited than it is already? Jobs would not approve.

Comments (13)

  1. Sarah Butcher. Face for internet journalism.

  2. This is a good article. Thanks Sarah…

  3. loved it.. inspiring.. refreshing change from usual routine banks… markets salaries bonuses… life is to short to make so many big things… may steve’s oul rest in peace…..god bless steve…..

  4. So I presume you’re not the editor when you’re writing your other articles, or you’re not “taking” something?

    Very peculiar!

  5. Can I have 1 minute of my life back please?

  6. Very timely piece. Bravo

  7. Good points! Banking really is a waste of time. It doesn’t attract the best and brightest. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the golliaths of silicon valley. I recently left banking from a VP position and although I’ve made a bit of money I felt my creative talents were not used at all.

    Banking is dull and the whole structured career path is painful for high performers. I mean real high performers not the majority of fellow bankers.

    Banker2Entrepreneur Reply
  8. More articles like this please, rather than the usual Banker Vs Recruiter fare. Good job.

  9. Great and timely piece ! As for connecting the dots backwards, this is very much what Henri Bergson said when he described the “illusion rétrospective de nécessité”. If we could ever do it forward, the future would not be what it is, i.e. a black hole. But what is key is the confidence that, whatever path we follow, it is going to be OK in the end.

  10. Sarah,

    really nice article. One should not enslave oneself in the name of success.

  11. good article

  12. a good, inspirational article but…..

    you can’t really take a statistical outlier like Steve Jobs and apply his way of doing things to a completely different group of people. I read in an obituary article about him that 457 technology related start-ups in Silicon Valley were founded the year he founded Apple. Of which only 3 were successful enough to do an IPO and only one (Apple) hit the really big time. Probability of following your dreams and emulating the success of Steve Jobs? Very, very low.

    stuckinbanking Reply
  13. Sarah – you have perfectly encapsulated the tension between the needs of the Financial Sector and the needs of Entrepreneurs. It is a while since I read any Marx, but I seem to remember that he was also highlighting the what are basically the same tensions between manufacturing capitalists and financial capitalists in the 1860s. It was this inherent contradiction in the capitalist system that he believed would lead to its destruction.

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