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What EMS can learn from Steve Jobs

There are people in this world I admire and greatly respect. Many are in EMS, working hard to improve it and further its evolution. There are other folks outside of industry who have my respect as well, those who achieve a work ethic and ideal that I can only dream of.

Then there are those who are living giants, who, by virtue of their dreams and imagination, coupled with the will and desire to accomplish them, affect the world as a whole. They shift society in terms of how it looks at itself. Not all cases result in positive changes, but the truly great toil for the greater good.

Steve Jobs was one of those living giants. I recall being frustrated back in the early 1990s when Windows 3.11 was switching to Windows 95, and how plug and play it wasn't. Someone let me borrow an Apple Macintosh with its 3.5 inch floppy drive and 512K memory, and I was hooked. Over the years there have been many highs and lows. When Steve was fired by the company he had cofounded, he called it one of the hardest moments in his life. When he came back, the company transformed and so did the products it sold: New Macs, iPods, iPhones, iPads.

One can argue about small market share, inability to share with PC easily, and so forth. But there is no mistaking that Steve's vision of how consumers work with, and demand from technology drove an entire industry's advancement, and arguably a world's view of how it consumes and manages data.

Steve was driven to perfection. Good wasn’t enough. Even better could go one step further. Just as important, when he did falter, Steve did learn from mistakes and improved upon them (remember Newton?), rather than alter his vision. He was passionate about what he saw and did. He motivated thousands of employees to develop and produce quality products; thousands of fans in turn used word of mouth to promote those products. He wasn't perfect, for sure; local stories about his stubbornness and questions about his generosity abound. He was known to visit local Apple stores and check in with staff there to see how things were going. He was never too far from his clients and customers, another great attribute of a leader.

There are a lot of lessons to learn from Steve's accomplishments and apply toward our profession.

Vision - we still need to develop a cohesive image about our future. Even after 50 years we still lack that focus. Daily, we roll ambulances to calls and provide care to patients in the field, so everything seems like it's honky dory. Yet pay issues, training issues, scope of practice issues, identity issues still plague us.

Staying True - Tied closely to a unified vision is keeping a candle burning for it. EMS has been modified and shaped by a variety of forces over time. Great initiatives have fallen short, either for lack of funds, lack of interest, or both. We need to stay focused and accomplish the mission.

Perseverance - I've said before, we have lots of smart folks in EMS. We need more folks to stay in the business long enough to gain even more knowledge that can be applied in new ways to create growth. We still need to build the environment that fosters creativity and longevity in the profession.

Around the Bay Area today, tributes and accolades are pouring in to honor a local hero. Appropriately it is raining and the mood is somber. We've lost a great one, and he will be missed. As one fanboy, I am grateful for Steve Job's contributions to my life. Thanks very much for making part of it a little happier.

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