Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish
Steve Jobs was a product of the two great social movements that emanated from the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s. The first was the counterculture of hippies and antiwar activists, which was marked by psychedelic drugs, rock music, and antiauthoritarianism. The second was the high-tech and hacker culture of Silicon Valley, filled with engineers, geeks, wireheads, phreakers, cyberpunks, hobbyists, and garage entrepreneurs. Overlying both were various paths to personal enlightenment—Zen and Hinduism, meditation and yoga, primal scream therapy and sensory deprivation, Esalen and est.
An admixture of these cultures was found in publications such as Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog. On its first cover was the famous picture of Earth taken from space, and its subtitle was “access to tools.” The underlying philosophy was that technology could be our friend. Jobs—who became a hippie, a rebel, a spiritual seeker, a phone phreaker, and an electronic hobbyist all wrapped into one—was a fan. He was particularly taken by the final issue, which came out in 1971, when he was still in high school. He took it with him to college and then to the apple farm commune where he lived after dropping out. He later recalled: “On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.’” Jobs stayed hungry and foolish throughout his career by making sure that the business and engineering aspect of his personality was always complemented by a hippie nonconformist side from his days as an artistic, acid-dropping, enlightenment-seeking rebel. In every aspect of his life—the women he dated, the way he dealt with his cancer diagnosis, the way he ran his business—his behavior reflected the contradictions, confluence, and eventual synthesis of all these varying strands.
Even as Apple became corporate, Jobs asserted his rebel and counterculture streak in its ads, as if to proclaim that he was still a hacker and a hippie at heart. The famous “1984” ad showed a renegade woman outrunning the thought police to sling a sledgehammer at the screen of an Orwellian Big Brother. And when he returned to Apple, Jobs helped write the text for the ads: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes…” If there was any doubt that, consciously or not, he was describing himself, he dispelled it with the last lines: “While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
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