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Steve Jobs: Reflections on A Life that Changed the World

“Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family. In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve’s illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories. We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.”

The Family of Steve Jobs

Since Apple first announced his passing on the night of Wednesday, October 5th to pancreatic cancer, co-founder Steve Jobs’ life has been emphasized and told by media outlets over and over again.  It is true: the innovator behind the personal computer, the mouse, Pixar Animation, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad who started a business from a garage in California that is now the global leader in technology with a net worth more than the United States was truly the Thomas Edison or the Henry Ford of the new millennium. Without his creativity and innovations, we probably would not have had the remarkable advancements of the last forty years. For more on his career, click here to see a timeline, courtesy of CNN. You can also view a touching and impressive CNN video tribute to his life and career here.

“Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it. By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world. The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.”

Barack and Michelle Obama, US President and First Lady of the United States

Steve Jobs Memorial, SoHo Apple Store

But what makes Steve Jobs so fascinating is the outpouring of emotion that came after his passing.  In a global recession, memorials emerged worldwide for the late tech pioneer. I visited three New York area Apple stores: the one in SoHo just blocks from the growing frustrations of #OccupyWallStreet protestors, the Lincoln Center store that resembles a cathedral, and the flagship 24 hour 5th Avenue that is under renovation. As I snapped photos – with my iPod – it dawned on me how revered this CEO and businessman was.  Steve Jobs was never a greedy man who sought personal gain like many other CEOs who have been vilified.  In fact, Jobs annual salary was a mere $1.00 a day.

“I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work. Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives. The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely. ”

Bill Gates, Microsoft CEO

Steve Jobs Memorial, Lincoln Center Apple Store

Even more so, Jobs was the personified of a dying American dream.  With his friends, he sold off much of his prized possession and started a business from his garage.  With the entrepreneurial spirit, he set forth and created a corporate empire.  And even after he was fired by Apple in 1985, he didn’t disappear into the abyss. In his moving 2005 Stanford speech, he stated that, “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” From there, he led an award-winning film company, was rehired by Apple, and revolutionized the music and telephone industry.  In recent years, he created an industry for tablet computers that no one knew existed because, as his said in 1998, “[…] A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” His is an All-American company, and he was a passionate spokesman not just for his products, but for life.  His 2005 speech, where he spoke about his own life struggles was touching and breathtaking, which you can watch at the end of this article. His resignation in August made headlines around the world and brought hope that, perhaps as chairman, he would have unfiltered creativity to create more.

“Tonight, America lost a genius who will be remembered with Edison and Einstein, and whose ideas will shape the world for generations to come. Again and again over the last four decades, Steve Jobs saw the future and brought it to life long before most people could even see the horizon. And Steve’s passionate belief in the power of technology to transform the way we live brought us more than smart phones and iPads: it brought knowledge and power that is reshaping the face of civilization. In New York City’s government, everyone from street construction inspectors to NYPD detectives have harnessed Apple’s products to do their jobs more efficiently and intuitively. Tonight our City – a city that has always had such respect and admiration for creative genius – joins with people around the planet in remembering a great man and keeping Laurene and the rest of the Jobs family in our thoughts and prayers.”

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York

Steve Jobs Memorial, 5th Avenue Apple Store, NYC

So as I stood watching the growing crowds at the vigils, watching ordinary New Yorkers stop to take pictures and video from their iPhones and iPads, I read the post-it notes from people who wrote about they were inspired.  Notes from Brazil, France, Japan. Notes from people who purchased either his first product of his lastest. Notes from children who never knew a world without Apple products.  Flowers and apples, many with a single bite in them. A SmartWater bottle.  Candles, some of them Apple-scented.  Pictures of Jobs.  An old keyboard. It was a remarkable display.  One that amused me and made me write this was from a fan of Jobs who wrote that the geniuses and good men die young, but the “assholes” who run banks and other empires still live on.  It was an honest moment, reflective of the nature of the United States today.  It is a frustrating world with high unemployment and low wages.  But Jobs was a man who wanted to change the world. And he did, while remaining humble.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Steve Jobs, 1997 – Think Different

The Apple Logo at the Lincoln Center Store, turned off in honor of Steve Jobs.

Although I only purchased my first Apple product earlier this year – an iPod Touch 4th Generation – I remember using Mac computers when I was still in elementary school, playing computer games and learning to type. My experience with Macs did not end there.  In college, I wrote my first screenplay using my college’s iMac and edited my first film using iMovie, and then using Final Cut Pro in their Mac labs.  It was such an incredible experience.  As of writing this, I suspect I may be the last among my friends who still uses a PC instead of a MacBook Pro, and I plan on purchasing one as soon as I can.  Jobs created things that we couldn’t imagine living without (I still don’t know how I lived without my iPod), but he also created toys we could never stop playing with.  And in the vein of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, he united a planet, making miles of distance  just inches from a screen.  There probably will never be a businessman so revered by the world for a long time and none will ever come close to Steve Jobs. But that is because we remember him as an inventor, an innovator, and a genius more than anything.

“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. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

-Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford Commencement Address


About Richard L. Vargas

Among many things, I'm a writer, blogger, news junkie, and pop culture enthusiast from New York City.


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