My brother called me up with the sad news. Steve Jobs was dead. He called me because I was one of the few people he knew who could understand the depth of the loss he felt. And I could. And I will, for some time.
Many of us will mourn him for his talent and for creating a new way of life. And with the iPhone, iPad and iPod revolutions he was, truly, “insanely great.” But to me what made Steve stand out among the rest was his attitude and the way he was true to himself. People could define him but he defined himself the best. To him life and work were a journey. He may have lost the immediate race for the “desktop computer” to the PC world, but in the long run Apple was the clear winner.
He skipped a whole generation of naysaying business users and made sure his laptops became the standard of their children, of schools and universities today. Macs, once the laughing stock of “serious people,” can be seen on the laptops
of countless students and young adults.
He preached listening to your own heart and following your dreams, and showed us how to do it. He knew that people – your boss, your spouse, your partner, your friends – will try to change you to fit their molds but he told us to remain true to our own visions. Large companies loath innovation. They shun new ideas. Steve was able to take this short sightedness and turn it to his own advantage.
Above all Steve raged against ideas and products that were just “ok.” He knew that good is the enemy of great and insisted, with his hands-on approach, that the devices and the software that left his company would conform to the highest standards or there would be hell to pay.
Lots of words and eulogies will describe Steve Jobs. But the best two are the motto of his own company: Think Different. In a world trying to find solutions to poverty, health care, unemployment and global warming, one could only wonder what would have happened if Steve’s turned his unique insight into creating an iCar or iPowerplant.
I’ve often wondered what life was like during the eras of Edison or Einstein, where genius and creativity were worshipped, and new discoveries, inventions and ideas were the talk of everyday life. Steve gave us a taste of those days, whether it was a new iPhone from his labs in Cupertino or a marvel of an animated movie from Pixar.
As the sadness of the week sinks in, many will say “what if.” Steve would not have liked that. He knew that the baton is surely passed from generation to generation. Maybe his passing will inspire us in ways his now stilled voice cannot.