What does Steve Jobs have to do with fighting traffic gridlock in LA? A lot, actually.
Steve Jobs has had a profound impact on the world. And in a way, he even helped make possible the efforts of your humble blogger/activist in the nonprofit sector. I, David Murphy (President of Angelenos Against Gridlock) was working in 2008 as Government Affairs Manager for the Valley Industry & Commerce Association. I had been thinking of acting on my own entrepreneurial instincts to start a transportation-focused effort, but it was a hard choice, as I had been offered a lucrative positive as Vice President of another respected and well established business group that I admired.
Going out on my own, as co-founder of a new independent group focused exclusively on transportation issues would be a financially and emotionally tough effort. But as I made my plans, I realized that the Apple stock I had made a very small token investment in as a teenage Apple fan (absolutely against the advice of a financial advisor!) had grown quite dramatically in value thanks to Steve Jobs’ leadership. While certainly not enough to get rich by, the modest amount was enough to offer a cushion for a month or two, and helped give me the confidence to embark out on my social entrepreneurial vision (under the name in 2008 of “Building LA’s Future”), to help tackle what I viewed as one of Los Angeles’ most pressing problems, its traffic gridlock. I’m very grateful to the funders and sponsors that helped continue to support that effort long after my modest Apple share value ran out — it was because of these donors that my cofounder and I were able to scrape by enough to keep going.
It turned out to be a busy and pivotal time, and I was pleased to be able to produce events like a CEO Summit on Transportation Infrastructure at the City Club covered in the Los Angeles Times and praised by LA Business Journal editor Charlie Crumpley in a dedicated editorial, just a couple weeks after he’d profiled news of our effort on the paper’s cover.
I’m also deeply grateful to the generous funders who helped me get going anew this year after the tough economy, under the banner of Angelenos Against Gridlock. You sure don’t get rich working in the nonprofit sector — it saddens me to say I don’t own any Apple products right now (can’t afford them!) — but I hope in my own way I have been able to help be a force for good in gridlocked Los Angeles. As Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford commencement speech in 2005 (video here), it’s important to follow one’s heart:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. —Steve Jobs
In a way, I have been able to follow my own heart, to “light a candle” to help improve the SoCal I so love, instead of just “cursing the darkness” of gridlock, thanks to Steve Jobs and the value he created at Apple.
Tonight my heart aches at the loss of such an extraordinary visionary. Rest In Peace, Steve Jobs. You are missed.