The Backstory Of Steve Jobs’ Quote About Parenthood

Elizabeth Stone, Fordham University

Steve Jobs was an extremely private person for someone so renowned for stagecraft, and his family was perhaps the most private part of his life. That’s probably why a poignant quote about parenthood that’s being attributed to Jobs in the wake of his death is making the rounds; however, those words belong to someone else.

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Chairman Eric Schmidt, who worked very closely with Jobs for years as a member of Apple’s board of directors and then competed fiercely against his mobile group, wrote an eloquent piece about Jobs for a special edition of Bloomberg BusinessWeek published a few days after Jobs died last Wednesday. One particular passage has been circulating around the Internet because it offers a rare spotlight into Jobs’ thinking about parenthood.

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.

However, that’s actually not a Steve Jobs quote. Elizabeth Stone, a professor at Fordham University and the author of three books, is used to fielding inquiries about the anonymous quote she said provided to a writer friend for an essay in The Village Voice back in 1985 that was later adapted for Readers’ Digest with credit to Stone.

Contacted by paidContent Tuesday, Stone sent along an explanation of how the quote came to be that she has saved over the years in response to numerous inquiries. Versions of it have been cited by figures ranging from Hillary Clinton (attributed correctly) to the OctoMom (not attributed correctly).

The actual quote in the original essay written by Ellen Cantarow was: “Making the decision to have a child–it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Stone explains:

The sentiment would have disappeared had it not been for an editor from Reader’s Digest who contacted Ellen in 1987, wanting to find whomever had said that. In 1989, the snippet was published in The Reader’s Digest attributed, now, to me. For the next 8 years nothing more happened, except that a hospital in Boston asked if they could use my quote in a form letter congratulating new parents, and I said they could. But beginning in the late 90s, coinciding with the launch of Google, the quote went viral.

We publish this not to cast blame on Schmidt for not knowing the original source of the quote, nor to imply that Jobs was trying to claim the words as his own. It is, however, an interesting example of how powerful words linked to a recently deceased legend can take on a life of their own, and consider this an attempt to give credit where credit is due.

“Jobs’ death is a mammoth loss,” Stone wrote in an e-mail to paidContent. “I know his family was enormously important to him, and I’m glad that he found something in those words that rang true for him.”

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