Have you ever been worried that you’re too easy to fool to ever make it in life? Fret not, take a look at billionaire, space fan, and founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson. As Branson was doing his thing, be it brushing his teeth or attempting a triple back flip, he came across an e-mail sharing the final words of Steve Jobs, the deceased co-founder and CEO of Apple.
Of course, those weren’t the final words of Steve Jobs at all. They were fake, and as it happened, they offered the kind of anti-materialistic message you’re likely to come across at least once a day if you’re scrolling through social media. Branson later explained that while he at first thought those final words of Steve’s were true, he only later came to realize it was fake. But he didn’t lose faith. “When I thought they were the final utterances of the entrepreneur I most admired, they inspired me. Now I know they were not, they still inspire me. Should they no longer be relevant because they are inaccurate,” he wrote.
The fake message Richard received is up for everyone to see on his blog and it (falsely) portrays Steve’s final words as follows:
“I have come to the pinnacle of success in business.
In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success.
However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.
At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.
In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth.
It should be something more important:
For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.
No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.”
Branson’s post has already been widely disseminated across social media. To summarize: Branson doesn’t believe that the fake message’s inherent value should go to waste because it’s still inspirational to him.
If Branson finds the text inspirational, that’s perfectly fine. But it doesn’t seem sound to promote material that presents itself as something it is not, at least not from an ethical perspective, and we certainly don’t need to give those who spread misinformation another confidence boost. There’s enough of that on Facebook.
Let’s compare the difference between what the chainmail said, and what Jobs actually said. Mona Simpson, Steve Jobs’s sister, had published in the New York Times the eulogy she gave at Jobs’ memorial service. She reported that Steve had looked at his sister Patty, then his children, then at his wife Laurene, and then past his children’s shoulders. Then he said: “Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Oh Wow.”
That is certainly inspirational, and human, and moreover not a fraudulent speech that uses the borrowed clothing of a dead man’s fame to promote a particular point of view.