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The truth Steve Jobs cannot hide from

It's past time for Steve Jobs to look beyond himself, and for Apple to look beyond Steve Jobs. Failure to do so is hurting the company, and could yet destroy it.
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Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

We recently passed the one year anniversary of the most popular, and infamous, blog post I have ever written, here or elsewhere.

Steve Jobs nearly died and lied about it.

At the time I was angry. CEOs are not private citizens, I wrote. They are de facto public figures. They have an absolute obligation to disclose things like liver transplants, even conditions that might lead to one. Jobs didn't, and so put all Apple shareholders at grave risk.

By all accounts Steve is doing much better these days, thank you. He's still thin, but now it's a healthy thin. The color is back in his face. He has his puckishness back, skimming in-and-out of meetings in his jeans and black turtlenecks like Peter Pan.

And he has Apple back on top. On top of Microsoft, on top of the world, man. (Here he is at CES, smiling, with his latest little friend, the iPad. From CNET Asia.)

But there is a medical truth Jobs can't hide, one he and I share.

We both have a bad case of 55.

Funny thing about 55. I feel great, maybe better than in my life. I'm more in touch with my physical self. I'm more careful.

But I'm also more aware than ever that my time on Earth is limited. I don't expect to feel this good 10 years from now. A recent investment commercial called this time the "retirement red zone."

My brother in law retired a year ago. My mom broke her hip recently (she's getting better). My contemporaries are becoming grandparents. My kids are all grown up.The past trails behind further than the future lies in front.

There's no cure, whether you're a famous multi-billionaire or an anonymous Atlanta-based blogger. It'll come, yours and mine-a.

So how does Apple face that? Do they face that?

Business history is littered with companies that died or had near-death experiences as their founders weakened. One famous example is the Walt Disney Co., where Jobs is now the largest shareholder. And it doesn't take a death to set things off. Look at Microsoft. Where it has gone since Bill Gates left is sideways.

In classical Indian history this is the time of life where successful men look beyond themselves. Kings wandered the countryside as mendicants, seeking enlightenment and founding great religions. Gates himself is engaged in a modern version of that.

The point is, it's past time for Steve Jobs to look beyond himself, and for Apple to look beyond Steve Jobs. Failure to do so is hurting the company, and could yet destroy it.

There's no cure for 55.

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