Paramahansa Yogananda and Steve Jobs in Salesforce’s spiritual journey: Marc Benioff

11th Sep 2013
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Marc Benioff Salesforce

Behind Salesforce’s success, there has been some spiritual force, too, we learn from Marc Russell Benioff, the founder, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com. Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, Marc acknowledged the role that Paramahansa Yogananda and Steve Jobs played in his life, and explained how he benefited from both of them.

"Steve Jobs was a huge mentor to me. There would be no Salesforce without Steve Jobs. He was an inspiration behind many of the things we have created at Salesforce, and we have a huge gratitude for him," said Marc, the leader behind one of the most successful tech ventures, Salesforce.com. In contrast, it could be sobering for those in Apple to hear Marc rue that the current Apple team somehow does not recognise the existence of Steve. “They need to somewhere acknowledge and thank Steve in their current events,” he advised.

A small brown box

The story of Paramahansa Yogananda in Marc’s narrative begins with a small brown box that Marc receives at the end of the memorial service for Steve Jobs at Stanford. “I knew that the box would be good, as Steve was very mindful and conscious of everything that he did, and he would have planned this, from the caterer to who will speak from the box that was handed. And whatever was inside the box was the last thing Steve wanted all of us to think about.”

The box contained a copy of ‘The Autobiography of a Yogi,’ by the legendary Indian guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. His message was self-realisation, actualise yourself. Steve went to India, visited ashrams, was in quest for realisation, recounted Marc. “Intuition was his gift, to look at world from inside out. Steve was a very spiritual person. Whenever I had problem, I’d call him. And, meditation is a major part of my life.”

To Marc, the takeaways from the book are generosity, and love, and that we need to actualise ourselves, working; to embrace and actualise oneself. “If you have to understand Steve Jobs, read the book,” he said. “Tremendous insights; and you will know why he was successful.”

Dinner with Steve

Once, when Marc was having trouble at Salesforce, he called Steve to seek his guidance. “He was very gracious and said, ‘Come over.’” They met over dinner. This was in 2001. “I went down, sat there, told him about our product, strategy, roadmap and then asked, ‘What do you think we should do Steve?’” What was the response? Steve told Marc three things: “One, you better be 10 times larger in 24 months or it’s over; two, you need a huge client; and, three, get an application economy.” What is an application economy, Marc asked Steve, and his answer was, “I don't know. You better go and figure it out.”

Around 2002-2003, Marc started thinking about the application and marketplace, and decided to launch a platform for apps, and thought a great name for it would be "appstore". He registered the Appstore.com domain.

A spiritual moment

Fast forward to 2008, when Steve Jobs calls Marc and tells him to come down for an announcement Steve was going to make. “So I come down to the Apple event, and Jobs on the stage announces the ‘most important thing Apple had ever done,’ that is, App Store.”

What is very remarkable and poignant about this story comes next. This announcement did not come as a shock to Marc; rather, he says, "It was a spiritual moment." He gifted Appstore.com and AppStore trademark to Steve. “Steve said, ‘Oh, we will never make much money on this App Store thing,’ and I said, ‘Ok Steve,’ and gifted him,” narrates Marc.

Look inside yourself, realise yourself and Apple has to do that, he said. “They are great guys. They don't have to be like Steve, but have to realise themselves, and be who they are truly. Respect the past, and as Steve would say, Project the Future!”

This is something all of us as individuals and professionals need to think about, ‘Are we self-actualising, building our internal core, and realising our own selves, and projecting the future?’ The good news is that we come from the land where we have masters of self-actualisation. Meanwhile, do grab a copy of the Autobiography of a Yogi, if you have not read it already.

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