Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Steve Jobs”

A Stunning Tribute to Steve Jobs and his Philosophy

What makes this tribute to Steve Jobs so engaging is that Guy Kawasaki, who worked for him over two periods of time, had just heard the night before that Jobs had passed away. For a guy who meticulously plans his presentations, Kawasaki is almost winging it. 

imagesThere are two kinds of people who frequent this blog: social activists and writers. Everything here is relevant to both. Think on it.

I decided to post this on a Friday because it is over an hour long. There is a visual accompaniment, but this can be listened to as you drive or fold laundry.

If you are on a first or second date, make a good meal, open a fine bottle of wine, light the candles … and save this for another day. But don’t pass it up.

Have a great weekend,



Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book3, all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Have you Been to Church? – Tom Rossi

Have you been to church lately? Have you worshiped the almighty Jobs? Have you read The Book of Jobs? Have you attended services to celebrate the resurrection of Jobs?


 Steve Jobs was, as far as I know, the first CEO who was enough of an egomaniac to call big press conferences to announce a new device that his company had produced – even if that device was, many times, just the latest version.


 Now, press conferences to announce new toys or versions of electronic toys or versions of softwares are de rigueur, and reporters and “enthusiasts” (people whose lives revolve around having the latest iPhone or whatever) flock to them like kids to ice cream trucks on a hot day. We still have press conferences for Apple, but also Samsung, Facebook, and a host of other companies who have CEOs anxious to play the court jester. I think they all want to stick their success in the faces of the jocks who kicked their asses in high school and the girls who made barfing sounds when they asked them out.


 Yes, these press conferences are attended by throngs of reporters because the release of a new device version is what, today, passes for news. In between a few reports of shootings in east Oakland, this weeks big party parade across San Francisco, traffic reports, and horse-race political reporting, there is always “news” of some company releasing an iblender4.3, or something. “Apple announced, at its big event today, that iPhones will now be available in blue.” Very exciting news.


 What really gets me about these press conferences is that they are purely for the purposes of publicity, and the media are complicit in the scheme. Every tech-head nerd-geek knows better than to take what is said at these release orgies too seriously. Anyone with more sense than dollars waits to hear from the reviewers who take the thing back to the office and work it over like Muhammad Ali beating up on Cleveland Williams. That’s why we hear so quickly about defects with things like map apps.

 But this is our new church. We, or our representatives, sit in the pews, waiting and hoping for a glimpse of our savior – whoever is the latest to promise us safe passage into heaven… or to heavenly FaceSpaceTumbling and Twitstagramming, anyway.

 I have an iPhone. It’s kind of a nice thing to have. I use the map a lot – that’s really what I bought it for. My iPhone is something like two years old. It still works well enough. I also have a hammer and a pair of vice-grips that I like. They’re all pretty useful tools.

 -Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.


List of Shame: The 1%’ers Who Dodge Taxes

Let me be clear from the start: this post is not about all those who occupy (excuse the pun) the top 1% of our nation in terms of wealth. This is about those who pay taxes annually to the tune of $1. There are many who worked hard to amass their wealth and are incredibly philanthropic. As the director of a non-profit, I have been honored with many opportunities to meet and work with such people.

These generous people are propelled by a moral code and take a meaningful portion of their money and time to promote social justice issues, to support those in our society who need help – the elderly, the poor, the homeless etc., and provide cultural and educational opportunities that might not be business-viable without such support. This article is NOT about them. I am sure they pay their taxes, understanding that the services they receive – an army to defend them, a police force, fire and emergency response force, the roads they drive on, the street lights…do I need to go on?

But unfortunately there are those billionaires who seem to take pride out of not paying their taxes. These people manage to show a salary of $1. They include such individuals as Eric Schmidt and Larry Page (both Google), Steve Jobs (Apple) from 1997 until his death last year, Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Meg Whitman (Hewlett-Packard). And apparently, recently wed and start-up-turned-public Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) is about to join this shameful club.

Ironically, these ‘poor’ folk might actually be eligible to receive the kind of government aid that is available for low-income populations. If they keep their personal income under $13,000 they would be able to apply for an Earned Income Tax Credit. While I am sure they won’t collect on this, I hope they appreciate that the taxpayers provide this safety net, but they probably won’t.

There are many ways to ensure that you can live the lifestyle of the super-rich, amass wealth, and not pay taxes. One of these, for example is to hold multiple home equity loans, which is (I think) borrowing money against the values of many of your homes and property. This is debt and therefore not taxable, but it is money for them to jet around and live the life they want. In a country where good folk are losing their homes (their only homes) to foreclosure, isn’t this ironic? There are many other ways and I am not the person to expound on them.

Let us assume that one day the Zukerbergs decide to purchase an island in the Caribbean. Most people who show an income of $1 might be more inclined to buy food, clothes, medical insurance etc., but someone with significant net worth need only cash in a few shares (Facebook anyone?) to make the purchase. For sure, he might have to pay 15% capital gains taxes, but ain’t life a bitch.

To be perfectly clear (once again), I do not resent these people their wealth. I have a deep respect for the philanthropists that I have a relationship with. But I believe in paying taxes and I want everyone who can afford it to pay their share and pay it with grace.

Those billionaires who take pride out of cheating (yes, cheating) our society out of their taxes are screwing not only those of us who pay taxes today, but also failing to help prevent the nation accumulate debt that our children will be saddled with.

For some reason, what hurts even more, is that these people are paying more money for financial advice that helps them avoid tax exposure than I earn in a year…before I pay my taxes.

I work hard for my salary and pay my taxes as I should. I have a right to be angry.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Learning From Steve Jobs

There has been a lot written about Steve Jobs since he passed away and while I read many articles at first, I seem to just flip through them now. But one article that I not only read, but returned to, was written by Carmine Gallo, I feel there is a lot in here for me to learn.

I want to give Carmine’s bio here as I do lean heavily on his article. The list is his, any comments are mine. Carmine is a communications coach, a popular keynote speaker and author of several books including The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. His latest is The Power of Foursquare (McGraw-Hill, 2011).

1. Do what you love.  Carmine offers two quotes here from Jobs.

“People with passion can change the world for the better.”

“I’d get a job as a busboy or something until I figured out what I was really passionate about.”

I consider myself very lucky in this respect. The only time that I have ever held a position I didn’t enjoy was temporary and for a specific purpose (earning money quickly to fund travel in my younger days). But more importantly, I love writing novels that highlight social injustices and, yes, I hope that maybe my novels might just contribute to a better world.

2. Put a dent in the universe. I love the quote that Carmine provides. Apparently, Steve Jobs once asked then-Pepsi President, John Sculley, “Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?”

This is all about having a vision that can make a difference. Is it really enough to have a solid product like Pepsi, a lucrative career that benefited no one but yourself?

A friend recently asked me why I don’t write thrillers or romance models. His hypothesis was if I kill more characters and add more sex, I would sell a lot more books. While he is probably correct and my bank account would appreciate the change, I love what I write. I truly get passionate about the social injustice issue or the characters that I create. I could write “Pepsi novels,” but it just wouldn’t be me.

Still Learning From The Master

3. Make connections. Jobs believed in a broad life experience: to travel, read, learn from everyone and everything. Then return to your vision and use these experiences to achieve what you are setting out to do. In Judaism we are taught that wherever we wander (and Jews sure wander) we should immediately seek out a teacher. Today, with the explosion of social media, we are all connected to everyone. But do we take the time to listen enough to learn from each other.

4. Say no to 1,000 things. Carmine recalls how when Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he cut 340 products from the company, leaving them to focus on only 10. In doing this, he focused only on those products that could fulfill the vision that he had for Apple.

5. Create insanely different experiences. Everything about Apple is different. Everything is unique and clearly part of a carefully engineered brand. Just think of the experience, sensory and practical, of entering an Apple store. It is simply entering a different world. We look forward to going to the store in a way that we don’t experience with any other company.

6. Master the message. This is absolutely crucial. You must be able to communicate your message clearly, quickly and in a way that inspires the person/people who are listening to ask more questions, or to want to act/react in the way you want. If the response to my telling someone that I write political fiction is a request to pass the cheese, then I need to reconsider my message (though I might want to pass the cheese first).

7. Sell dreams, not products. I think this is an important concept and one that we are prone to forget in the hectic day-to-day. How often do we get bogged down in the small details of our books, or products, or political platforms, and forget why we are doing this.

Finally, Carmine leaves us with the pearl of Jobs’ ethos, and I will leave you with this.

“See genius in your craziness, believe in yourself, believe in your vision, and be constantly prepared to defend those ideas.”

Steve Jobs passed away last month, but his lessons will stay with us for many  years, and may well help us create a better world: one built on the concept of excellence.

Thank you Steve.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Steve Jobs 2

Following on from last Friday’s post, I have been wondering how much a company can really be sustainable if it leans so heavily on its CEO. The way some people talked about Steve Jobs stepping down at Apple had me worried that my iPod and MacBook would self destruct in five seconds.

But there are certain companies where the CEO seems to take on legendary proportions. Apple is of them, but there is also Walmart, Microsoft and most recently Starbucks.  Howard Shultz wrote the book on building a company based on values and a dynamic business model. He literally wrote the book – Pour Your Heart Into It.

A Great Read.

When Howard Shultz left Starbucks the company experienced its first downfall. I’m not sure this is attributed to his departure, it is hard to spend $4 on a cup of coffee when you lose your job and your house is foreclosed, but tellingly, Shultz was lured back and Starbucks repositioned. I am sure this is all recorded in the uber-CEO’s latest book, Onward, and I will review it soon as it rises up to the top of my To Read book pile.

I  wonder if it shouldn’t be a benchmark of a good CEO that s/he brings through a line of highly trained personnel from which one could be groomed as a successor? Was it a failure of Howard Shultz that  he had to make a comeback? I wonder whether the mood within Apple was as preoccupied as it was played out in the media.

And this brings me to another top-heavy organization – the government. At the risk of endangering my desire to become a US citizen, I wonder whether there isn’t too much emphasis on the President for governance and policy. Shouldn’t there be a bigger emphasis and accountability on those who sit on the House and Senate to fix our problems and lead us forward?

Perhaps we learn from the successful company models in restructuring our governments.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Steve Jobs For President

I tuned into NPR on my commute the other day and for a moment thought that Steve Jobs had passed away. Thankfully, he was ‘just’ stepping down from his position of CEO of Apple Computers to focus on health issues. But judging by the comments of the experts…

Firstly, I wish Steve Jobs well. At the young age of 56 and with the resources at his disposal, I hope he kicks it. He is a good man, a family man, but I think his greatest assets in facing his new challenge are the assets that brought him success at Apple.

Steve Jobs is a visionary: mac, iPod, iPad, iPhone, do I need to go on? But he also has the ability to take these ideas and put them into a framework of excellence. Finally, he has the tenacity, discipline and perhaps single-mindedness to take the product from idea to poplar product.

My blog post title is, of course, flippant. But are these not the qualities we need to bring the US (and the world?) into a sustainable model for the 21st Century? Shouldn’t we demand of our political system the same qualities?

A 21st Century political mode should not be about power base or how much money you can raise. We need more people with the qualities of Steve Jobs in government. Did Steve Jobs thrive because of the rivalry with Bill Gates?

What is interesting, is that despite the tough competition, both Gates and Jobs succeeded, while also our society forward. You can’t say the same for our politicians. Their intransigence and lack of vision is just dragging all of us down.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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