October 5, 2011. It’s a day that will likely be forgotten by many, yet remembered by most for years to come. It’s a day that no matter how much we were not thinking about it, we all anticipated. Steven Paul Jobs passed away. We all knew, when he resigned in August 2011 as CEO of the company he co-founded and loved, the end was near. While many are likely burnt out of the 24/7 coverage of one man’s life and his contributions to the way we think, live, and communicate, I’ve been reflecting on what his man has meant to us who knowingly, or unknowingly, use his and his company’s inventions every day. I think beyond Steve and Apple’s core innovate soul and spirit, is a man who can clearly see very clearly, the difference between what is good and what is insanely great. He is a man who knows no fences and walls in creating something truly beautiful and yet truly functional. While many ride down the river of complacency for the sake of increasing shareholder value [RIM, I’m talking to you specifically], Steve was known publicly as a person who regularly browbeats his team for what everyone else would say is impossible. And yet, through no love for him, I’m sure, his team always delivered, even if the public didn’t always embrace their products completely [insert Apple III, Lisa, the Newton, Cube, Apple printers to just list a few]. But even with these failures, there was never any submission to mediocrity.
With remarks like “You’ve baked a really lovely cake, but then you’ve used dog shit for frosting” [His comment to a NeXT programmer], it’s clear that Steve isn’t the most nurturing individual in the office. He’s never going to win “best caring manager” in the world. But it’s this constant knowledge that it can be better. It has to be better. That’s the drive that only he knows and can live by. Many, I am sure, will say that 80% is good enough. The other 20% is not worth the time and money to reach there. But Steve was after the insanely great. It was clear, that he was the crazy one of the bunch when Silicon Valley wasn’t even known as Silicon Valley. Maybe at one point, he wanted to win the PC war. But even he admitted, Microsoft won: “The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago.”
You know, when you’re young, being foolish isn’t so foolish. We never understood how our parents’ generation can work at the same company for 40 years only to get a gold watch at the end of the rainbow. Steve made this comment when he was 29: “We’re gambling on our vision, and we would rather do that than make “me too” products. Let some other companies do that. For us, it’s always the next dream.” That dream didn’t end when he turned 30. Or 40. Or 50. While many of us are happy to just have a job in 2011 [as we should], Steve was and had been dreaming of products that can be both beautiful and technological. Of course, Steve had more money than he knew what to do with and one can argue that it’s easy to dream when you’re a billionaire. And while that’s true, we shouldn’t compare our dreams to his. In his famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, he never said that the graduates should be like him. He never said that they ought to try and be the richest man/woman in America. He just wanted them to dream. To live the life they were meant to live, rather than listen to the “noise” of what society tells them they ought to do. And that’s what made Steve so crazy. In a time when CEO’s ought to increase shareholder value, he sunk his time and money into the Macintosh rather than milk the Apple II for as long as he could. Instead of consolidating the core Macintosh products when he returned in the 1990s, he scrapped it all and gave us the colorful iMacs. And instead of giving us a phone with more buttons and functions than we know what to do with it, he gave us a beautiful device with one button and an intuitive way of using our finger as the stylus.
Here’s to the crazy ones. In this case, the crazy one. I don’t think we should be like Steve in all the things he represented, but we can follow his lead on dreaming big for our lives. Whatever that is. And we ought to live our lives and not someone else’s. While that may not be as simple as 1-2-3, it all starts with a step. And lastly, in the words of Steve: “I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”