On Wednesday, October 5, the entire world experienced a major loss. Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder (at age 21, I might add) of Apple, passed away at the too-early age of 56 due to pancreatic cancer. This loss isn’t a matter of fearing that the next installation of Apple products won’t measure up to those of the past (though this is one issue that many have brought up), it’s about losing an inspiration, someone who was brave and set out to accomplish something no matter what was at stake – even when it was his own reputation. As Clive Crook puts it in the Atlantic, someone with the “matchless luxury of knowing that he himself had built the company he was betting on his next idea, not once but twice.”
In the less than 24 hours since Jobs’ death was announced, the web was truly inundated with sentiments and memories of the late CEO, so it’s difficult, maybe even impossible, to say something about him that hasn’t already been said. But in the spirit of thinking different, I’ll give it my best shot. Steve would have wanted it that way. So here goes…
Let me start it with this: let’s face it – we’re all, to some extent, a bunch of misfits. We all have ideas, values, morals, likes and dislikes that don’t always fit in with the “status quo.” Still, when it comes down to it, there are two types of people in this world: the ones who alter who they are in order to be one of the majority, and the ones who remain misfits. Steve Jobs was and is and forever will be the savior of the latter population. He said:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Even if you don’t use or like Apple products, this statement must make you stop and think, and feel a little bit of a connection to the man. It’s true what Steve says: you cannot ignore him. If you told me that you could leave your home and go to a public place and not see one Apple product, I would be dumbfounded. I can’t get from point A to point B without seeing at least five iPods.
A recent iPhone/MacBook convert, I find myself feeling a strange, unspoken connection to other Apple users I encounter. This isn’t a coincidence – it’s a phenomenon stemming from Steve Jobs’ leadership, a lifestyle embraced across continents. His ability to connect a world of people through technology is unmatched. And it’s his craziness, and genius and prescient knowledge that moved (and will continue to move) us all and truly has pushed the human race forward for the past 40 years or so.
Working for Touch Ahead Software has given me another perspective on how Steve Jobs pioneered the industry itself. Every day I come in and am surrounded by developers and programmers pounding away at their keyboards, discovering and delivering new technology that is used to make a difference in the lives and businesses of our clients.
Our CEO Nancy Keddy has built a team of people from wildly different backgrounds with different interests and hobbies, who share (at least) one thing in common: their ability to create technology. It’s like she took a page straight out of Jobs’ book: “I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world” (“Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires,” 1996).
Bringing together a team of people, who might, at first glance, seem like a misfit for one another, was exactly what Jobs did that made him different, not only as a creator of technology but as a leader. The most we can do at this point is look back at his success and try to replicate and build upon it, try to reinvent it, and hope that maybe one day, someone might almost measure up. And we must always remember this:
“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.”