This is a post I never really wanted to write. We all knew it’s gonna happen at some point. But as long as he was still alive, there was still a chance that his spark will continue to ignite something. And I diligently waited to see more and more sparks. Now Steve Jobs is dead. His physical presence is no longer on our plan. He’s gone.
But there are a few things I always wanted to write about him. While he was still alive, writing those things wasn’t “appropriate”. From cult to fanboyism, pick everything in between and you’ll understand the reactions. But, in a sad and human way (we all die, you know) now I can do this.
Steve Jobs didn’t create the iPod. Nor the iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro or the Apple TV. These are byproducts of his main product. They are just the consequences of a mindset. What was driving Apple so incredibly fast and high wasn’t a big line of products. Was the courage to do something different. Was the thrive for creativity. This is what Steve Jobs created. This is his main product.
When he got ill, the Apple stock plummeted. It wasn’t the iPhone who got cancer. It was Steve. Yet the company suffered. Because the real product created by Steve, a product that from now on will be studied, dissected and recomposed in millions of shapes and approaches, was the drive to change the world. And when somebody who promised to change your world will go away, you’ll be scared. That’s why people frightened when he got ill. Now, who’s gonna mesmerize me? Who’s gonna be so insane to create that unbelievable high expectation at each product launch, theatrically fulfilled each time with the famous “one more thing”? Who’s gonna fill my playground with new toys? That was the real concern.
Steve Jobs was playing a very subtle role in our minds. The role of creator. The maker of stuff. Also, the one who inspired others to do stuff. The man who re-arrange our reality in a better way. Every time we got reports about his health we weren’t worried about a glitch in the iPhone. I don’t think people were reading about his cancer and got really big concerns that their iPad battery life will now be shorter. It wasn’t about that. It was about their investment in Steve’s reality. A reality so different, yet so appealing compared to the one we’re used to, that we were all completely into it.
What Steve really sold to us wasn’t a line of products. It was the courage to change the world. This is his real legacy.
Also, one other thing that made Steve so important in our lives was his story. The story of a man who lost his company, but never lost his faith. And he came back as a crushing winner. We all need this. We all need to be reassured from time to time about this. The fear of loss is so deeply engrained in our souls, that every example of recovery is instantly framed and integrated. We all admired Steve for his comeback. In fact, without this comeback, I don’t really think Steve’s popularity would be so big. A linear path to success is boring. But one filled with huge roadblocks, magically transcended by pure will, well, that’s something we simply love.
His persistence in following his dream was almost pathological. If he wasn’t so fantastically successful, he would have been labelled as “obsessive-compulsive”. Many of us know that, because we’ve been labelled “obsessive-compulsive” while following our dreams. I for sure I know I’ve been there. Not only once.
But is this persistence that created the new world we’re enjoying now. I don’t think there was ever a company walking on an edge so thin between love and hate, like Apple did. If you don’t love Apple, you probably hate it. But that is the very proof that we’re dealing with something alive. With something able to rise above the dull and boring byproducts of consumerism.
I never met Steve in real life, so my opinion on this is formed by patches revealed by media and third-party stories. But what I got from this mix was that Steve wasn’t necessarily a nice man. On the contrary. “We don’t love Steve because he’s nice”, that was a very common line when it came to his personality. Nevertheless, he was not only respected, admired and listened, but, and the huge wave of reactions generated by his departure is enough proof, he was really loved. And I think he was loved because he was true to himself.
Being polite, nice and socially compliant will make you accepted. But it won’t make you successful. Most of the time, implementing your dream requires drastic measures. Your dream may even need a social earthquake to become true. You may have to shake out a few beliefs, to ditch some old patterns in this process. And you simply can’t do that by being nice.
On the other side, nobody will ever remember Steve as being “inappropriate” or rude. And, again, this comes form the same quality: being true to himself.
The legacy, the story, the man. I am honored and lucky to have been contemporary to this.