Most of the headlines I’ve read about Steve Jobs’ death — October 5, 2011 — shout the obvious factoid: Apple’s Steve Jobs DIES or Steve Jobs is DEAD. Why not something more honorary like: Steve Jobs Dead Today: The World Has Lost a Technology and Design Visionary, or at least something a little more dignified? They also say that Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being, however I’d extend the former to the world, not just Apple.
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You see, Steve Jobs has the kind of effect that Princess Di had on the world. Yes, really. He “touched” people. He “inspired” people. He moved people to stretch beyond their own limits and beliefs and build something more. Be something more. Care about design in their own creations in a way that would transform people. Care about what they shipped and why. Understand that they had to ship and that delivering what customers want and count on you for, matter more than your ego.
Technology for technology’s sake is merely an enabler alone. Useful, sure, but Steve created technology that has been a life changing experience for all of us. Apple’s technology is transparent, the way it should be and we are transformed when we use it…the way it should be.
Crikey, I’m not even a Mac user. I was, once, a long time ago. Early on in my career in the early nineties, my marketing agency was on Macs and it’s the only world I ever knew following my early but limited word processing experience at university in London. (the days of Wordstar, Multimate and WordPerfect).
I moved to the PC world when I started representing enterprise technology clients and thereafter start-ups that had limited budgets so didn’t all support Macs out-of-the-gate. My mainstay is a Thinkpad and have 2 other laptops and a netbook. As a creative myself, its astonishing that I’ve held out as long as I have. I have a iPhone and an iPad and am a heavy user of Adobe products, all of which would work more seamlessly on a Mac. And yet, the startup industry has kept me tethered to a PC not to mention Apple’s hefty costs and the fact that I have more contacts in the PC world than I do in the Apple one.
That aside, I honor and bow down to Steve Jobs for his brilliance, his creativity, his genius and his commitment to making technology “beautiful.” First of all, I’m a woman who lives in Silicon Valley who actually loves design and fashion, a rarity in the technology industry.
This is a world who lives in logoed t-shirts, jeans and sneakers and not even hip ones. Living in Europe gave me an appreciation for design and once you have it, there’s no turning back. Even the way the French package up one individual chocolate is insanely decadent enough to give a woman who honors and “gets” great design, an orgasm. Yes, really. It’s not something we relish in the states, and yet Steve Jobs says, we MUST. And, he did. Again and again, he did.
From the Time Magazine article in their tribute: “Jobs’ confidence in the wisdom of his own instincts came to be immense, as did the hype he created at Apple product launches. That might have been unbearable if it weren’t for the fact that his intuition was nearly flawless and the products often lived up to his lofty claims.” Hear hear. Who can’t acknowledge that consistency of design genius even if you didn’t like the guy or believe in the Apple way of life?
Picasso wasn’t liked by everyone and frankly if he were alive and I had coffee with him or something more at the time of his most creative days, its likely from what I’ve read I wouldn’t have liked the man (as a woman), and yet….he’s one of my favorite artists of all time. I look at his work and can be brought to tears from his genius. Steve has that gift and he has always delivered. If you’re wondering whether I’m equating Picasso’s artistic genius to Steve’s creative & innovative technology genius, I most definitely am. He deserves this honor.
There are few who would deny it. And frankly, genius comes with a little baggage. The baggage is there with all its bells and whistles with some of the greats I’ve had the pleasure to work with and for a lot of visionaries the world has ever seen — authors, scientists, actors, creators, inventors. The list goes on. As my grandfather who also wasn’t an easy man to work for, used to say in so many words, “as long as you’re “real” and honorable along the way and don’t drag people down or run people over on the way, nearly everything is game. Go get it kid. This is America.”
The world has lost a creative genius who inspired people who create for creation’s sake, dream about things bigger than themselves, think about making the world a better place and don’t, think about making the world a better place and do, and simply love and use Apple products.
My teary-eyed emotion tonight as I write this is centered around this: the man lived his dream every day until the day he died and he lived with conviction. (remember he only stepped down from Apple a couple of months before his death and rest assured they knew the end was near long before August). Since I coach companies on their marketing and social media strategies, things often come across my desk I know won’t fly short or long-term. They don’t have “legs.”
When I look at opportunities that come my way, I don’t just look at the products, I look at team and most importantly, I look at the man or woman at the helm. I ask myself: is he/she aligned with their vision? Most aren’t. Steve is and has always been my one pure example of a man who (like him or not) is aligned with his vision. Great products aside, his alignment has been an instrumental part of Apple’s success. Alignment is the of holy grail leadership in my humble opinion. It’s what moves markets and moves mountains. It’s what ends wars. It’s what changes history.
Alignment and kick-ass products aside, the world felt and believed that Steve loved Apple. I do too. He loved what he created and wanted people’s experience with technology to be transformed in ways no one else has touched.
He was a visionary but only because he transformed experiences for people across three different industries: computers, film and music. If entrepreneurs could understand the concept behind genius + passion + simplicity = transformation and nothing else, they might build products differently, investors might spend money differently and other products that we struggle with today might be transforming our lives the way Apple products do.
Two personal shares: I first met Steve when I was communications head at Dragon Systems, which was later acquired by Lernout & Hauspie and thereafter Nuance. Think speech recognition for those who don’t know their history or their story. I was backstage with my CEO Janet Baker at an Apple Developer’s Conference somewhere on this fine pacific coast, Steve and his “corp comm handler” at the time, whose name I still don’t remember.
Why? I was mesmerized by Steve’s presence, his energy, his electricity and how focused he was about what he was planning to achieve on stage a half an hour later. We were a partner of some sort as much as you could be and stand alongside Steve on stage in front of Apple worshippers and believers.
Janet was in a flowing skirt as I remember it and Steve in jeans and a black crew neck and from a branding perspective, I was thinking four things simultaneously: how are we going to look and be perceived next to Jobs and Apple energy knowing there’s ten rows of media in the front of the stage? how’s my female CEO going to be perceived next to Jobs and Apple energy knowing there’s ten rows of media in the front of the stage? what will being here mean for us as a player in the industry if we pull this off well with Steve’s support and kudos on stage? AND fourth, He’s Kinda Hot. Yes, really. If I don’t admit it now, then when? Janet noticed and we joked about it later.
Memory number two was meeting him at a D Conference. Not that long in existence, Walt and Kara managed to get both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to participate in a fireside-like chat on more than one occasion and it was a special unique moment in our (the technology) industry to have them together, on stage, in an interactive dialogue under one roof.
I met him randomly in “group moments” between the late nineties and 2010, but they weren’t solo moments like the previous two. (by the way, speaking of D memories, they have honored his memory by making all videos of his interviews live here in their entirety).
Thereafter, I shot Steve. Yes photography for those who don’t know it’s a major passion of mine. One of the things I’ve learned as a photographer, whether you’re shooting one-on-one in a studio, with nature as a backdrop, or in some obscure creative setting, it’s an intimate moment and you see things AND learn things about your subject through new eyes.
Steve is fun to shoot and the memories still linger. I can only imagine what long-time AP photographer Paul Sakuma must be feeling right now given how many times he has followed him from behind his lens for over a decade.