What does “doing what’s right” mean to Apple’s Tim Cook?

A world-changing appeal from one Auburn industrial engineer to another

Tim Cook NYT 2014Tim Cook and I both graduated from Auburn University as industrial engineers—I in 1968 and he fourteen years later. We both earned MBAs and we both went on to careers in the world of business. That’s about where the similarity ends.

Tim is now at the top of the mountain in business—as the CEO of the world’s most valuable and one of the most admired corporations. But no matter what he does, he will always be compared to Steve Jobs, who was known by everyone as the “heart and soul” of Apple. And even though Tim always tries to focus on doing what’s right, he will be forever criticized for not focusing ALL of his attention on making money. From a 6-15-14 New York Times article (link below), he is quoted at a February shareholders meeting on the Apple Campus:

“We do things because they’re just and right,” he said. He has a slight Alabama drawl and a cool delivery, but there was underlying pique in his voice when he rejected the idea that everything must be measured by return on investment. He concluded by telling shareholders, “If you want me to make decisions that have a clear R.O.I., then you should get out of the stock, just to be plain and simple.”

Al Gore, Nobel Prize Winner

Al Gore, Apple board member

Although he received a rousing applause from the Apple faithful (including board member  Al Gore), many weren’t pleased.

Kellie McElhaney, a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, said she “gets nervous” when C.E.O.s talk about doing what is “right” without making a business case. “Right to whom?” she asked.

Others shared her views. “Justin Danhof, mourned that “I’ve never had a C.E.O. react that way.” In the following days, some stock analysts echoed the dismay, with one columnist, Robert Weinstein of The Street, wondering whether Mr. Cook “is shifting Apple’s focus from an aggressive luxury tech innovator into more of an increasingly philanthropic-focused company.”

The Bottom Line—Life at Apple will always be frustrating for Tim Cook. So, Tim are you ready to have some fun and feel overwhelming satisfaction beyond your wildest dreams?

My thoughts on doing “what’s right.” — in a letter to Mr. Cook

  • To: Mr. Tim Cook, CEO, Apple, Auburn IE, 1982
  • From: J. Morris (Jim) Hicks, writer. speaker. activist. Auburn IE, 1968

Dear Tim (if I may),

Like you, I grew up in the semi-rural South, in the neighboring state of Mississippi. And like you, I still have vivid memories of racism embedded in my mind. 

Bus-Raymond Leowy-1940One, when I was about 10 years old (around 1955) while riding a Greyhound bus by myself to visit family in Tennessee.

In a practically empty bus, the driver pulled to the side of the road and shouted to a single black woman who had dared to sit too close to the front. After he threatened to call the police, she reluctantly moved to the rear.

Like your Klan memory, I also knew I had witnessed something that was just wrong—and maybe that incident helped instill in me an enduring desire to always try to do the right things, which is much more important than doing things right

Industrial Engineering, always looking for "the biggest bang for the buck."

Industrial Engineering, always looking for “the biggest bang for the buck.”

As industrial engineering students, we both learned about the importance of always considering the “big picture” AND that any process can be improved. We also learned that we should always strive to select the process improvement “opportunities” that deliver the biggest bang for the buck—within that “big picture.”

I did that throughout my 30-year business career—to maximize profits for my employers. But I have now expanded my horizons—and, as such, have discovered the most powerful process improvement opportunity in the history of humankind—a process that, left unchecked, will lead to the almost certain collapse of our civilization long before 2100.

Last year, Microsoft’s Dr. Stephen Emmott explained a terrifying dilemma in his September 2013 book, TEN BILLION. In it, he described a system of “maximum consumption in a finite world” that has put us on a track to disaster—the end of our civilization as we know it well before the end of this century.

Dr. Stephen Emmott

Dr. Stephen Emmott

After digesting his book, I made a list of four looming issues that we MUST eventually address: overpopulation, over-consumption, use of fossil fuels and changing what we eat. 

The first three will take decades if not centuries to address; but fortunately, the last on can be addressed relatively quickly. Changing what we eat is crucially important because our food choices determine how most of the land on this planet is used. And by addressing the global feeding model first, maybe we can buy enough time to address the other three.

Unfortunately, no government, country or institution can get that done, but one powerful leader, working with a group of caring billionaires, can—simply by taking the message of truth directly to the consumer. You, Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett can make this happen. I explain it in more detail in this letter. My 3-21-14 letter to Bill and Melinda Gates.

Our own "Easter Island" with the deadly combination of overpopulation, over-consumption and finite resources.

Our own “Easter Island” with the deadly combination of overpopulation, over-consumption and finite resources.

Tim, although I am 15 years older than you, we’ll both be in our graves within fifty years. And for what things would we like to be remembered?

As a man of great interest in doing what’s right, I know that you will want to be remembered for something far more important than producing insanely great gadgets that make boatloads of money for the shareholders of Apple—just before the collapse of our civilization.

I recommend that you read TEN BIlLION today (it’s a one hour read) and then let’s talk. I met with Stephen Emmott in London last October and he agreed with my premise about the ecosystem-saving value of simply changing what we eat. But he had not yet considered how it would be conceivably possible to make that happen. Well, I have conceived it, and believe that we can achieve it—with the right combination of leadership and resources. 

Feelin' fine at 69

Jim Hicks sailing off the coast of CT

One catch. If you “catch the vision” and decide to provide the primary leadership for this effort, you will need to resign from Apple.

So what? You’re reportedly worth close to a billion dollars and obviously have no need for any more money. But you do have a need for doing what’s right-–and, once you learn enough about the big picture dilemma in which we find ourselves, you will know the right thing to do. 

War Eagle!, J. Morris (Jim) Hicks — jmorrishicks@me.com

The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.

Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth

  1. Healthy Eating, Healthy WorldThe “big picture” about food (our book)
  2. A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD 
  3. An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
  4. What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
  5. A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
  6. Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unawareby Richard Oppenlander.

Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes 2 or 3 minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to jmorrishicks@me.com

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, visit our 4Leaf page and also enjoy some great recipes from Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member since 2012; click banner for more info:

Nutrition Certificate

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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5 Responses to What does “doing what’s right” mean to Apple’s Tim Cook?

  1. Mary Guay says:

    One secret to a happy life is making decisions and taking actions that we feel good about two weeks later. Every day I am grateful to eat a plant-based diet. I know many reasons to live this way and not one valid reason to indulge in meat, dairy, eggs, fish, over-packaged food facsimiles, and nutrient stripped products. Eating a plant-based diet is “THE RIGHT THING TO DO.” I hope millions more discover this truth—SOON!

  2. Joanne Irwin says:

    Jim have you sent a letter to Al Gore? Might be time!

  3. Sal Liggieri says:


    You are the lone voice pleading with the world to listen. I get no such message from the other preachers of the “message.” I’m especially disappointed with Dr John McDougall, the saint of Santa Rosa for not being more in line with your stance.

    We live in a tragic world that unfortunately is headed to extinction and wouldn’t all God’s creatures rejoice if man did become extinct, so that they can then live in harmony with nature.

    Sal Liggieri

    P.S. Jim, will there be a breakthrough in your lifetime, certainly not in mine?

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Hi Sal, Always good to hear from you. As for John McDougall and other “preachers” of the message, I find that everyone tends to find their own voice. John McDougall is a physician first, where I was first an engineer and a business executive. I know that he is in synch with my message and I also know that I owe a great deal of my “big picture” knowledge on this subject to people like McDougall, Furhman, Robbins and many others.

      Will there a be a breakthrough in my lifetime? I certainly hope so. It’s certainly possible, which is why I do what I do. Will it happen? The odds are against it.

      Best, Jim

  4. dgreet says:

    Bravo once again! You inspire and challenge, keeping us all on track to do “the right thing”.

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