The handwritten letter of Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder to his close friend Tim Brown with a signed envelope, the top corner is slightly torn, just sold for 11.4 billion.
Tim Brown, the recipient of this letter, was one of Jobs’ best friends since he was at Homestead High School. This is a response to Brown’s letter, sharing Steve Jobs’ thoughts on Zen Buddhism. Jobs insists he doesn’t understand (“I don’t know what to say”), but then expresses insight beyond his 18 years:
The Scouting philosophy of billionaire Steve Jobs
Many mornings have come and gone
People come and go
I fell in love and I cried many times.
Not sure why, but, after all, nothing has changed – do you understand?
Jobs was clearly immersed in the search for meaning in his life at this stage.
The letter was postmarked a day before Jobs’ 19th birthday. This letter shows Jobs returning to the South Bay during his time in Oregon after he dropped out of Reed College and spent time at the All One apple farm. Around this time, Jobs was working at Atari, the Sunnyvale-based video game company led by Nolan Bushnell, and saving money for a trip to India. As evidenced by the absence of an address to return the letter on the envelope, Jobs did not have a permanent address. He apparently moved in with his parents on Crist Drive in Los Altos, but he also stayed with friends including girlfriend Chrisann Brennan. He mentioned in the letter that he “lives on a ranch in the mountains between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz”. Some sources say he was living in a Los Gatos cabin in the foothills of Santa Cruz at this time, although details are not verifiable.
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Jobs ended the letter with a stunning, almost teasing statement with a seemingly overrated statement: “I’ll end with a sentence I don’t even know where to begin. ShantiSteve Jobs.”
Jobs then went to India in April 1973.
Jobs, perhaps partly influenced by his friend Tim Brown, returned to study Zen Buddhism and began studying Zen master Kobun Chino Otogawa, whom he met almost daily. Then the practice of meditation continued throughout his life; Otogawa even celebrated Jobs’s wedding to Laurene Powell in 1991.
Jobs rarely wrote letters to his friends, it is known. Jobs and Brown were best friends since high school and remained in touch throughout Jobs’ life; he put pen to paper to share his thoughts, which is a testament to the respect that Jobs had for Brown. No previously signed letter from Jobs has ever appeared at auction, and certainly none as revealing and profound as the current letter. (Isaacson. Steve Jobs. New York: ; personal interview with Tim Brown.)
“This letter gives us an insight into the mental workings of one of the world’s greatest innovators and entrepreneurs. No signed letter from Jobs has ever appeared at auctions before, and certainly no document has revealed something as profound as this one,” said Adam Stackhouse, director of business history. Science and Technology by Bonhams.