Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: Farewell to an American Legend

photo by dawnzy58via PhotoRee

OK, first things first: I know this is a blog about football and beer, but it's also my blog, a blog on which I touch on the many things in life I see, do, or love -- in short, my many passions. And something happened last night that I would be remiss in not noting with at least a few sentences, however feebly they may fail to capture the many thoughts buzzing around inside my head right now: Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer on October 5th, 2011, at the age of 56.

Steve Jobs was not a football player, nor was he a brewer, but as I sit here typing this blog on my widescreen Mac I'm feeling a debt of gratitude to a man I never knew, but who made a profound impact on our inter-connected 21st century lives, in much the same way that Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison impacted the lives of millions in an earlier day and age.

I'm fairly certain that when the history of our time on earth is finally written, Steve Jobs name will be inscribed alongside Thomas Edison as one of the greatest American inventors of all time.  For me, though, the comparison with Walt Disney is a better fit; in fact, I almost always think of Jobs when I go to Disney.  There, as I sit riding Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, a slow moving "dark ride" journey through time and human history, I take special note of the iconic scene in the California garage, with the car moved outside so the inventor can work on his new device -- something called a personal computer.  Because as I do that I'm forced to confront just how far we've come in the last 40 years -- during my lifetime and not in some distant, dusty age -- from a world in which the "personal computer" was something new and novel and the size of a small refrigerator, to the world in which someone can spread an idea, or a song or a movie to virtually any spot on the face of the earth -- and do it instantaneously.  And then chat about it face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) immediately afterward.  All from a handheld device.

Steve Jobs and Apple were always the innovator.  That didn't mean they always prevailed;  in many ways, and for many years, Microsoft had a much slicker business plan: focus on commerce and the people will follow.  But Jobs was Walt Disney-like in his pursuit of perfection: if you build the best product, eventually the people will follow.  And they did.  It may have taken him longer, but in the end Jobs did it his way and the market responded -- it responded with millions and millions of iPhone, iTunes, iPad and iMac users.  There can be few greater ironies than that Jobs passed away only a short while after Apple became the most valuable brand in the world, as measured by stock market capitalization.

Jobs' death reminds us that nothing in life is guaranteed: not fame, not success, not money, not happiness -- nothing, not even health.  And no amount of money can buy that.  Our time on earth is limited, and there's no time like the present to start living out your own dreams -- because there may not be a tomorrow in which to do it.  In the end, life is solely what you make of it, for better or worse.  And Jobs chose better, Jobs chose to radiate the world with his particular brand of brilliance -- iconic American brilliance, the lonely inventor dreaming of the future and turning it into the present-- to have an outsized influence on the world in which he lived.

Not all of us can be the next Steve Jobs -- they only made one and then broke the mold.  But all of us can live our lives according to the principles that drove Jobs: be passionate about what you do, think outside the box, dream of the future and make it a reality, and above all, strive for perfection in everything you do -- even the little things.  Life is not a dress rehearsal in which you wait for someone else to help you achieve your dreams.  Unsurprisingly, Steve Jobs summed up this philosophy best, in a commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005:

So Carpe Diem -- Seize the Day -- and Godspeed, Steve Jobs.  You'll be missed by millions.

This is farlieonfootie for October 6th.

1 comment:

  1. Oh no, I think this is going to lead to yet another attempt by farlieonfootie to be the next Susan Boyle.