I met Steve Jobs, once, about 11 years ago.
And when I say “met,” I mean that I, along with about 5,000 other people, were in the same (large) room as him. At one point, I passed within about 20 feet of him, surrounded by media shouting questions at him. That was about as close as I dared get.
He was tall — about six feet, as I recall — and the memory I have is with him walking slowly, casually, hands behind his back. The media people were very squirmy, with photographers crouching to get a good shot. It was like Pigpen’s cloud constantly swirling around this guy.
From the stories we’ve all read over the years, he was a guy that was hard to work for. A tyrant, some say, exacting discipline and perfection from his company. In exchange, they developed — and we, today, enjoy — some of the most amazing physical objects ever created.
We can carry around with us computers — computers several times more powerful than those that took men to the moon — in our pockets. We can create and share information and distribute it nearly instantaneously to every corner of the Earth. A lot of people made this happen — most of whom weren’t Steve Jobs. But part of a networked world means that everyone who wants to participate in the network has to have a device that works with it.
Steve Jobs made those devices indispensable. Either through his flawless presentation technique or his amazing ability to refine products to be effortless to use, he sold devices that let everyone from infants to grandparents to those with cognitive disabilities exist on the same plane. The network’s power is in its ability to connect people; Steve Jobs’ talent was successfully convincing people to join the network.
In his often-shared 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, he said, “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.”
We’ll miss you, Steve. Thank you.