“Look in the mirror everyday and ask, ‘if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am doing today?’ If the answer is no for many days in a row, you need to change something.” – Steve Jobs
About the last thing the world will need at this moment is another essay on why Steve Jobs Mattered (note the capital “M”), but I think the Tower of Technobabble needs to step up and note the occasion, because I feel pretty safe in saying that, without the man, there would BE no Tower of Technobabble — or many, many other things that have happened in the past decade that are just part of our social fabric.
It was one of those situations that it was surprising, but not a shock, to hear about Jobs’ passing. Yes, he looked progressively thinner with each public appearance, but the true tip-off that the clock had almost counted down was when he stepped down from the thing he loved, while he still loved it.
Jobs spearheaded four separate information and cultural revolutions in the space of about 30 years. The Macintosh, developed in 1984, was the first home computer to feature the user-friendly GUI that allowed pretty much anyone to use it without getting their hands dirty with code. The iPod, released in 2001, while certainly not the first mp3 player, was the first one to really change the playing field of how we bought music. (The iTunes music store, some would argue, saved the recording industry from itself by dragging it kicking and screaming into the present and allowing people to legitimately buy music digitally and download it instead of, y’know, NOT buying music when they downloaded it). The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, but it was arguably the first smartphone that worked correctly (I still remember a time when I tried to coax a movie showtime out of my pre-iPhone “smartphone” for 10 minutes.) And the iPad isn’t the first computer tablet ever produced, but it’s the first one that both your 3-year-old and your mother can use. Four revolutions, plus several significant contributions (Pixar, anyone?) ain’t bad.
I’ve been accused of being an Apple fanboy before, and have even described myself as that from time to time, but that’s not the whole truth. The fact is, I want something that works. When I sit down to do a job, I don’t want to have to futz with the tools. I want the tools to work to make the job easier. And 9 times out of 10, in my lines of work and recreation, that tool has had the Apple logo on it. It’s been consistent enough that the company became my go-to when I looked for the right tool for the job. Show me another tool that works better, and I’ll gladly use it. I enjoy reading books on my Kindle more than my iPad. Still love my iPad for 99 other reasons, though.
And that was the thing about Jobs’ influence on the Apple line. It was never about the products. It was about letting the consumer DO something with the products. They were a means to an end. It was about getting the technology out of the way and letting the real work begin.
So, what’ll happen to Apple now that Steve has officially left the building for good? He liked to say that innovation is baked into Apple’s DNA, and I hope that’s true. I think they’ll be fine. As I understand it, Steve Jobs wasn’t an easy man to work with – he was demanding. But he was also the kind that, if you could work with him, you had the backing to do wondrous things. I can’t believe that the people who worked with him at the end would forget those lessons.
A commenter on a blog I frequent made the statement “The best way to honor this great man and the company he founded, is to buy an Apple product in the coming weeks.” I think this person might have missed the point. The best way to honor the man is to inspire someone. Today. Create something. Put something out there in the world that didn’t exist before. A piece of art. A song. An essay on 18th British literature. A fresh way to explain to someone how compound interest works.
It doesn’t matter what it is. The world needs new ideas. Your idea might not, in itself, “put a dent in the universe,” as Jobs liked to say. It might inspire someone else, however, who does. And someone else’s inspirational work might give you the fire to make your own dent. That’s how you honor someone.
— Written on an iMac
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
— Stanford University commencement address, June 2005.
…and because I’m sure no one else will link to this today: