Some, by Marilyn J. Rowland
“Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.”
Al Franken, “Oh, the Things I Know,” 2002
Thanks to Steve Jobs, I took my car in for servicing this week. There was an odd vibration that came and went, and I had been trying to pretend it was nothing. My car is a 1996 Saturn with 171,000 miles on it, and I am not looking forward to having to replace it. As it turned out, it was fairly minor and it only cost $145 to fix.
I had noticed the vibration problem for a couple of weeks. At first, it was so jarring that I thought it was a flat tire. Then, it seemed to subside. I just didn’t have time to deal with it. I didn’t want to deal with it.
Sixteen years ago, I bought the Saturn because my 10-year-old Honda blew up one day–because I didn’t do the scheduled maintenance. From that experience, I learned to do the scheduled maintenance, but, after the Saturn dealership closed, I was not as diligent. I had bought the Honda after my previous Honda was totaled in a multiple-car pile-up on the Southeast Expressway in Boston. The car in front of us stopped short. We stopped quickly (I remember we were listening to news about Chilean political unrest on the radio), but the car behind us plowed into us, sending us into the car in front of us, and them into the car in front of them.
We were on on way to buy baby furniture, having just heard that there was a baby waiting for us in Chile. We got the crippled Honda towed, rented another car, and continued our trip to Toys R Us. We arrived just in time to see a pregnant couple buy the last crib and changing table in the style we wanted. I was not pregnant, of course, but was annoyed–clearly (but not visibly) we needed the furniture sooner than they did.
When that car died, 10 years later, I was on my way, with both kids in the car, to buy a digital piano. All three of us wanted to learn to play. The car died conveniently right near a service station, but the first call I made was to the piano store to ask them to save me one. We loved the piano–for a while. All of us play different instruments now.
But I digress. This was supposed to be about Steve Jobs.
This past Sunday, I watched a repeat of Walter Isaacson interview on “60 Minutes” about his book on Steve Jobs. Isaacson talked about how Jobs’ “reality distortion field,” his magical thinking, led him to avoid dealing effectively with his pancreatic cancer until it was too late. Jobs was adopted, like my own children, and felt “special” because of it. He thought he didn’t need to play by the rules, according to Isaacson, that he could overcome the odds.
Now, I realize that pancreatic cancer and a minor car repair have little in common, and also that I never used my version of magical thinking to create anything, much less anything as wondrous as a computer, iPhone, or iPad. But I understand the negative uses of magical thinking.