I never met Steve Jobs in person, but upon hearing of his passing I sensed a loss that I could not immediately explain. It took a bit of reflection to understand the feeling, and then more to put it to words.
What I will miss most is not tied to the wonderful gadgets he willed into existence, though I am grateful for every one of them. Nor is it his irreplaceable artistry, although he will no doubt be written into history with the likes of William Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Michael Jordan and the Beatles. Rather, it is his presence, both as an inspiration and a source of guidance. Steve embodied common sense in a world overrun with personal agendas and bureaucracy.
Based on the legend of Steve originating from the Valley, I crafted an image of him in my mind. I used that image for inspiration and motivation, giving me hope about the future of the world. Having since read the many recollections of personal experiences from people who knew him well, it seems that the image I created was not far from reality. The recollections also confirmed the loss I had sensed – that one of the guiding stars in my sky had been extinguished.
The Steve I imagined had a rare quality that allowed him to be honest with himself and true to his inner being. This type of honesty is the hardest to maintain – coming from a deep understanding of personal values combined with a quest for motivation and fluency with human nature. He also possessed an inner compass that indicated which decisions were correct and recognized that the road less traveled was a harder path. He answered the harder path’s challenge with courage, resolve and intellect – simply stepping past fear in the face of uncertainty and risk, thereby redefining impossible as possible. No matter how difficult it was to follow his inner compass, he always did what he thought should be done.
The Steve I imagined also viewed respect as a term encompassing pride, honor, integrity, and dignity. He took great pride in everything he touched and believed he should be credited for his accomplishments. Above all, he executed and delivered without fail, and did not rest until everything was the way he had imagined it.
He recognized immediately that a downside to achieving his personal best was to risk offending those around him who couldn’t keep up or were threatened by a change to the status quo. However, he viewed the cost of being polite as an unnecessary pacifier for a lesser world – only delaying the inevitable until someone displayed the courage to offend those who thought themselves the moderators of mankind. Thus, he surrounded himself with other ‘A-type’ personalities and held them accountable to reaching their potential. When their actions aligned with purpose, they generated passion. With passion, they developed focus, and when they were focused, they had power. Powerful action created great accomplishments and reshaped our world. Simply, people followed Steve because he was ahead of us all, not because he was in need of an entourage. He was headed someplace other people wanted to go and he seemed to know how to get there. He didn’t tell us how to live. If we liked what he did, then good for us, if we didn’t, we were all free to find our own path.
What I will miss about Steve is more than the art that only he could produce. I will miss knowing that he is out there fighting for what he thinks is right. He was very much like a parent figure to the technology industry, taking the responsibility to challenge bad governance, see past short-term thinking and “Think Different”. When so much seems to be going wrong, Steve was a beacon of rightness. I will miss the assurance in knowing he’s focused on causes that need to be championed, quietly taking on challenges without concern for personal sacrifice – all according to his personal compass. What I will miss most is the opportunity to personally tell him “Thank you for all you did.” I recognize that we had a guardian angel and that it may be needed more now than ever.
Cloud computing is a completely new direction for businesses, from both a consumer side and a supplier side, and we must “Think Different” about everything we know. In the cloud, there are bureaucracies to be circumnavigated, impossibilities to be disproved, and a lesser world to be avoided. While Steve armed us with his philosophy and opened our minds to new possibilities, the responsibility now rests on each of us to step up and reach for our potential and, in our own way, dent the universe.