My own interest in Apple mirrored Steve Jobs’ return to the company in 1997. In the late ’90s I saw him at Seybold and Macworld, and over the years watched his keynotes both live and, particularly after we returned to Oregon, by video stream. He was a visionary, a showman, and business leader all in one. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to mention him in the same breath as Edison or Telsa—his name is on over 300 patents in diverse areas—and I doubt very much we’ll see someone like him again in the technology industry during my lifetime.
I owe a great deal to Steve Jobs, which sounds strange considering that I never met the man. But my company’s fortunes are inextricably linked to Apple’s, and as Jobs took Apple from the verge of bankruptcy to the largest company (by market capitalization) in the world, my own business success followed. Indeed, I often joke that I may have no business acumen whatsoever. We don’t know. Maybe I just hitched my wagon to the right star.
Yesterday’s iPhone 4S presentation conducted by Apple CEO Tim Cook and associated Apple brass was widely regarded as a subdued affair lacking the Jobsian passion and showmanship of years past. Perhaps in the light of today’s news we can understand why. Having to sell a product—and I think the iPhone 4S is a home run of a product—when the death of your friend, colleague, and mentor is imminent, is a task I’d wish on no one. By today’s lights, the Apple officers performed amazingly, and even if Steve Jobs, a noted perfectionist, wouldn’t have cut them any slack about it, I think the rest of us can and should.
As a company Apple will be fine for the next 3-5 years. They could almost run on autopilot during that time with incremental releases of existing products and continue to rake in the cash. What we don’t know is what happens when the next iPod, iPhone, or iPad is needed. Does Apple have the talent internally to produce another world-changing device without Steve Jobs to guide them? Nobody knows.
What we do know is that the world is a better place for Steve Jobs and his contributions to it. If you’ve not read it, here’s the text of Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement speech from 2005. In it, he said:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.