Farewell to a Futurist
Thank you, Steve.
That is what we all have been saying in the past few days, usually with emotion, often deep emotion. Life went on pause when I first heard the news. My wife shed tears. The statements – visual and written – that poured in evoked even more emotion. How Steve touched people and shaped their lives was stunning. I sent a condolence email to a friend who has always been ready to convert anyone who isn’t living in the temple of Apple. If I felt this sad, what was he feeling?
That’s the way it was the day we learned of his passing. Did you look at and hold your iPhone differently in those hours after you learned? Did your fingers pause on the keyboard of your MacBook Pro? Did you hold your iPad to your chest for a moment, not realizing you were doing so? As you put in a half-hour on the elliptical machine, did you look at your tiny Shuffle clipped onto your shirt and realize how much more enjoyable he made this experience?
It was of one of those few times in our lives when someone we never met died, and we were hit with a powerful feeling of stunned sadness – one that we will never forget. The reality that he changed our lives, made our lives better, and for many, changed the trajectory of their lives all came rushing in. We’ve felt this before. Leaders like Kennedy, King and Kennedy. Cultural figures like Lennon and Picasso. Steve was one of those people. It is impossible to imagine our present world without his influence.
We knew it was coming. The change in his appearance made it clear. Yet it was not something we allowed in – not yet. It was sad to watch, yet the sadness at his death still moves me deeply as I write these words.
People who have heard me speak in the past few years sometimes thought I was shilling for Apple. Steve and Apple represent so many of the trends and forces that are of our time and our time ahead. Computers for regular people. High touch and high tech. Seeing and leading the future. Giving people power through technological devices, allowing us to shape our lives, our way. The app phone is the portal through which we see the world, through which we let the world in. Computing and communicating anywhere, anytime, without the limitation of place.
Apple was a Morph Corp, the metaphor for corporations in the Transformation Decade. Did Steve not lead the company through transformation after transformation? Always morphing the company: computer company, music company, consumer electronic company, retailing company, the highest emotional content brand on the planet. That is why Fortune named him the CEO of the decade. How about CEO of our lifetime?
Steve evidently was a difficult personality. He was in good company: Beethoven, Mozart, Picasso, Lennon, Edison and Ford. You can’t be different, demand excellence, stand firmly for the future with a vision that others can’t see, and not be in conflict with things as they are, with existing perceptions of reality. No, he created a reality that others couldn’t see. Once he shared it with us, it became our reality. He created the future, which became our present reality.
He saw the future. He created it for us. He set the course and direction of so many technologies, companies, markets, ways of doing business, and how, in fact, we live. He shaped our relationships with technology, and with the ones we love.
Death may end a life, but perhaps our relationships with Steve will live on. I keep feeling this sadness. Steve’s death is an incalculable loss for all of us. The only thing that tempers this sadness is what I see ahead. What I see are luminaries standing up among us over the next 10-20 years, giving us wonderful things, showing us new ways to improve our lives. They will all say it was Steve Jobs who gave them their inspiration.
A great futurist has died. His inspiration will live forever.