We woke up this morning to a world without Steve Jobs. Strangely shocking, this news, despite the fact that Jobs had been battling cancer for so many years, despite the fact that he resigned from Apple only a month ago.
I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about Steve Jobs when he was alive. And yet his death came as a shock to me and millions of others: the death of a stranger we cherished more than we knew.
Even though I’m an enthusiastic Mac user, I’ve never paid much attention to the dramas and politics of Apple’s history. I wouldn’t have known what he looked like if one of the first TED talks I watched wasn’t Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement address. That speech alone was enough to imprint the image of the man in my mind as a living legend, a man of both inspiring talent and deep, considered wisdom.
It’s no surprise that lines from that address have gone down as some of Jobs’ most quoted, and have peppered the many outpourings of grief, gratitude, awe, shock and respect that have flooded the news today. Poignantly, many of his insights framed the significance of life as viewed through the lens of death:
“If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll almost certainly be correct…
…almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fell away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important…”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
and, most succinctly:
“Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
Steve’s advice in that speech illuminated something for me. It helped me to notice and recognise the glimmer of wholeheartedness, idealism, fearlessness. Some people call it being present. Some call it living your truth. Without compassion or tolerance it falls into the pitfall of fundamentalism. With compassion and tolerance, it is elevated to what Gandhi called being the change you want to see in the world.
Some of us ride into it some days and away from it other days. No one does it all the time, but the more you do it, the more the world feels like the right place, the good place.
The last time that a death opened such public floodgates of mourning was after Princess Diana’s car crash. The difference though, was that Princess Diana represented the death of a magical myth, the beloved princess beauty. Whilst she reached out on a symbolic level to many, she didn’t reshape our world in the ways that Jobs tangibly did. In Barack Obama’s lucid words, “he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: He changed the way each of us sees the world.”
Go well, Steve Jobs.