I don’t use my business blog that often to deal with personal matters, but somehow today, it seems a fitting time to do so. Yesterday, a man died. A man who touched many of our lives through technology. A man who, regardless of your feelings about the technology he spawned, has undeniably changed the technological world that we live in. But for all of his technical, business and marketing genius, Steve Jobs was also a man who inspired many on a personal level. My guess is that today many people will watch (or re-watch) Steve Jobs’ commencement address in 2005 at Stanford University. And many of us will find ways to relate some of the very important and poignant things he told that year’s graduates back to our own lives. I think most important of all of the things that can happen in the wake of yet another untimely death is that we look at our own lives, the people who are important to us, the choices we are making today, and let a public stranger remind us of what we have, what we yearn for, and who we are.
Most of us have other people in our lives who have touched us in more important ways than Steve Jobs has. We have parents, siblings, spouses, life partners, extended family, mentors, friends, competitors, rivals, enemies, and other people both loved and reviled who have made huge impacts on our lives, shaping who we are, and what we do. For me, one of those people was my father, a man who also died too young at the age of 58. My father doesn’t have a YouTube video that everyone can go watch to remember his wisdom any time they choose. He did make an audio tape for his family before he died though. One that actually touches on all of the topics that Steve Jobs talked about in his commencement address, but is infinitely more difficult for me to listen to without falling apart, than Steve Jobs’ speech. So instead, last night and today I let Mr. Jobs’ words touch my heart, and remind me of someone else I have lost who was inspiring and soulful. My father would truly have appreciated the message of connecting the dots, love and loss, and ultimately the liberation of our spirits and thoughts when we accept that death is a part of life, and live our lives with the knowledge that today could be our last.
So this morning, as I drove my 14 year old son to the school bus, I had him him read the transcript of the Stanford University commencement address in Safari on my iPhone. At the same time, the plaintive sounds of his favorite new age music that had been downloaded from iTunes and synchronized from his Mac were now playing in the car on his iPad. I was struck not only by how truly Steve Jobs had changed our technological lives, but also how much his message reminds us to appreciate the people around us, remember the loved ones we’ve lost, and stay hungry and foolish until we all reach our shared destination.