Most of the world knows the Steve Jobs whose unprecedented contributions have shaped modern technology. However, only a select few know the Steve Jobs whose adoption story seemed to inspire him throughout his life and career.
In 1955, Jobs was born to Joanne Schieble and Abdulfattah “John” Jandali. Schieble traveled from Wisconsin to San Francisco for the delivery, where a doctor assisted women with arranging closed adoptions.
Jobs was originally set to be adopted by two lawyers, but when they learned the baby was a boy, they backed out for another opportunity to adopt a girl. Paul and Clara Jobs, who struggled with infertility, were next in line and jumped at the opportunity to adopt a baby boy.
According to Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, Jobs’ childhood was normal. He’d work with his father on cars, the fence around their house, and many other projects. And he knew he was adopted and was comfortable with it. That is until a young girl asked him a question that may have planted a seed for the growth of something exceptional.
Jobs recalled that day to Isaacson: “I remember right here on my lawn, telling Lisa McMoylar from across the street that I was adopted. And she said, ‘So does that mean your real parents didn’t want you?’ “Ooooh, lightning bolts went off in my head. I remember running into the house, I think I was like crying, asking my parents. And they sat me down and they said, ‘No, you don’t understand. We specifically picked you out.’”
Jobs’ independence and motivation for greatness was infamous. The fact that he was abandoned, and then chosen, and then made special seemed to fuel him.
A friend of Jobs, Greg Calhoun, told Isaacson: “Steve talked to me a lot about being abandoned and the pain it caused. It made him independent. He followed the beat of a different drummer, and that came from being in a different world than he was born into.”
Friends of Jobs note that the pain that he continued to feel throughout his life could be seen by some of the journeys he would pursue. One pursuit included a seven-month trip to India while in his 20s, where he became a practicing member of Buddhism. He returned home a changed man in many ways, but Jobs has said he never felt “abandoned.”
“There’s some notion that because I was abandoned, I worked very hard so I could do well and make my parents wish they had me back, or some such nonsense, but that’s ridiculous,” Jobs said. “Knowing I was adopted may have made me feel more independent, but I have never felt abandoned. I’ve always felt special. My parents made me feel special. They were my parents 1,000 percent.”
If Jobs remained with his birth parents in Wisconsin, who weren’t ready to have a child, would his brilliance still be felt around the world? Perhaps, but what is known for sure is his adoption story is yet another example of how a young woman’s decision to place her child for adoption made the world a better place.
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- Steve Jobs Headshot 2010 via Matt Yohe
- “Steve Jobs: adopted child who never met his biological father“ – The Telegraph
- “Adoption in the Life of Steve Jobs“ – Psychology Today