The news of Steve Jobs’ passing hit me in much the way John Lennon’s death did in 1980 — I mean it blindsided me and my whole circle of friends with a surprisingly personal sense of loss although we’d never met him.
And not just because we heard the news — and shared it with our friends — on the iPhones and MacBooks that our fingers touch, on a daily basis, more than practically anything else.
Apple’s products have changed the course of my life, as I’ve previously written. But I admire Jobs most of all for three reasons that have little or nothing to do with the MacBook I’m typing this on:
- He got fired from Apple. Kicked out of the organization he’d devoted his life to building. I can only imagine how that must have felt. Yet he came back from it in a way that said: “That wasn’t my life’s work, it was just the overture.”
- He bought Pixar from George Lucas when they were down and out. He put his own money on the line, then doubled down, buying into the dream of computer-animated features at a time when nobody else would.
- He gave one of the best commencement speeches ever, one I’ve often returned to when I’ve felt the need to adjust my frame of mind. He said things like 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.”
Jobs was no plaster saint. He shares many traits with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney, and will take his place in history books (or history ebooks) alongside them. Like the co-founder of that other Apple, John Lennon, he was, is, and always will be an inspiration.