A life worthy of celebration.
How do you tell the story of someone you never knew? How do you grieve the loss of someone that had a profound impact on your life, but that was never in it personally? How do you pay tribute to someone who was notorious for being a cross, unapproachable boss? These are the questions I struggle with every year on this day…Steve Jobs Day…the day of his passing. I know that Jobs developed Apple from the ground up (along with Steve Wozniak) and helped it evolve into the trillion dollar company it is today. I use Apple products on a daily basis and am almost never more than 5 feet away from at least one of them. That said, I didn’t ‘know’ him. There are so many people who knew him personally that respected and cherished him that sometimes, I have to admit that my story of feeling his loss seems disrespectful to those people who have to realize on a daily basis that they can’t pick up the phone and call him when they have a special piece of news.
The truth is that we all lost Steve Jobs and our world today, wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for him. Even if you didn’t know him personally, you feel his impact on your world. Since I struggle a bit sometimes with paying tribute to him, I asked Nick his thoughts on what he misses most about Steve Jobs.
His humor. Steve had a childlike, prankish way about him and that made the world a better place. I’ll never forget how when he was on the stage of the Moscone Center in 2007 introducing the iPhone for the first time he called Starbucks and ordered 4,000 lattes to go and then said, “Just kidding, wrong number,” and hung up the phone.
Or, there is the story about how he scammed Apple for free meals as told by Scott Forstall in an interview with Business Insider:
“He and I would go to lunch at the cafeteria at Apple all the time, and he would insist on paying. I was like, you’re paying me enough that I can afford the $8 lunch, but he’d always — if he got his food before, he’d wait at the line for me to get up there, and he’d pay. And he made it so you could pay with your badge. So you’d come up there and you’d badge in, and it would be directly withdrawn from your paycheck.
“Somehow, I was like, ‘Why are you — I mean, like, really, go sit down. I’ll be out there. I feel like an ass while you’re sitting there waiting for me, and I feel like I can’t get any long-cooking food,’ and he said, ‘No, no, no. This is great. I only get paid $1 a year. I don’t know who’s paying every time I badge.’ He was a multibillionaire scamming Apple!”
I also really admired how he had an obsession with the quality of things unseen. This was something that was instilled in him from his father. There is a story about how he built a fence with his father and that his father refused to use bad wood on the back where no one could see it. According to Walter Issacson, who wrote Jobs’ biography, the story goes like this:
“Paul Jobs was a ‘salt of the earth’ guy, who was a great mechanic. And he taught his son Steve how to make great things, and he … once, they were building a fence, and he said, ‘You gotta make the back of the fence — that nobody will see — just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you’re dedicated to making something perfect.’ ”
I appreciate that Jobs was a perfectionist and lived within a Reality Distortion Field, which was what made others follow him into the impossible tasks he demanded from his employees.
“The reality distortion field was said by Andy Hertzfeld to be Steve Jobs’s ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement, and persistence. It was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. Jobs could also use the reality distortion field to appropriate other’s ideas as his own, sometimes proposing an idea to its originator after dismissing it the week before.” – Wikipedia
These are the reasons why Nick misses Steve Jobs. And, after talking with someone who is quite possibly the greatest fan Apple has ever had, I have to agree that there was an awful void left when he died. Jobs connected creativity with technology and never gave up on making the extraordinary. His charisma is well-known and even today, I can watch the keynote address where Jobs introduced the original iPhone and I get teary-eyed.
Although he had a reputation for being brittle with people, there was a peace about him. He lived simply despite being a billionaire and he valued the beauty of things unseen. I think how we all feel about Steve Jobs can be summed up with Tim Cook’s simple tribute to him on this day:
“Steve showed me—and all of us—what it means to serve humanity. We miss him, today and every day, and we’ll never forget the example he set for us.” – Tim Cook
Thank you, Steve. You are missed.