October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

One would think this was a post I might have written in advance. When Steve Jobs stepped down at Apple, to me it seemed like there was only one reason that he would- and that was that he was dying. But no.

I’ve been pretty open about not understanding the hype behind Apple products. At the end of the day, they’re just computers and just phones. I myself have a MacBook, and it’s not a magic machine of productivity. I looked at iPhones when buying my own smartphone- and at this point, it isn’t ahead of the game.

But the reason that Apple is so lauded as being innovative is because Jobs cultivated that brand. He was one of those rare individuals who could combine dreaming and execution- the last person I can think of at this level of game changer was Walt Disney (who didn’t just make movies and theme parks- he pushed innovation, between his multi-plane camera for animation to the animatronics that were developed because he had a need for them).

Jobs was smart. He took the MP3 player, something that had sort of started to appear on the market, but with a lot of buttons and weight and produced something that was streamlined and intuitive to use. It was his focus on intuitive use that is what set Apple apart.

He made the iPod ubiquitous. He introduced the online music store and made it seem normal to buy your music online instead of in a store. And he turned a product announcement into a three ring circus, turning their new products into something you had to have.

Then he turned his attention to the smartphone, which had existed prior to the iPhone. But there was a level of style and yes, intuitive feel to it that changed things. Ditto for the iPad- tablets were on the horizon, but he adapted it into something a bit more special.

Sometimes it seems as though the biggest dreamers wind up burning through their life energy just a little faster than others- but Jobs even found a greater drive when he learned he had cancer.

While I didn’t always agree with the hype, I am saddened by the loss of a man who saw the world as what it could possibly be and tried to create the technology to get us there. It’s easy to shrug and say that he was a stranger and therefore his death shouldn’t impact us. But he was a man who stood for what a lot of us wished to be- he was a man who didn’t let being forced out of Apple in the early days stop him. He gave Pixar the push they needed to become a major player, and came back to Apple to guide it into the empire it is now. He didn’t let the past stop him- he let it drive him forward.

As a creator, it’s this quote that summarizes why he touched my life:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Speech at Stanford.

Do what makes you happy. Follow your gut, and don’t let someone tell you you can’t.

We won’t all be Steve Jobs. But who cares, if you’re doing what you love?

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