I cannot say anything that hasn’t already been said. I’m not going to quote the quotables everyone has already read. Frankly, I’m pretty sure this post doesn’t even need to be written. But I feel, in part, like I need to write this for myself. Not as a eulogy, but to organize my own thoughts.
I am not an emotional man. Death is an event that I lack a certain understanding and empathy for. However, the loss of Steve Jobs is an event that, while not entirely unexpected, has left a mark with me. Moreso than I would have expected. I am not an Apple fanatic. I do not own a Mac. I am a PC man. I own an Android tablet. I do, however, have an iPhone, and my wife has an iPod Touch. There are few people in this world that can produce items that penetrate people’s lives the way Apple and Jobs did – that is worth stopping, if only for a moment, and taking note.
My respect for Jobs runs deep. He reminds me very much of the automotive designers of the 1950s – people like Harley Earl or Virgil Exner – that understood emotional design is about more than function. He fought for the idea that function needs to be simple, and that simplicity is infinitely harder to pioneer than the complex – but that it’s worth every bit of the work. This isn’t a skill to be taken lightly. Steve Jobs is the litmus test which others will be measured against in this area. At the crossroads of emotion and technology lies revolution. Jobs did not invent the PC, but he did give it a name. He didn’t create the cell phone, but he made it smart. He didn’t pioneer mobile computing, but he refined it.
So much of the technology we have and use today exists because of the inspiration derived from the products Apple was willing to take a chance on. What do you think Android would be without iOS before it? If he hadn’t walked through Xerox’s doors, what would Windows be? There are those that have already started pointing out that Jobs would be nothing without the developers and engineers that he worked to the bone. But great generals need armies, and in our culture, those generals are the ones we celebrate, because it is their vision and leadership that creates results. But the view of him as simply the driven leader of a company falls so short of who he truly was. Underneath all that was an incredible mind. One that saw user experience like no one else. There are quotes from himself, and others, that can go on for days that highlight just how passionate he was about doing things right for the users. When he fought to have things done his way, he didn’t do that for himself, he was doing that for us.
To this day, the beginning of the Think Different campaign is a defining moment for me in marketing. It’s a lesson I turn to, and one that I say “If I can be even a tenth as intelligent as this, I’ll do fine in life.” That’s how I knew just how important this man was to me. There was a quote going around on Twitter last night. I don’t know it’s origin. “I didn’t know Steve Jobs, but I wouldn’t know a lot of you without him.” He was successful not because he knew how to create and sell products, but because he created a lifestyle. He changed culture. Culture, by its very definition, is such because it is hard to change. When you move things like that, it matters. Striving to do that, in a way, is like reaching for the stars – but strive I will. And if I don’t make it, that’s okay, because it’s alright to fail once in a while. What would the iPad have been if not for the lessons learned in the failure of the Newton?
Take risks. Fail once in a while. Evolve.
It hurts that we lost him. In good health, we could have possibly gotten nearly two more decades of his vision. It wouldn’t matter if you bought their products or not. What made Apple truly special, was Steve Jobs. Apple survived the past decade because of the path he trailblazed, and I wonder… without Jobs’ influence, can Apple survive? This is a question many have asked. In creating emotional products, Apple was able, if temporarily, to transcend the notion that their products were created in order to make money. Selling that image requires leadership like Jobs so that people believe it. Otherwise, you’re just another company. Tim Cook will be a great CEO, I’m sure. But selling a lifestyle requires so much more than a C-level title. It needs a heartbeat.
There are so few people in the world that can have that sort of reach, that influence. Whenever one is lost, it is a loss for us all. Because in a way, that little bit of influence falls out of our life. You may not miss it. You might not even know it’s gone. But after it’s left, things will be different. You will think different.
I know I will.