A friend of mine shared a post on Facebook today recounting the final words of Apple’s Steve Jobs: an essay of sorts, 381 words long and full of inspirational regret.

It began with the sentiment, “I have come to the pinnacle of success in business. In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success. However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed. At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death”.

It went on to expound the theme. Do unto others, live life to its fullest, pursue your dreams, never the continued accumulation of wealth. Curiously at one point near the end it counselled, “Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits. Move to where you want to go. Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands”.

And there’s the catch. How does one “move to wherever one wants” without wealth? And I grinned. A disappointed sarcasm welled inside, that sense of inevitability I’d often felt browsing the Internet.

I bet those weren’t Steve Jobs’ words at all—I bet it was just another online fraud. And I was right. Fake.

In 2011 the New York Times published Jobs’ sister’s eulogy. Nowhere in sight were anything close to the sentences Jobs was said to have uttered.

According to myth-busting website Snopes, the essay the Internet subsequently glorified didn’t start doing the rounds till 2015 four years after Jobs’ death. They traced its first iteration to an Indian blog.

What gave this fake news its feet though was another celebrity business person to whom millions looked for inspiration: Virgin’s Richard Branson. He took it lock stock and barrel, and simply parroted it online.

Oh, I’ve seen Branson balls up the quotes of others before—my favourite being a Harry Potter excerpt in which he turned Rowling’s jab at aristocracy into a plea for the downtrodden to aspire to its ranks.

Once again, Branson or his team apparently didn’t check bona fides. And years after, Faux Jobs’ meme keeps rolling on multiplied by social media, that wonderful precursor to the next Dark Age of humankind.

Would it have been so hard for Branson to compose an inspirational essay of his own? Indeed a difficult task, I say, given that the accumulation of wealth is the raison d’être of the rich and famous. So instead, we’re led to believe that a dying Jobs, his heart transmitting a personal Morse Code of mortality, discovered otherwise. As he supposedly said, “Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth”.

Based on those words, maybe Faux Jobs didn’t understand it either. Be nice to others only once you’ve made money?

What were Jobs’ last words then? We go back to the New York Times and that eulogy verbatim. Mona Simpson, Jobs’ sister, said, “Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times. Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve’s final words were …”.


© 2017 Adam Parker.