I was working on another blog post this evening when I saw the news about Steve Jobs. Actually, to be specific, I saw the news about Steve Jobs on my Mac. The fact that I was likely among millions of people who got word of his death on a device that wouldn't have existed without him occurred to me, and really reverberated in my brain. I don't have any personal attachment to Steve Jobs, and I've never really followed his career with more than a passing interest, so it surprised me how the news of his death got beside me. Few people in the history of the human race have made as large an impact on the world during their lifetimes as Steve Jobs did... even fewer in such a creative, innovative way. The last thirty years have been a remarkable time to be alive: in an extraordinarily brief period of time, everything from the way we buy shoes to the very way we communicate with one another has changed profoundly because of the vision of a few revolutionary thinkers. Steve Jobs was one of those thinkers, and it's hard to comprehend the magnitude of the ripple effect he has left in his wake.
I remember the day my parents brought our first computer home. The year (I think) was 1988, the computer was a Mac SE, and I was absolutely smitten. I suppose we got it as a word processor, but as far as I was concerned, it was a really cool box of games: do you remember Brickles? Or that game where the shopping carts and mice rained from the top of the screen? What about "Bash Big Blue" - the computerized version of whack-a-mole where you clicked on the IBM icon wherever it popped up on the screen? Just now, for kicks, I looked up the tech specs on that once state-of-the-art computer: the max hard-drive capacity was 20MB... not enough to hold a single image from my camera. And yet once upon a time, while my 9 year-old self stared open-mouthed at that tiny screen, never dreaming that it could do anything more exciting than, perhaps, get some color graphics, somewhere in California, Steve Jobs had his eyes on a much bigger prize.
In a 1985, Steve Jobs made a prediction during an interview with Playboy Magazine:
"The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We're just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people--as remarkable as the telephone."
That must've sounded like science fiction, or the bravado of an egomaniac, and yet here we are... and I imagine nearly every one of you clicked through to this blog post from Facebook, Twitter, or a Google. What was once science fiction is now inextricably enmeshed in every facet of our lives, not just in personal computers, but in phones, music players, and tablets, and Apple - the company that Jobs co-founded at age 21 and from which he resigned as CEO just six weeks ago - has its logo on every one of the most successful and well-known of these devices.
In my own little corner of the universe, far, far away from the big-business, big consequences world of Apple, I'm nonetheless inspired by Steve Jobs' vision, his passion, and his willingness to take risks. Recently, it's been that last piece - the piece about taking risks - that has had me going 'round in circles. My business has come to a crossroads of sorts, and though my heart has been loud and clear about what it wants, some part of me worries... about money, about stability, about the fear of failure. So it was particularly poignant to read this among the many Steve Jobs quotes being posted around the interwebs this evening (from his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005):
"[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."
I think I'll take that as a sign. Thank you, Mr. Jobs.