What Steve Jobs meant to me

What Steve Jobs meant to me.

Having just learned about his death, I’m mustering something together to try to articulate Steve Jobs’ impact on my life. Unlike many people here in the valley, I wasn’t much of a geek, let alone an Apple fanboy. I came to Stanford because they offered me a great financial aid package and because it was an elite institution close enough to home in LA in case I ever needed to go back. That was ’06, I had no idea Steve Jobs just made a commencement speech one year before that I’d discover later and change my life.

Going to school at Stanford was a huge culture shock. I couldn’t fit in. In dorm activities, I learned about my peers’ amazing backgrounds and felt sorry for myself for not having any of their experiences in life. I walked around the dorm asking every person if he / she played an instrument, and I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t. I did not have the study skills necessary to succeed, and got a C during my first quarter while others marched on to great academic performance. On campus, iPods and other Apple products were pervasive, and that only added to the perception – this was a school for privileged kids, not me.

I felt that way until my first spring break. I didn’t want to go home since there wasn’t much to return to. I decided to stay and went on a trip led by some upperclassmen called “social entrepreneurship in the bay area.” A little context, I hated “business.” That was a dirty word. My father was in the stock market and he was pretty much bankrupt by the time I turned 4. Growing up, he tried to give me what he knew while trying to turn himself around with no capital to no avail. I always rejected him. My mother left around then, and I struggled to grow up like a normal kid when nothing was normal about my environment. At 14, I started working so I can help pay for things around the household. It wasn’t much, but it helped. Business (more precisely, buying and selling stocks), was the reason why all this had to happen.

On this trip, we visited companies like Kiva, World of Good, Papilia, and Benetech. I realized where I was. I am not just at Stanford, but Silicon Valley, where there are “businesses” that actually did good things and made the world a better place. That was extremely eye-opening. By the time Spring Quarter rolled around, I knew what I needed to do. My perspective was completely transformed.

By bringing me here, Stanford was lifting me up and putting me on equal footing as everyone else because for once in my life, I did not have to worry about money, at least not here. The school also gave me everything I needed to succeed, with resources like the alternative spring break trip, and incredible peers I can team up with to achieve dreams. I wanted to change the world the way that people in the Silicon Valley were doing it, with massive impact. As I learned more about startups and entrepreneurship, I found myself increasingly drawn to it. In school, I made it a point to utilize the resources available to me and, more importantly, I tried to learn as much as I could from my peers.

Over time, I found out what I was good at. I’m good with people. My upbringing had ingrained in me special sensitivities that helped me navigate teams to work better together and eventually achieve success. I was never the smartest in the room, but I didn’t need to be. I found a niche in school as someone who championed the cause of entrepreneurship, bringing the startup spirit and the message of empowerment to every part of campus. I also started dabbling in startups by first working for them, and later, with the right teammates, built products that would eventually become Crowdbooster.

So what did all this have to do with Steve Jobs? Well, in college, I discovered his commencement speech. I found myself watching it over and over again. Even though I am a fanboy now, it wasn’t about his products. It was his story. Like me, he came from a low-income, immigrant family. He had to do things like pick up cans so he can sell them to buy a meal. When he found out what he needed to do, he went after it, without fear. He took the leap, and he assured me in his speech that you can’t connect the dots going forward, so you just have to have faith. That encouraged me to go from a kid who didn’t fit in to one who dared to pursue his dreams, despite economic circumstances and allures of elite jobs that pay. I knew what I needed to do. He told me to jump, and I did. I jumped. Crowdbooster is first of many businesses I will build to maximize the impact I have in this world. Thank you Steve.
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12 Comments

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12 responses to “What Steve Jobs meant to me

  1. Ricky,

    This is an amazing post! It’s fascinating to see how your stories relate. Can only hope that people like you continue to innovate in the wake of his passing.

    Zach

  2. Toronto_girl

    Ricky, thanks for sharing this personal connection to Steve Jobs. Your story is so inspiring! Your post reassures me that there really is something special about the valley… and I need to move there ASAP πŸ™‚

  3. Trevor Goss

    I’m working on writing something myself but your words here have given me hope that I can do so.

  4. Very inspirational. Great post!

    Allan

  5. Rock Clapper

    Heartfelt.
    -Rock

  6. Farrah Wallace

    Hey Ricky, I hope you are well! I never usually read blogs (simply as time never usually permits) but today I was drawn to your post and I really am amazed at your story! Very inspirational and touching!

    Walk in love, light and happiness and am sure all you touch will turn to gold! πŸ™‚

    Thanks,
    Farrah

  7. Thanks for sharing man. Quite the moving reflection. As ever, mad love and respect at you man.

  8. Ricky this is a great very personal post, i love it because it told me a lot about you and your past. You have always been a great classmate and friend at Stanford, I never realized the struggles/ uncertainties you went through at times, that says a lot about how natural indeed you are with people.

    Going to Stanford, I felt I was just clever, didn’t fit in the intellectual crowd, definitely not the start-up crowd, but even in work today, i discover everyday that the proximity to Silicon Valley changed me forever, and having so many friends who dare to step out of the box and craft a new product. Love it. I dare to say I still practice some ad-hoc entrepreneurship in corporate. Lots of tech practitioners have that down-to-earth attribute, gives me a natural affinity. And finally but not least, I watched that video of the commencement so many times. I assume you were there in person? How i wish that i was…

  9. Thanks for sharing Ricky! Appreciate your sharing and this will touch the lives of many! Im passing this along!

  10. tony

    very nice thoughts and perspective on the fruits of life and how they can become teaching patterns or ominous….good luck with your vision and what it can bring to not only your life but others as well

  11. Awesome tribute. Steve Jobs touched us all with that commencement speech. He was a hero and will likely serve as an inspiration for our entire generation.

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