Thank you Steve

I’m sad, but I’m trying to frame this sadness. Steve Jobs, in one form or another, has been a part of my life since I was 8 years old. In 1979, demonstrating remarkable foresight and disregarding doubtless financial burden, my parents brought home an Apple ][+ computer. I was 8. My daughter is older than that now. A few months before she was born we bought our first iPod, Steve introduced it ten years ago this month. I still have it, and the Apple ][+ is at my parents–both still work.

I’m sad for his his wife and children. But mostly I’m sad for the rest of us. 56.

I was lucky enough to see Steve speak in person at WWDC several times. The first time I saw him come onstage in 2003, it was as if the air was suddenly electrified.

This post was drafted on my iPhone. Steve’s iPhone, running Steve’s new OS, built on the foundation of Steve’s old OS, connected to a machine Steve led the creation of, all of them sold by a company Steve founded 35 years ago.

It’s traditional to wish for the departed to rest in peace, but Steve’s vision won’t be resting, there is so much more to do.

Here’s to the crazy ones.

Thank you Steve, for everything.

5 Responses to “Thank you Steve” Comments Feed for Thank you Steve

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about Steve Jobs and what made him so special. It’s easy to forget that Steve wasn’t really good at any particular thing. He himself was never a great engineer, designer, or programmer. He knew enough about each to have a vision but not enough to do good (probably not even decent) work in any of them. So, what exactly made him so special and valuable? In my view, he was an exceptional generalist. In the last century, we have all been encouraged and trained to be specialists. This is particularly true in the US. I remember coming to this country and feeling shocked to learn that the American kids were learning specialized skills like how to fix cars in high school. Steve Jobs took the opposite path. As soon as he learned enough about one subject, he moved on.

    He was fond of telling the story about him studying calligraphy in college, and how it influenced the design of Macintosh. Given my own tendency to obsess over a narrow subject matter, if I were in his position, I would have probably studied calligraphy for 4 years in college, and tried to get a job as a type designer. What made Jobs successful was that he was always thinking bigger, and his intuitions told him that he can’t lose sight in detail. In other words, he had no interest in becoming a craftsman or technician, or a master of any particular subject.

    When we think of someone who could take over his role at Apple, we realize that everyone is missing a big part of what Jobs covered. If Bill Gates were to take over, it’s obvious to us that he would not be able to manage or inspire their designers. He would be largely blind to the aesthetic and deeply human aspects of Apple’s products. The same would be true for all the other CEOs of the tech world, like Michael Dell and Eric Schmidt. Art and science usually do not coexist in one person. They tend to get in the way of one another. Artistic people often take drugs to turn off the logical side of their brains in order to enhance the artistic side. On the other hand, if the artistic side interferes too much in a scientist’s mind, his/her work would be dismissed as being pseudo-science.

    And, it’s not just about managing both art and science. Managing and leading are usually two separate skill sets. Managers look inward at their own people, and leaders look outward at the people outside. People who are good at one, tend not to be good at the other. From what I read about Steve Jobs, he wasn’t such a good manager early in his career, which is one of the reasons, I suspect, why he got kicked out of the company he founded. But by the time he came back to Apple, he had already learned how to manage. He is obviously a quick learner.

    Overall, his greatest talent was in evangelism. In this sense, he reminds me of Jim Henson who was also a great evangelist. The difference between a salesman and an evangelist is that the latter really believes in what he is selling. I think it’s rather rare to have this talent, but it is even rarer to have all the other talents he had at the same time. 

    Henson’s “The Muppets Take Manhattan” is a great illustration of how evangelism works. Kermit is the sole evangelist in the movie, and he is working with a bunch of other muppets who are equally talented in terms of their artistic skills, but none of the others have the talent for evangelism. Talents in and of themselves are rather useless and dime-a-dozen without an evangelist to drive them all and make things happen. 

    In the West, “Jack of all trades, master of none” is considered a bad thing, and that is the blind spot in the current labor market, particularly in the US. The problem of specialization is that we can quickly become obsolete once the environment changes. If we cannot adapt to the new environment fast enough, we go extinct. That is how natural selection works. This is true for our careers as well as for any living species in nature. For instance, Flash programmers can’t find work anymore because the market switched to HTML5 as soon as Apple decided not to support Flash in iOS.

    This is a serious concern for parents today. What should our kids be studying? One thing that is clear in my mind is that teaching them to be a specialist is a no-win situation. There are literally billions of kids in China and India who are much hungrier than our American kids. Their dedication, discipline, and desperation would make them better specialists. Our kids would stand no chance if they were to compete with them head to head.

    But at the same time, just teaching them to be generalists isn’t enough either. There is a significant difference between someone who know a lot of different things (like those masters on Jeopardy!), and someone who can synthesize these disparate parts into a cohesive product. The majority of these knowledgable people have these bricks lying around in a messy pile. Without the creativity and the drive, these bricks are useless.

    The reality of the matter is that we parents can hardly manage the same problem. At least I can’t. My mind naturally gravitate towards details and specifics. I am a natural specialist. I have to keep telling myself to step back and see the bigger picture. So, before I worry about my own kid, I have to do something about myself!

    • Amazing post. I`ve been thinking a lot about Steve as well. We`re the exact same age. One of the best articles I`ve read about Steve. I`m not a Apple user per se. Although an IPad2 may be high on my purchase list. I worry about my kids as well these days. Where should they focus their educational efforts in this current economic upheaval.

  • Steve Jobs was a great man, he will be remembered for his
    innovations and as good businessman. He was inspirational human being. His soul
    rest in peace.

  • Just found you after doing some googling on stress fractures! Read your theory on why people incur sfx in minimalist shoes. I like the theory but I can throw you a curve ball. I did about 6 weeks of BF running (combined w/ shoe running) before getting injured. Pure BF, not in shoes. Too much too soon and I ended up with a sfx in 4th metatarsal on one foot, cuboid on other. Sad thing is that was 6 months ago and neither have healed. I am beyond depressed. Glad to see that you are good to go.

  • The vision of SJ was not spectacular.  It was his pig-headed selfish personality that was the most unique and got the most results.  Honor him for that.  The Apple products are a result of a dictatorial self-view, not a vision of the world any different than the rest of thinking people.

Leave a Reply