By now, we all know that one of the greatest geniuses of our time has left us. I’m still shocked by it myself, even though, all too familiar with the devastating effects of cancer (I lost a close family member almost two years ago to the big C), I knew the day was coming, and soon. Seeing his physical body deteriorate, and learning of his resignation as CEO of Apple, I was not hopeful. But one thing was clear: Steve Jobs’s mind was intact. The sharpness of his words and his passion for technology and for changing the world were the same. It was a joy to see him address his adored public, to talk about what made him tick. He was a star shining brightly in our midst.
I vaguely remember hearing about the now-famous “1984” commercial, and about Steve Jobs’s firing from the very company he created (I was 20 years old in January of 1984) one year later. I also remember reading about his new company, NeXT, and the computer that was considered by everyone in the know as the best one ever created. During this time, he bought Pixar and became a billionaire (Toy Story, anyone???) even before he was approached by the board of directors at Apple to buy his company and operating system for the Macintosh. The rest is history. He just kept getting better and better, showing everybody why he was the man who could and would rescue Apple from near-death.
I have always been inspired by Steve. His verve and passion and charisma were infectious. His keynotes were mesmerizing. His life was inspiring. Here is this man who dropped out of college after just one semester (and it wasn’t even Harvard!) yet he was rich beyond belief, and still remained a grounded human being, aware of what he went through and possible thinking it could always happen again. This is life – uncertain, unstable, unknowable. Passion is what moves us, what sustains us, what propels us toward a better life, one with meaning and purpose. We should never lose that child-like wonder, that hunger for more.
Steve gave an amazing commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, and ended it by quoting a phrase he saw in the final edition of the Whole Earth Catalog: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. He made that phrase his own, and applied it to his life. He never lost that passion for life, for excellence, for genius. He remained foolishly optimistic, ignoring what the naysayers said, and laughing at the status quo. Had he not, he never would’ve accomplished all that he did, and he wouldn’t have changed technology for the better, forever. I’m also inspired by Apple’s iconic “Here’s to the crazy ones” commercial, celebrating those who were called “crazy” by society. People who dared to buck convention and who wouldn’t take no for an answer. People who went out there and did their thing, thus changing the world, and making it better. Were it not for those misfits, those rebels, our lives would be forever poorer and darker.
Two days ago when I received that phone call I’ll never forget, I had what I call my John Lennon moment. Every generation loses at least one person who was so out of the ordinary that he or she changed the world as they knew it. I have seen many such people leave, but I could not relate to the extent that I can with Steve Jobs. He was only a few years older than me, and he rose from tough early childhood circumstances to become a man of great prowess and vision. John Lennon was a genius, and also died way too young, but when he died, I was very young, and I could not relate to his death. This is different. I’m older and wiser and, maybe more than anything, I’m acutely aware that I too will be gone one day, and what will my legacy be? Will I have made the world a better place? Perhaps it sounds a little corny, but we really should strive to leave the world in better shape than when we came here. John Lennon definitely did that, and so did Steve Jobs.
I still believe in Steve Jobs, in what he stood for, and in his quest for excellence in his daily life. He was truly an insanely great man, one with many defects and who made many mistakes, but also one who rose above it all and lived a life of true genius and passion. May we do the same. May we always stay hungry, and may we always stay foolish.
Rest In Peace, Steve. Thank you for everything you did. We will never forget you and we will keep your spirit alive.