What Writers Can Learn from Steve Jobs: Five Takeaways

“Death is just life’s next big adventure.”

– JK Rowling

“I want to put a ding in the universe.”

– Steve Jobs

October is a strange month for me. It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which makes me think (a lot) about my best friend and mentor, Dr. Natalie “Nechah” Hochstein, who lost her valiant 3 year battle in December 2012. October also marks the anniversary of another loss in my life, albeit not as personal. Two days ago, the world remembered Steve Jobs, who passed away 2 years ago. The media was filled with excellent articles, and a Google™ search can reveal a plethora of multimedia links for those interested. I personally recommend this article, and the official Apple™ Tribute Video to Steve Jobs. I also recommend that people view his famous Stanford University graduation speech again here. For those interested in more about Steve Jobs, you can read his biography by Walter Isaacson, now in paperback, and download the special issue from Cult of Mac.

I also created a Tribute Video to Steve Jobs in October 2011, upon his passing. It is posted on my YouTube channel, “socialslp”, and can also be accessed here. I have been personally and professionally moved by the odyssey of Steve Jobs and what he represents. As an Apple™ Techie, educator, female entrepreneur, and visual learner, the products he created through his company, Apple™ Inc. all represent the synthesis of design, functionality, and soul, that have humanized and revolutionized technology. I wrote about the greatness of the vision of Steve Jobs already in one of my articles in the Huffington Post Business Section, which you can access here.

Before I was an author I was a public speaker. Before I was a professional public speaker I was a pediatric speech therapist/Autism Specialist who looked for ways to enter the “inner landscape” of my students’ minds. I wanted to enter their world and help them in turn, enter ours. Knowing the importance of “whole body learning” for children with Autism, and the fact that their brains are hard wired to be “visual learners”, I sought ways to integrate toys and tech  into special education lesson plans, to help these children learn to be a Me, and then transition from Me to We. A sense of belonging is an inchoate human longing, a sentient being’s right, and a child’s aspiration. I believe that it is incumbent on us to help others transition from Me > We; socially, economically, and ethically, to make the world a better place for those in it and for those who will enter it. As Nechah used to say, “When we switch from Me to We, we truly start to Be”.

In the 90s, at the urging and support of my fellow Mac Girl and child-centric behaviorist, Nechah,  I was one of the first ones in NY State to apply, get in, and be trained in Apple™ technology, by Apple™ Educators. I had been a Mac since I was a child, and loved technology and gadgets from day one. I was therefore chosen to be part of a “think tank” training program at the Westchester Institute for Human Development, who was invited to learn and explore ways to use Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) for curriculum development and assistive technology strategies for children with special needs. Even in this arena, the vision of Steve Jobs had an echo, a larger than life virtual presence that spurred us, (whom he never personally met), to aspire to dream big, connect the dots in a methodical and thoughtful manner, and try and “put a ding in the universe”. The one we inhabited for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week in an ideas incubator called the special education classroom.

Not all of us had such lofty goals initially. I remember meeting a female special education teacher who joined the program to see if Apple™ had “a secret system for cutting down on the mountain of paperwork and maybe a way to help me remember stuff on my screen”. Her wish came true, as Apple™ did indeed develop two programs; “Automator” and “Screen Capture” (shift-command-4) prefaced by the Pictify Program, to meet the needs of many having this wish too. I also met a male occupational therapist in training, who wanted to know how technology can be used to facilitate writing, play, and personal organization skills in his students with Autism/special needs. I wonder what he would think of the App Store now!

The lessons I learned from those days in training myself, and then others in Apple™ Tech, stayed with me as both an educator and overall tech user. The lessons I learned by observing the conduct of Steve Jobs in public, and the unveiling of one new “It Product” after another, which seamlessly bridged generations, global communities, and the work/play balance we so desperately seek, have made me a better human being and hopefully entrepreneur.

I am thus inspired this month of October,  to work on revising my book’s manuscript with my editor, to ready it for publication at the end of this fall season. I’m also inspired to share what I’ve learned about integrating Apple™ Tech into special education lesson plans by giving conferences where others can learn too. One such conference I am excited to attend is the Closing the Gap Convention in Minneapolis MN this week, where technology meets special education for a roundup of trends and best practices. I wrote an article for their October 2013 journal on the developmental integration of iPad Apps into treatment of young children with Autism, which I will be speaking about.

Writing articles, and a book on female entrepreneurship for that matter, were initially out of my comfort zone. But I took the plunge. I took the lessons I learned from Steve Jobs and subsequently Apple™ Inc. and decided to implement a “think different” approach. I decided to become a “road warrior” so that I could be an iPad Evangelist as well as a female social entrepreneur, and share what I have gleaned from two decades of being an “Apple™ by Association” and acolyte of Steve Jobs and what he stood for.

What did he really stand for? What can we takeaway from his life; as fellow writers and potential thought leaders?

Five Lessons Steve Jobs Taught Writers/Authors/Bloggers:

1. Commit to it. Have a multi-tiered vision and carry through on it.

2. Act on it. Think differently about your craft, to produce great work.

3. Scaffold your ideas. Think like an artist, act like an architect. Make your portrayed microcosm a practical ecosystem that builds on the ideas you previously expressed, and those of others.

4. Educate and entertain. Keep your content and language “user friendly” by explaining things simply and succinctly, and yes, humorously.

5. Deploy The Hook. Build momentum and anticipation in your writings by ending it with useful tidbits the reader can really use….”one more thing” to ponder.

Steve Jobs had a connoisseur’s eye when it came to art, design, and understanding human nature. His poetic soul shines through the myriad quotes attributed to him; before and after his passing. But it is his practical advice, assembly line of innovative products, and thought leadership, that will stand the test of time. I consider him one of my first virtual mentors, and sincerely appreciate the influence his teachings have had on my own odyssey and legacy.



Think Different

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About penina4niceinitiative

Penina Rybak MA/CCC-SLP, TSHH, CEO of Socially Speaking LLC, is the author of "The NICE Reboot: A Guide to Becoming a Better Female Entrepreneur". She is an Autism specialist and educational technology consultant turned social entrepreneur. She is also a pediatric speech therapist and the creator of the Socially Speaking™ Program & iPad App. Her second book, "Autism Intervention in the iEra" was published in 2015. Since 2010, Penina has been a national/international speaker about social communication development, balancing humanity and technology, and best practices re: mobile and social technology. Connect with her on LinkedIn to learn more. You can also find her on Twitter: @PopGoesPenina, Facebook: Socially Speaking LLC, Google+ at The NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship, and Pinterest and YouTube as well.
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