Recently while hanging out in the Phoenix airport, waiting for my connecting flight to Tucson, I had time to observe folks around me. Most were huddled over some type of computerized gizmo that started with the letter "i."
I thought how much the late Steve Jobs has changed the course of communication in our world. And then a great feeling of sadness came over me - Jobs is not around to enjoy the fruits of his labor or create more things that could benefit mankind.
Feeling a bit melancholy about the whole thing, I boarded and found my seat next to a young woman in her mid-20s. When we exchanged some pleasantries, her accent told me she was probably originally from India. Turns out she is a University of Arizona student studying for a doctorate in computer science.
What I liked about Tapasya right from the beginning was her down-to-earth attitude. We talked about simple things like how she feels about living in Tucson and the fact that her program comprises only 17 percent women.
The conversation eventually got around to technology and what a pity it is that we lost the computer and electronics genius Steve Jobs at the young age of 56 due to pancreatic cancer.
I told her I was especially interested in his story, as someone very dear to me had died of this evil disease that frequently takes folks within six months or less of diagnosis.
Yet Jobs had been one of the lucky ones. He was diagnosed in 2003 with an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, a rare but very treatable form of pancreatic cancer.
Unfortunately, as I told Tapasya, Jobs was not only afflicted with pancreatic cancer, he also suffered from a serious case of hubris, or overestimation of one's abilities. Ignoring the advice of his doctors, who advised surgery right away, Jobs took his health into his own hands. (Had he wanted to explore alternative modalities in conjunction with mainstream medicine, he could have consulted a specialist in integrative medicine.)
Jobs' decision was one he came to regret. His health deteriorated until finally, nine months later, he had no choice but to undergo radical surgery. Most of us know how this story ended: with his death on Oct. 5, 2011.
My seatmate was unaware of Jobs' delay in accepting mainstream medical treatment. But she said she has held firmly to two guiding principles since the beginning of her studies. The first is to find something she is truly passionate about for her life's work and study hard to be the best she can be in that field. The second is to value the intelligence, abilities and hard work of others, whatever their chosen field.
That was Jobs' fatal flaw. He was so smart and creative in the world of computers that he thought he could figure out all the answers to his health problems as well. He was, in fact, his own worst enemy.
A friend of mine often describes certain people as extraordinarily bright. My response is always, "In what area?" No one is knowledgeable or talented in all fields or even all areas within one field.
We meet many people who are top of the line in their chosen field. Their opinions should be seriously considered. Getting a second, third or more professional opinion is good, and thinking we're smarter than the crème de la crème of any field may well lead us down a disastrous path.
On StarNet: Read Barbara Russek's recent columns at azstarnet.com/barbararussek
E-mail Barbara Russek at Babette2@comcast.net