What Can You Control?

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According to a recent study published by Reuters, Apple is still the world’s most valuable brand. However in October 2011, Apple’s dominance was overshadowed by the sad news of the death of its founder and CEO Steve Jobs. Earlier in 2005, Jobs’ gave a commencement speech to Stanford University Graduates in which he admitted that doctors said he only had 6 more months to live.

Although a biopsy later showed the cancer was treatable, Jobs said it had made him think seriously about dying for the first time. “No one wants to die,” he said, speaking to Stanford graduates. “Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.” Jobs gained insight into what he says we too often avoid: the reality of death. He went on to say that knowing this reality of death should motivate us to pursue our dreams now while we have time. Yet whatever time we have, Job’s wisdom on the limits of our control reminds us that no matter how successful we become, we are still not in control of the fundamental things of life such as our own health and life expectancy. Being one of the most successful men on the planet was one thing, but keeping it, having control of it, was another. Steve Jobs had the success many of us pursue; yet for all his success, he could not control the cancer that led to his early death.

Even in our own Canadian corporate landscape we find a similar picture of how success does not ensure control. After having placed itself as one of the world’s most competitive emerging technological companies for the past decade, Waterloo, ON based Research in Motion (RIM) faced a series of setbacks in falling behind in product competition, system glitches, the delay of its Blackberry 10, the stepping down of their CEOs, and at the worst time, a 147 million dollar copyright loss it had to pay. Having been such a dominant player in the global technology scene for so long, who would have thought that RIM could be in such a fragile position? What we learn from Steve Jobs and RIM is that even the best of our successes are shrouded by a curtain of uncertainty and unpredictability, an inability to keep what we fear losing.

No one would dispute that the craving to be successful, to make it to the top of whatever arena or pursuit you are in, is a desirable and worthy goal. Who wants to be second? It is admirable to pursue success. Yet we are setting ourselves up for failure if we think that success can bring us control of our lives. Whether becoming a CEO one day, hoping to corner the market on the next best idea, or wanting to be a lawyer or doctor one day, our health, loved ones, and control of our lives and circumstances will still be elusive.

In a world where control is elusive, where can we find true security? What do you think?

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