Perhaps of all the many stories reported in the media after Steve Jobs’ death, his calligraphy studies with a former Trappist monk stirred my Catholic curiosity most. He credits this experience with formulating his taste for beautiful typography, which he later applied to Apple computers. To think of a technology wizard praising calligraphy at first seems unusual, but Jobs was anything but typical. After all, his company’s mantra was “Think different.”
As a young adult, he pursued a non-conformist route, exploring many interests before settling on electronics. When he dropped out of college, he enrolled in calligraphy classes. During this time he says it was the freedom to explore and dream that provided inspiration for his later projects.
Following your bliss naturally has its disadvantages and obstacles. The lack of money usually helps reality to set in. Jobs himself admitted that this period was anything but romantic. He had spent most of his adoptive parents’ modest savings on college only to drop out. This surely raised their eyebrows, if not their voices. Without a job or a dorm room to live in, Jobs remembers sleeping on the floor in friends’ apartments. His one source of income was returning used Coke bottles for 5-cent deposits. For charity meals he would walk 7 miles across town to the Hare Krishna temple every Sunday.
Many around him at the time and even now might consider his bohemian lifestyle and calligraphy studies as nothing more than whimsical diversion. However, in the often referenced 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, Jobs highlighted its importance.