I’ve written about Jobs’ impact on my tech life before. I’m typing this post on 12-core Intel Xeon Mac Pro with 8gigs of RAM and a terabyte HD. I’ve come a long way since my Dad’s Apple ][e. I edit all my videos on this computer, all my photographs, mastered my new album on it and I make all my music on a similar Mac Pro in my studio. My professional life would be profoundly harder if I had to negotiate the byzantine clunkiness of Windows and the lumpy, drab PCs that non-Apple vendors make. The same with my phone: every phone now is basically an inferior copy of the iPhone. Obviously, there were smartphones before Jobs’ iPhone but he got it right.
But, leaving the tech aside, I found Jobs inspirational because we shared a lot of crazy. I never met the man but we appeared to agree on basic core values about life and, more importantly, death:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
– Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech 2005
I’ve lived my life along these lines since I was around 16 or so. Anything good in my life has come from following that basically atheistic, existentialist mindset. I’ve taken thousands of risks, most have failed but some have brought me the best job in the world, amazing lovers and an extraordinary life. I say it often: if you made my life into a film, people would find it too unbelievable. The things I’ve done, the events I’ve been part of, the women I’ve had the privilege of loving and being loved by, it all seems quite surreal in retrospect.
Excluding random chance, everything bad in my life has resulted from my own cowardice or worrying what others will think about me. When you don’t fight, when you don’t push, the quotidian routine of life suffocates you. That’s why every day is a new day to evaluate who you are and where you’re going. Then, following that, who you want to be and where you want to be.
I will (probably) never change the world in the way Steve Jobs did. But I understand that what he did was not about technology, not about computers, it was about the human soul, about imagining a better reality and then going out there and creating it.
You have a choice: be safe, be mundane, be ordinary. Don’t upset people, don’t say crazy shit, keep your head down. Get a boyfriend/girlfriend you don’t really love (but at least you’re not alone!), a job that you hate, drop a couple of sprogs, watch them grow and then wait to die. Forget your childhood dreams, forget about changing the world.
Or, like Steve, you can be insanely great.
Which is it going to be?