I don’t know what Steve Jobs’ death means to you. I don’t know what his life meant to you either. But I know what it all means to me.
I could try to write a diatribe about Steve Jobs’ impact on our generation. I could write a dissertation about how much of a factor he’s been on American society. But it’d all be a waste.
I say this because the only thing that matters to me right this moment: celebrating what Steve Jobs meant to me, personally.
Perhaps it’s selfish. Perhaps it’s too soon. Forgive me. My girlfriend Deva and I were having sushi and had just returned home while talking about my need for white space. Something a Ph.D. just told me after I did a Myers-Briggs test, too. That’s when I found out about Steve Jobs’ death.
Writing, it turns out, is my white space. As you can see from my lack of blogs posts here these last few weeks, I haven’t had a lot of that either. But Steve Jobs’ death is my source of inspiration right this moment. It’s why I’ve created white space for myself. To celebrate his life and what he’s meant to me.
Steve Jobs wasn’t a quitter. That’s what he meant to me. Seeing him at product announcements or on TV was always a reminder of his inability to quit.
We live in a society full of big problems that continually lack leadership, life-long dedication and sustained passion of self-described “creatives” or academically smart kids.
Many of these young people, unlike Jobs, grew up with well-to-do biological parents, attained college degrees, and have plenty reason to succeed in this world from the start. Still, it’s troubling how many are quitters; how many forget the truly important and big problems their talent is intended for and choose less confrontational paths; paths with much less purpose and far too much pleasure. Not everyone can lead and invent, true. But why so few join and innovate is disheartening.
Sure, Steve Jobs obviously liked nice things and interesting people like the rest of us, otherwise he wouldn’t have been so good at forecasting our desires. However, he always seemed to see the forest through the trees. The big and upcoming problems – albeit technologically focused - through the apathy and bullshit of the small and current issues.
This thinking allowed him to help spawn innovations in entertainment (Pixar), operating software (NeXT) and the music industry (iTunes). He never quit on the philosophy of innovation that he developed as a young man and mastered throughout his life.
Steve Jobs may have dropped out of college, but he didn’t quit doing the college thing: learning. At the 2005 Stanford University commencement, he spoke of the calligraphy class that helped him learn the significance of fonts in design. The impact of that college experience was free to him, but he paid it back to society by creating a computer company that helped us see beyond floppy and onward to flat.
Steve Jobs may have lost his job at Apple, the company he started years before, but he didn’t stop innovating. He didn’t quit serving his life’s purpose. Pixar is just one of the great things that came out of his time away from Apple early on, and we can thank that studio for movies like Toy Story and Up. These aren’t just movies with animated figures to ooh and aah at. These are films with animated characters with real stories to share.
Steve Jobs may have taken a break from Apple after getting pancreatic cancer, but he didn’t take a break from living. He got back on the saddle as CEO and gave us the iPad, further exposed our need for technology products that didn’t just do inherently, but technology enablers that helped us to do more intuitively.
Steve Jobs may have died today, Wednesday, October 5, 2011, but he sure as hell didn’t quit. That means more to me than anything I can buy in the Apple store.