Steve Jobs – a Touch of Magic

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

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.

From Steve Jobs to Tim Cook

News of Steve Jobs’s resignation as CEO from Apple began trickling down Twitter, then the regular news outlets yesterday evening. You know you’re an integral part of ongoing history when the major newspapers can’t decide whether to lead with “4.5 Aftershock in Virginia” or “Steve Jobs resigns as CEO from Apple”. That’s how much of an impact Steve Jobs has made not only on the IT industry, but on society as a whole. I’m not exaggerating: the man has become an icon, Apple products have become the machines to have if you’re serious about your tech (and if you’d like your equipment to make your life easier rather than harder, and your IT-experience more smooth and enjoyable).

The man is a visionary, and has been a CEO that has demonstrated remarkable insight into not only product development, but also into marketing. Of course, the products that come from Apple work, and they work well; they’re innovative; they’re beautiful. But while much has been made of Jobs’s “reality distortion field” when he is up on stage launching new products or a new line of an existing product, what the RDF really is is a man who is genuinely and unabashedly excited about the product he is selling. He doesn’t hide his enthusiasm, he radiates it and transfers it to his audience. Of course, credit where credit is due, few people have the charisma to do this as effectively as Steve Jobs has done. That’s half of what makes people go out and buy every single new Apple gadget and computer that is released. The other half, the half that ultimately matters, is quality.

And that is why it is important to remember that while Apple in its current configuration is Steve Jobs’s baby, in addition to having been its CEO, he has also been a figurehead. The essence of Apple’s performance has been in the hands of a team and Tim Cook has been an integral part of that team since 1998. He has stepped up as acting CEO three times before, while Steve Jobs was on sick leave. The company didn’t suffer at all during those periods, and it wasn’t because Steve Jobs was secretly still running the whole show after all – he couldn’t; the man was seriously ill. The fact is that Tim Cook is more than capable of running Apple successfully. One of the qualities most associated with the now former CEO of Apple is his tendency to personally control every aspect of his company: Jobs is viewed as a perfectionist and a control freak. It’s what makes Apple’s products so successful. People in general, and the market specifically, would do well to remember that fact, since it is extremely unlikely that detail-driven Jobs would have been negligent in paying attention to the massively important detail of transferring leadership of Apple when the time came.

The time has come, and Tim Cook is ready; Apple will maintain its quality standards; Steve Jobs’s vision will be continued. I have no doubts about that.

Apple is entering a new phase, and in my mind I can almost hear Steve Jobs saying it: “We’re really excited about this!”*

*Just to be clear, this is my opinion of these developments and not actually Steve Jobs’s statement upon transferring leadership to Tim Cook.