Last night, I had trouble getting to sleep, so I sat up drinking a glass of wine and browsing my twitter feed on my iPhone. And then, around 1:50 AM CET, I saw the tweet from @BreakingNews. It read something like this: “Apple has announced that Steve Jobs has died.” I was in shock, disbelief even at first. Hoping it was another premature announcement, I began checking out the news sites on my iPad and it wasn’t long before Steve Jobs’ death was the dominant news story on pretty much every news site, network, tech site and – well, everywhere really. And I’ll be honest with you: I cried. This is not something I usually do when a celebrity dies, no matter how famous or stellar the person might have been. But Steve Jobs is, no, was unlike anyone else.
Of course, his death wasn’t unexpected. Everyone knew Steve Jobs had survived pancreatic cancer. Everyone knew he had undergone a liver transplant only 2 years ago. A liver transplant following treatment for pancreatic cancer is usually a bad sign, so logic dictated that he was never going to live another 20 years, but the few months between his stepping down as CEO of Apple and now were far less than anyone would have expected; I think pretty much everyone was hoping for much more time than this. In fact, for a man of Steve Jobs’ talent, vision and ability to do the seemingly impossible, 56 years is entirely too short a lifespan altogether. Steve Jobs was the kind of person – a man who lived his passion, who made the biggest corporate comeback witnessed in recent history, who changed the face of home technology, of digital products, of user experience with machines that had until then been cumbersome and barely tolerable at best – we would all want to have around for at least a hundred productive years.
Now that he is gone (and I know this is going to sound dramatic), the world feels a little emptier, and somehow devoid of a touch of magic. I know for many tech users and fans he leaves a void in no small part because of what he created, and how he changed the game in business and technology development. For me personally, though, it goes further than that. Of course Steve Jobs has accomplished amazing things, not least his almost unimaginably meteoric comeback with Apple – a company he was removed from after having first founded it and which he returned to when his new company NeXT was taken over by that very same Apple in an effort to stave off Apple’s demise – whilst battling pancreatic cancer and surviving for longer than I think almost anyone ever has.
But to me he represented something more. He represented the courage that most of us lack when living our lives. He realized very early on that in order to truly live, choices need to be made and they can’t just be made for the sake of mere survival, they must be made on the basis of instinct, passion, insight and a certain faith that in the end it will all come together. He made what many consider enormous leaps of faith that way: going by feel when creating new products, never market testing but simply acting on what he felt people should and were entitled to require of devices that should make daily tasks fun and easy, and that connect us all to the rest of the world. I know the MacBook Pro made my life a lot easier and more productive, and the iPod and iPad added a healthy dose of fun and interactivity. My current MacBook has helped me finally channel my creativity in such a way that I feel I can actually accomplish something. And last but certainly not least: my current twitter presence can be attributed wholly to my iPhone, which has become what I like to call my ‘mobile communication and productivity center’.
Steve Jobs accomplished what he did, of course, because he had a passion for aesthetics and design, as well as a drive to combine them with pure and consistent functionality in Apple’s products. He made perfectionism the new standard (something I can appreciate, being slightly neurotic that way myself). But it is the fact that he lived every aspect of his life with this passion and this drive that made him nothing less than a force of nature. And to me, his life and career show that choosing to live your life that way can lead to success, accomplishment and a sense of deep satisfaction with what you’re doing. Steve Jobs was living proof of this and I felt better for having him there to remind me that we can all do great things – maybe even the supposedly impossible – while we are here. I feel an almost personal loss because he was the window through which I saw what I could be, what we all could be if we just had the courage to make the choices we typically avoid. Not another Steve Jobs – there will only ever be one – but the best, purest, most focused version of ourselves.
He was a brave man, a talent and a visionary, and his death will leave a void for years to come. I wish his family and loved ones much strength as they deal with his loss.
Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. You are missed.