I was terribly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ passing last week. I’ve been reading (and retweeting) many reactions and jotting down a few notes of my own. Hope to say more soon — probably not anything particularly original, but it still somehow seems worth noting here.
Steve and I were talking about children one time, and he said the problem with children is that they carry your heart with them. The exact phrase was, “It’s your heart running around outside your body.” That’s a Steve Jobs quote. He had a level of perception about feelings and emotions that was far beyond anything I’ve met in my entire life.
But here’s the thing. It’s not a Steve Jobs quote. (Gruber’s since noted this on his site.) Here’s how I’ve seen it most often:
“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” – Elizabeth Stone
This is a notion that gets stated and restated on parenting blogs all the time. To the point where there’s practically a bona fide mommy war about whether one likes the quote or finds it irritating. Now, we don’t actually know what Jobs said to Schmidt. Schmidt’s story is probably accurate as far as he remembers. And BusinessWeek probably got the Schmidt quote right. And of course people, at least at this moment, and for the most part, want to believe that Jobs was all that and amazingly insightful about parenting, too.
But it just so striking to me – as someone who hangs around not just in tech circles, but in parenting and mommy blog circles – and I immediately recognized the quote and did just a tiny bit of digging to see whether it was possibly true that it had originated with Jobs. (Stranger things have happened.) And it’s not even that every business reporter should be expected to be up-to-speed on all the memes in the mom-blog-universe. Obviously. But now that Eric Schmidt has attributed the quote to Jobs, any search on it in Google now implies that it was original with Jobs – unless you do a bit of digging.
In terms of that mommy war I mentioned, I’ve always liked the sentiment. It rings very true to me. But isn’t it interesting how now that people think Steve Jobs said it, it’s seen as amazingly deep and profound. I’d bet that if the quote were seen in isolation, many of those praising Jobs for his deep insight in this area would have dismissed it as cutesy and nice, but perhaps a tad overwrought.
However inadvertently this misattribution has come about, I think it’s a shame. And it shines a little spotlight – just a little one; this is a wee small micro-example in the scheme of things – on 1) the fact that women’s perspectives and knowledge are under-represented in tech circles and 2) the ease with which powerful men, without even trying, can effectively erase women’s voices and contributions.