I’m terrified. Because, following the recent and all-too-soon death of Steve Jobs, we lost something extremely important. Not just a person, necessarily, but a state of mind. A state of mind that insists that innovation must not be undermined by fear. That in order to make breakthroughs, one must first forget about that reluctance of failure which often prevents so many brilliant ideas from coming to fruition.
And I’m not sure who, if anyone, is capable of carrying those blood and tear-soaked reins that Steve willingly carried for so long. That’s why I’m terrified.
But at the same time, we gained something else. We gained acceptance. Acceptance for who he was, and who he became and, ultimately, the characteristics which we will remember him by.
First, there’s the crazy one. The one that was ousted out of Apple in its early years. The one that sold all but one of his shares of Apple stock after leaving the company. The one that created the huge commercial failure that was the NeXT computer and computing company. The one that insisted that Apple control both software and hardware aspects of their products in order to ensure that the overall quality and experience was up to his often insane seemingly utopian expectations. The one that terrified employees into avoiding elevators in fear of their jobs. The one that called then ESPN president George Bodenheimer’s phone idea, “the dumbest ****ing thing I have ever heard.” George Bodenheimer, at the time, probably thought Steve Jobs was out of his mind. Soon after, he would find out that Steve was right.
Then, there’s the brilliant one. The Steve Jobs that obsesses over minute details, like the angles of an Apple II’s corners, or the slimness of an iPad’s back. One that, for months on end, would go into hiding, developing a mysterious, but potentially world-changing product. Who would then, after a several-month hiatus, present those products to millions of people and often blow their freaking minds. The one that guided a tech company from near failure and turned it into one of the most coveted, highest valued companies in the world.
And finally, there’s the inspirational one. The one that instructed the Stanford class of 2005 to pursue not what they were asked to do, but what they were truly motivated to do, regardless of the risks. To, in his words, “connect the dots.” The one that insisted that the best way to create a brilliant, groundbreaking product was to steal it. The one that was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004 and, with the deck stacked heavily against him, battled it for a difficult 7 years, all the while leading Apple through some of its greatest product releases. The one who went from having no place in the tech industry, to being the face of it. The one whose indelible mark on culture and the world will never be forgotten simply because it can’t. Because that glorious, often glimmering Apple logo is everywhere.
All of that, ultimately, still remains after his death. In one corner of our memories is this inexplicable fear of the man who was often like a mad scientist: Unrestrained, fearless of consequences and so sure of himself and his ideas that he could lead a revolution (which, in some ways, he already has).
In another corner remains our sheer awe at the spectacle that was his often brilliant and mesmerizing career. His rise from college-dropout to multi-multi billionaire. How he could overwhelmingly fill rooms of thousands with his own overshadowing presence, despite his soft voice. How he completely changed the design philosophy throughout the tech industry.
And then, in the last corner, remains his inspiration. His stories of how he used to sleep on his friends floors and recycle cans in order to afford basic necessities. How he would walk 7 miles a day to the local Hare Krishna temple in order to get a good meal. How he became the ultimate fulfillment of the American dream and eventually died living it.
But the most inspiring thing for me is the fact that he had become immortalized long before his death. His death simply stood as a reminder of his brilliance, of his insanity and, most importantly, of how he’s changed us and the world.
Now, I just don’t know. I don’t know who, if anyone, will be capable of carrying that torch. Who will be capable of simultaneously instilling fear and inspiration in others; and who will consistently prove why failure is almost never an option.
But the world still turns. And I can see it now, off in the distance, maybe centuries away, someone as inspirational as Steve Jobs. Maybe years away. Maybe now.
But, for now, there’s a void. And, in some ways, it’s a void that I would rather go unfulfilled. Because if and when someone finally does fill that role, it will be a strange feeling. Like returning home after a tour of duty.
And the world spins on its axis and tomorrow, and the next day, less and less people will remember. And then, eventually, *poof* they forget.
But that’s why we tell stories.
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