From a Distance

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is dead. Apparently he passed away sometime this morning, and it seems obvious that his death is a result of his recent and prolonged battle against pancreatic cancer.

I first learned of his passing on my iPhone, and confirmed that the report was more than rumor on my iMac. I suppose this is as fitting a legacy as any for the man who changed the modern world. If I say that my life has been irrevocably changed because of Steve Jobs, I am not exaggerating or being sensationalist. The first computer I ever bought was an iBook (the laptop) back when I was 16. The first digital media player I ever bought was an iPod, classic Jobsian hardware. My first purchased desktop was an iMac, the great grand computer of Jobs’ Apple Computer saving computer. The first, and only, cell phone I have ever owned was an iPhone. I watch TV via my TV.

All my life I have been immersed in new technology, hardly surprising for a kid who grew up in the 90s. Most of my life has been shaped directly by Apple products. It should come as no surprise, then, that Steve Jobs’ death is hitting me harder than even I realized that it would.

I have been sitting here tonight, reading tributes to Steve on Twitter and FaceBook, and trying to figure out why I am on the verge of tears. Steve Jobs was a business man. He made products and sold them and made billions of dollars doing it. If the founder of Nike or McDonalds died tomorrow, I doubt I would give it much thought. It would be a footnote to my day. So why is Jobs’ death affecting me so much? Probably because Jobs did so much more than just make and sell a product. He has changed life itself.

I watched the keynote address from yesterday’s iPhone 4S product launch, and something Phil Schiller said is replaying itself in my brain: “we created the iPod because we love music”. Steve Jobs helped to create the digital music player because he liked music. Sure, the money he could make selling it must have been in the mix somewhere, but I really don’t have a problem believing that Steve’s primary motivation wasn’t the money, but the music. In all the keynotes I have ever heard Jobs give, one thing always seemed to be at the forefront of his presentation: enjoying life. Sure, he talked about how Apple was doing, and how many products they had sold, but always the emphasis seemed to be on the lives of the people using the products, and not on Apple’s bottom line. Jobs’ eyes sparkled when he talked about living at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. He got choked up after demonstrating how his innovative FaceTime allowed people to talk face to face. He was like a giddy kid when he announced that he had brought the entire Beetles catalogue to iTunes, and not from the greed of pennies filling his bank account, but from finally being able to bring some of his favorite music to millions of people in a format that would allow some of the most popular music of all time to be preserved for hundreds of years to come.

I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that Jobs’ annual salary from Apple is only $1. Not that he didn’t benefit from his company’s success, he surely did, but what was important to him was designing the world of tomorrow, and in creating new ways to enjoy the things that make life worth living: family, creation, and innovation.

I think because I was 16, in the prime of designing my life, when I first started to adopt Apple products, that I also started to design my life around Apple’s, and Jobs’, philosophy: think different. Create. Stand out from the crowd. Live life. My life has become a life in which I immerse myself in my creative endeavors because I find them stimulating. I think that is all Steve Jobs ever really did.

This man I never knew changed the world I live in. Steve Jobs changed my life.

I will miss him.

Twitter has been full of some awesome quotes from Steve Jobs. These resonate most with me:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.”

“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.”