Did Steve Jobs’ Life Exemplify Zen Buddhism?

As we all are, Steve Jobs was a study in contrasts, but perhaps as he lived larger than life, so were they. Steve Silberman looks in Jobs life of Zen study to find out how it influenced his life.

I JUST read an insightful article about Steve Jobs’ dance with Zen Buddhism.  It’s widely known that he immersed himself at various times during his life in the practice, sitting Zazen at Zen retreats, befriending various monks, even being married by one.

Those who examine the mind behind the design of his Apple products, often point to Jobs’ study and appreciation of Zen Buddhism as his guiding light.

And yet, as Steve Silberman notes in What Kind of Buddhist Was Steve Jobs, Really?:

“Isaacson [the biographer who just released the Steve Jobs biography, Steve Jobs] is admirably frank about the core tenet of Buddhism that Jobs seems to have bypassed: the importance of treating everyone around you, even perceived enemies, with basic respect and lovingkindness. It’s tempting now to cast Jobs’ tantrums, casual brutality, and constant berating of “shitheads” as the brave refusal to compromise his ideal of perfection — even as a kind of tough love that inspired his employees to transcend their own limitations. But a more skillful practitioner would have tried to find ways to bring out the genius in his employees without humiliating them — and certainly would have found ways of manufacturing products that didn’t cause so much suffering for impoverished workers in other countries. The moment in Isaacson’s book when Jobs tells the Mobile Me team after the project’s disastrous début, “You should hate each other for having let each other down,” shows that even near the end of his life, Jobs had more to learn from his teachers.”

Steve Jobs lived larger than life, as the saying goes, and so the contradictions within him – that are within us all – were perhaps larger than for the rest of us.

You may wonder how someone so steeped in a philosophy and practice of loving kindness could often be dismissive, angry, even cruel.  This is odd to me too, but as a fellow practitioner of meditation and various forms of Asian-based metaphysics, I see the contradictions in my own life.

Surely, it’s easier to talk the talk, than walk the walk.  And so it was for Jobs.  That said, perhaps he expressed it best when he said this to Steve Silberman:

“ ‘If you want to know what I think, just look at our products.’ At the time, it seemed like a crabby, dismissive, “bad Steve” response. But it was the most Zen thing he could have said.”

Go read more about Zen and Steve Jobs in Mr. Silberman’s article, What Kind of Buddhist Was Steve Jobs, Really?


Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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