The remarkable lesson that Steve Jobs taught us about money and life

Published November 4, 2015   Posted in How to Think

Close up of Steve JobsSteve Jobs was a regular badass. Most of us remember Jobs as the co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc, the brand of computer that I am typing this very blog post on. He also owned a large stake in Pixar Animation Studios and served on the board of directors at The Walt Disney World Company.

Jobs’ life accomplishments would make even the most successful person in the world take notice.

Jobs’ life accomplishments would make even the most successful person in the world take notice.Jobs was also super rich with a net worth topping $11 billion. He had all the money that he could stand. Stuff. Power. Influence. Of all the things that most people aspire to be or achieve, Jobs arguably achieved them all. When Jobs walked into a room, people shut up.

Money can buy a great many things. It can buy power and back influence. It can spur social progress. It can also fund amazing advances in science and medicine, enable breakthroughs in cancer research and provide meaningful support to families all around the world. Money can do amazing things.

Life doesn’t care about your money

In 2011, Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer. And in his death, his remarkable lesson about money and life truly comes to light.

And we would all be wise to keep the power of money in perspective.

We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it. — Steve Jobs

Jobs may have been one of the richest people in the world, but his money didn’t care. His business may have single-handedly transformed the ordinary cell phone into a stunningly powerful, yet beautifully crafted, piece of technology — but that didn’t matter either.

Steve Jobs may have looked himself in the mirror every night and told himself that he’s the most influential man in technology, but influence can’t keep men alive.

Jobs’ death taught us of the things that money cannot buy. It can prolong life, but some things are bigger than money. Some things are far more powerful – yeah, like your heart.

Life doesn’t care about your money.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs thinks that your decision to retire early is a wise one

His death should remind us of how important it is to enjoy life as much as we can while we have it. Whether we accumulate $100,000 or $100,000,000, the ability to sit back, take a deep breath and feel relaxed and content with the life that we have built for ourselves is a critical element of existence that money cannot – and should not – buy.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. – Steve Jobs

The fact is any of us can work our asses off to build up a $5m nest egg and get into a car accident the very next day and lose our life, or get diagnosed with cancer, contract a rare disease or suffer a heart attack. In an instant, our lives as we know them can change forever.

Does that mean that we should stop striving for our own versions of success? Should we sit on our ass all day and do nothing, lest something happen? Hell no. Certainly not.

What it does mean, if we take Jobs’ lesson about money to heart, is that all the money in the world can’t prevent life from happening. Jobs’ pancreas didn’t care that the man was worth more than $11 billion dollars or that he ran one of the most successful technology companies in the history of the world. Money is powerful, but it’s not THAT powerful.

And so, go out there and make lots of money. Innovate. Succeed. Create the next Google. Start your new business. Be a badass, but don’t forget that no amount of money, power or influence can keep life from happening. If it’s your time, it’s your time. Your bank account will not matter.

Likewise, money is the basis of early retirement. We track our portfolios. We meticulously budget our monthly expenses. We crunch numbers to calculate the likelihood of our portfolio’s success over the years. In a way, money buys retirement.

Do your best to achieve your retirement goals, but keep channeling this lesson from Steve Jobs into your mind because, after all…

Life is short.

We track our net worth using Personal Capital


21 responses to “The remarkable lesson that Steve Jobs taught us about money and life”

  1. Chris Muller says:

    “Life is short.” True words of wisdom. We spend so much time focusing on things that really don’t matter. It’s crazy when you stop to think about it. My wife read me this quote last night that was something along the lines of “next time you find yourself complaining, remember there are people who are on their last breath, or people who have no money, shelter, food, etc.” – something like that. It’s true. We take so much for granted, and never stop to think about the bigger picture. We’re given this amazing opportunity to live and have all kinds of freedoms and experiences, yet it seems like we never fully appreciate them. I agree with you Steve, life is too short, better start living now.

    On a side note, did you see the new Jobs movie?

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Chris! No, I haven’t seen the new Jobs movie unfortunately. I haven’t been to the theater in years, actually. There is a short list of movies that my wife and I want to see, but we never seem to prioritize finding the time to actually watch them.

      Is it worth a watch?

  2. Life is indeed short. I have to remind myself to step back and look at the big picture at times.

    Also, I just saw the new Steve Jobs movie a couple weeks ago. It was pretty crappy, so just giving you the heads up if you were thinking of watching it at some point. 🙂

  3. #Truth.

    Based on the headline, I was assuming this would be a very different post, and was totally disarmed by it. So much yes. (A little know fact, btw, is that Jobs had the treatable form of pancreatic cancer, and most doctors think he’d still be alive if he’d done conventional treatment. So, by all means, listen to doctors! The raw, organic diet is great — and I’d do that, too, if I was diagnosed — but sometimes western medicine is still the best answer. I take that lesson to heart when I think about Steve Jobs.)

    Pretty much everything in our life and money is based on your central point here: Life is short. But maybe we should take some inspiration from Mr Jobs and change it to: Life is short. Make sure it matters.

    Thanks for this inspiring read!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks ONL, I actually didn’t know that about Jobs’ lifestyle. Interesting!

      And I like how you’ve penned the true theme here, “Life is short. Make sure it matters”. Yep!

  4. Maggie says:

    Whenever my dad talks to me about his retirement plans and his nest egg (we’re the only PF geeks in the family, so we talk at length), my mom always chimes in “And we’re going to spend ALL OF IT!” to which I have to roll my eyes and remind her “I don’t want a cent. I hope you do actually spend all of it. What are you going to do first?” Life is worth living and the sooner you can start spending that nest egg responsibly, the better in my opinion! 🙂

  5. “Life doesn’t care about your money” – that’s the best quote of the week I’ve read!

  6. Tawcan says:

    Life is too short so we need to find the balance to enjoy life and having sufficient money for the future. Great post, we all need to look at the big picture from time to time.

  7. I used to make fun of Steve Jobs for a long time and the “devices and toys” he dreamed up only to be put in my place by a relative. I didn’t know Jobs and my family had actually worked together early on. My relative supplied him the funding to get things up and running and that is why our family name is on a lot of the early buildings and streets where Apple started. Too bad we cashed out early on….other wise we’d be owning our own islands. No one wanted to give some guy with a crazy computer idea any money, luckily he found one bank in California that decided to take a chance and look at what it has created today.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Lance – yeah, sometimes risks pay off big time, other times they don’t. For every Jobs success story, there are thousands of failures. At the time, it may have been best to cash out. Hell, hindsight is 20/20, which kinda sucks some of the time, doesn’t it? 🙂

  8. Jim Wang says:

    Money is like air, after a certain amount… do you really need to be sacrificing other things in pursuit of money? Then again, I think Jobs wasn’t really after the money, which is why he drove himself and the people around him so hard. It isn’t surprising to me that he wasn’t the nicest guy. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Hey Jim – yup, I have heard the stories too about Steve Jobs pretty much being a dick to people. But I think you’re right about the money – when you have THAT much money and lead one of the more influential companies in the world, money soon plays second fiddle to power and influence. Those things may not be any better than money, but it’s definitely different!

  9. Mr. Groovy says:

    Great, thoughtful post, Steve. The story of Steve Jobs reminds me of another tech genius who died way too young – Randy Pausch. Have you heard his “Last Lecture”? It was, indeed, his last lecture.and he prepared it meticulously, as a token of love to his family and friends. He was quite ill at the time but he lived his life fully, up to the end.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Groovy – I admit that I’m not all that familiar with Pausch, but will take a look. Something tells me that he knew that this was probably his last laugh.

  10. Mr. SSC says:

    That’s a great point that money won’t keep away the reaper. Accidents happen, cancer happens, life happens. The best you can do is figure out your own plan and work towards it in the meantime.
    If it all ended tomorrow for me, I don’t think I’d change much really, or be disappointed in where I am and how it turned out. I’m even more excited about how things could be in another few years and what that part of my life will look like.

  11. Beautifully put. I’m constantly struggling to enjoy the moment while also saving for the future. I think that’s the balance we all have to find in life to make it “damned good.”

    • Steve says:

      I agree, so much about life is balance, and those of us who find the right balance that works the best for us will be positioned well to achieve whatever our goals happen to be.

      Thanks for the comment.

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