The Connection Steve Jobs Made With Me

We’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, to be able to get the best of both, to make extremely advanced products from a technology point of view, but also have them be intuitive, easy to use, fun to use, so that they really fit the users — the users don’t have to come to them, they come to the user.
— Steve Jobs

Above: Steve Jobs narrating “The Crazy Ones” commercial

Ever since Steve Jobs passed away I’ve wanted to say something, though I haven’t known what. So much has already been written and perhaps little more needs to be said. Still I wanted to say something.

As much as I might like otherwise, I don’t have any personal stories of Steve Jobs to share and I don’t have any new insights into how he did what he did. Those things are for others to share.

I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me and yet a connection was still formed between us.

My mom and I were talking the day after he died and we both commented how we felt as sad as we ever had at the loss of someone we never knew and we both wondered why.

It reminded me of another time when I also felt very sad at the loss of someone I never knew.

On December 8th, 1980 I was watching the Miami Dolphins play the New England Patriots on Monday night football. I was enjoying a close game when at the end of the 4th quarter Howard Cosell announced that John Lennon had been shot and killed.

Above: Howard Cosell tells the world John Lennon was shot and killed — 12/08/1980.

I’ve been coming back to that night a lot the last couple of weeks.

Two people I never knew except through their work. Two people taken too young. Two people who greatly influenced me. Two people who’s death filled me with a greater sadness than most.

Lennon was and still remains a hero to me. His words and music helped shape my thoughts and worldview. I am who I am in part because of who John Lennon was.

I wouldn’t describe Steve Jobs as a hero, though he too has certainly shaped my thoughts and worldview. His influence came later in my life at a time when hero worship was long in the past.

I woke up this morning when the alarm on my iPhone went off and moments later flipped up the lid of the Macbook Air I’m now typing on. At some point in the day my iPad will be in use and I may end the night with a movie watched via my Apple TV.

It’s impossible to make it through a day without encountering something of Steve’s that influences my life.

Above: Steve Jobs introducing the original iPhone

I listed to John’s music from the crib. My mom was a big fan. The first movie I ever saw was The Yellow Submarine. I’m told I had memorized the book of the same name (more likely some passages) before learning to read. I knew the lyrics to most of John’s songs by the time I was five.

His death came as a shock and like many I was profoundly sad.

Steve Jobs was always there too. Though I was a bit older when Apple started, I was still pretty young. From the first time I heard the word computer he was there.

The very first computer I touched was an Apple II. Unless you count playing pong on an Atari, though I guess Steve Jobs has influence there as well. The first computer I owned was one of the first Macs off the assembly line. Drexel University, which I was attending at the time, required students to get a Mac.

It was in my dorm room within a few weeks of the famous 1984 commercial.

About a week after John died my father, my brother, and myself were returning from a late brunch. Radio stations in New York were going silent for a few minutes in honor of John and I wanted to honor him too. I made my dad pull into the parking lot of our temple as we were passing by and the 3 of us sat silently in the car.

A very light snow fell. Light enough to not affect traffic, but enough to cover the ground with a thin blanket of white. It looked beautiful and many suggested it was a thank you from John for all the kind thoughts.

When I heard the news of Steve Jobs passing away it shouldn’t have been shocking or surprising, but it was. Steve had brought Apple back from certain death and in doing so had created a mythical aura around himself.

Many thought he could bring himself back from the brink the same way he brought Apple back.

In 1980 I broke out my Beatles albums and played them often. In 2011 I’ve been watching old keynotes and interviews with Steve Jobs.

Above: Steve Jobs Q&A Keynote from Apple’s 1997 Worldwide Developer Conference

I knew John through his songs and I knew Steve through his presentations. In many ways my relationship with both of them hasn’t changed at all.

I wanted to find a way to honor Steve Jobs. much like my father, brother, and I honored John almost 31 years ago. I suppose this post could count, but from what I’ve read about Steve he probably wouldn’t have cared much for all these tributes.

The day before his passing saw the release of the latest iPhone. I had been planning an upgrade and pre-ordered one shortly after they became available. Thinking about John’s snow I ordered the white one.

Normally I’d think honoring someone by buying a product doesn’t feel right, but maybe in this case it makes sense.Perhaps Steve Jobs would consider my using and enjoying one of his products the best thank you of all. It seems strange and yet it also feels right on some level.

One of the videos many people have been watching these last couple of weeks is the commencement speech at Stanford. He urged people not to live another’s life, to live for yourself, and make every day count. Stay hungry and stay foolish.

Above: Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

I think the best way any of us can honor not only Steve Jobs, but ourselves, is to heed those words and to make the most of what we can of our lives. No matter what “most” is or what part of your life you apply it to.

Find your passion. Find what you love and put everything you have into it. For Steve Jobs it was family and Apple and the technology he helped bring to the world.

For you and me it’s…

Like John Lennon, Steve Jobs left this world too soon. It’s hard to shake the feeling that neither of them was quite done. Both had more to contribute and the world is poorer because they weren’t allowed to continue.

At the same time you’d be hard pressed to find people who contributed more to their industries even if their time was cut short.

Death happens. It’s inevitable. Our time in this world is finite and our legacy is what we make of that time. Regardless of what you think of Steve Jobs and Apple the best way to honor the man and yourself is to make the most of that precious resource, time. Find your passion and give your all to it.

I think the answer to the question my mom and I wondered about is that the reason we miss Steve Jobs is because he made a connection with us. We might not have known him personally, but he still made the connection.

As a public figure we heard him speak and saw him present. His words, his thoughts reached us. So did the products he helped create — products we didn’t have to come to — products that came to us — products that bridged a connection between Steve Jobs and ourselves.

Most of us mourning the loss of Steve Jobs never met him or knew him personally and yet we all knew him through that bridge. He found a way to connect with us and impact our lives. He put a ding in our universe.

Thank you Steve Jobs. You will be missed.

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    • They are, aren’t they? I’ve been watching many since he announced his resignation as CEO a couple months ago. If you watch the WWDC 1997 Q&A it sets out Apple’s strategy for the last 14 years.

      Search YouTube for Steve Jobs. There are so many more videos with great advice.

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