An Awkward Moment With Steve Wozniak

An Awkward Moment With Steve Wozniak


A note from Pagely Co-Founder Sally Strebel

Meeting a famous person is kind of like being a spectator at the zoo. Why? Because when people meet someone who’s been deemed successful by society, they stare, take photos, and demand a certain kind of experience.

Heck — they might have even paid money to meet this star. They deserve a memorable experience, right?

The problem here is that it removes empathy, compassion, and humanity. Meeting new people should be comprised of mutual respect and kindness, not unrealistic expectations.

Being in a tiny meet and greet room with Steve Wozniak felt a lot like being at a zoo. And this experience is the same reason why I’m more uneasy about success than I am about failure.

Redefining Success

Before I get into my story, it’s important to define my idea of success, which has little to do with money or fame. To me, success is attempting to accomplish a goal on a grand scale, on your own terms, with morals intact. It’s the ability to endure triumphs and graceful, yet thoughtful defeats — all while living the experience fully.

Success is defined by who the person is on their journey, whether they’re climbing or falling. Are they overall a happy and kind person regardless of the business roller coaster? Have they experienced zen on both their best or worst day?

Wozniak, Pagely, and an unexpected Resemblance

It was a Thursday in Phoenix when Steve Wozniak took the stage. He was delightful and funny. His stories resonated with me, which I found odd. I’ve had previous employees tell me that Pagely needed to do things more like Apple, and I’d remind them that we’re not Apple, we’re Pagely and we do things our own way.

Yet, here I was listening to Woz telling our story. They didn’t always have the resources, but they had creativity, drive, and gumption. They had a goal: to educate the masses on the idea of personal computing. I myself understood this — I could write a book on how to get things done on a meager budget.

At Pagely, we coined the term ‘managed WordPress hosting’ and had to educate the masses on why it’s a good idea to invest in hosting. Now, managed WordPress hosting is a billion dollar market channel. Woz went on to explain how it wasn’t just him and Jobs who created Apple. It was another gentleman named Ronald Wayne, who helped in the early days. I greatly respected his need to attribute a key player.

Again, a similarity. Joshua Strebel and I founded the company, but we owe a lot of the success to Josh Eichorn. We tell this to anyone who will listen. Eichorn has been a long time friend, and when we gave him the offer to work with us, he was given nice stock options. Some of our business friends looked over his offer and thought we were being too generous. But as a company that doesn’t need a lot, why wouldn’t we share with other employees who are working just as hard?

We gave options to our employees because they are like family to us. Likewise, Steve Wozniak gave some of his stock options to the early Apple team.

Woz likes practical jokes and plans to write a book about his shenanigans. Anyone that knows me well, knows that April 1st is an interesting day for my husband. Woz may joke with the masses but my poor husband needs to watch his back all day.

The similarities continued. Pagely is not like Apple, but it is like Steve Wozniak. We are providing the best web hosting on the market for a fair price. Steve built the best product of our time for a fair price.

Meeting Steve Wozniak

During his talk, Woz mentioned that he wasn’t that wealthy because he’s given a lot of his money away. A light bulb went off: I could help this kind person, who I share a similar work ethos with, by giving him free hosting. I quickly viewed the source code from Woz.org, yet sadly, it was built on Drupal. (Perhaps in the future, he’ll make the switch to WordPress.)

Soon Woz’s talk would be over, and platinum badge holders would meet at registration where someone would walk us over to the green room. It all happened so fast. It was break time, so the foyer was packed like a summer Saturday at the San Diego Zoo. The person that led us over was walking fast. She showed us to a small room, about 100 square feet.

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About twenty of us were packed into the room facing Steve Wozniak. Someone started making small talk. I think we were all waiting for direction, but nothing was happening. We all just stood there staring at Woz. He was no longer human; he was the main attraction. Awkward. Remember my zoo analogy?

Then Woz says, “I don’t have much time and can’t talk to all of you, so do you want to take a picture?”

Personally, the picture didn’t mean as much to me as the idea of helping out a good person. I tried to hand my camera to someone, but people in the back were jumping in to get their photo.

What should have been a professional meet and greet quickly turned into a strange feeding frenzy. All manners were lost. I finally handed my camera over to a nice gentleman from the Phoenix Symphony.

I got a photo with Woz and then I said, “It looks like your site is on Drupal. If you ever move to WordPress, I’d like to offer you hosting at no cost.”

He said that he doesn’t handle his sites, but “so and so” does. Then the next person jumped in, and my moment with Wozniak was over.

That’s why success scares me, and why I won’t go to another meet and greet. Meeting people in their natural habitat seems more authentic — and more enjoyable.

– Sally Strebel, Co-Founder/COO Pagely

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