This essay is written by Bobe Simovich, guest writer on TRENDDESK Blog. It is the first of his “Letters from The Silion Valley” series.
Many articles, books and documentaries tackle “the phenomenon” of Silicon Valley. The authors commonly assert that its emergence as a beacon of global technological creativity and progress was due to a confluence of several dominant forces at work: educational infrastructure (proximity to Stanford-Berkeley-et al. axis), private initiative (Hewlett-Packard, Xerox PARC, and other local pioneers) and governmental incentives. All of this is absolutely true. However, (as the author of this text dares to opine) none of it would have worked if it was not for a critical mass of people with an “attitude”. Such “attitude” was impeccably articulated by Steve Jobs in an interview in the 1990’s where he said the following:
“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
(Not to take away from Jobs’ technological, marketing and managerial acumen, the debate on what constitutes a “very limited life”, or any “life” for that matter, probably is more appropriately conducted on philosophical grounds.) But what’s striking about Jobs’ words – delivered with disarmingly staunch conviction (of course, Jobs has more than enough up his belt to back it up), and in plain language devoid of any flaccid pseudo-motivational buzzwords – is their unvarnished bluntness about what makes the difference. It’s about “the realization that you can build your own things”. Authenticity and simplicity of this message is extremely powerful.
Silicon Valley shouldn’t have monopoly over this sentiment. It seems to me that more people possess this innate ability-instinct – i.e., the capacity to realize that they can build their own things – than it is commonly believed. The instinct is there, but it’s often dormant, suppressed by a combination of various factors such as, family upbringing, parochial norms, or wider cultural and societal circumstances. Silicon Valley, and the US in general – with its “pioneering spirit”, the cult of individualism and the notions of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” deeply ingrained into its national DNA – is probably one the word’s most fertile grounds for this instinct to blossom in an individual. However, there is absolutely no reason why such attitude-sentiment cannot be nurtured elsewhere. Its nurturing does not require economic stimuli, governmental subsidies or private investments. It does not require high technology either. Among all other necessary ingredients of economic progress, planting and nurturing this attitude – within the family, as a core unit, and the society at large – seems to be the most affordable one.
Bobe Simovich, Dec 2013