Steve Jobs and the High Cost of Being a Visionary
I”m not an Apple fanboy, but there is absolutely no denying that in my lifetime Apple has become one of the most revolutionary companies I can think of. Sure Microsoft revoluionized how we use PC’s, but Apple revolutionized how we think about computers. Jobs himself went from being fired from the company he co-founded to coming back to make that company the icon of cool. Apple is now setting the pace for not just computers but for the whole consumer technology sector.
And in the same way that it’s hard to still not equate Microsoft with Bill Gates, even though he’s not leading the company anymore as CEO, it’s impossible for me as well as most others to imagine Apple without Jobs. Will it survive? Probably.
But rather than muse about all the revolutionary and visionary stuff Jobs created and did, I wanted to think about what his death means in the grand scheme of things. Jobs died at 56 from pancreatic cancer, a terrible and insidious disease. That is a very young age to die. There was much said about his coming back to work after his initial diagnosis. While it wasn’t said out loud much, I think there was a lot of wonder and raised eyebrows about where his priorities were. When one is diagnosed with a terminal disease, and pancreatic cancer in particular has a short prognosis, should one take time off to enjoy the “more important things in life” like family and life’s other pursuits? Or is it more noble to live as if – as if you didn’t have cancer, as if tomorrow always comes, as if there will always be more time? Is to not let the disease define you overcoming it, or is it denial?
I can’t claim to know much of anything about Steve Jobs beyond what I see in his appearances. However I know other visionaries and for them the pursuit of the vision is often all-encompassing. Everything is seen in light of it – family, happiness, life. Visionaries love what they do, and they do it wonderfully. And what they do impacts us daily in ways we recognize and in ways we don’t. However vision has a cost, and it’s hard to say if we will ever be able to separate Steve Jobs from Apple. That’s sad I think, in that he had to have been so much more than the imagination behind a company. I think now there will be – I hope – more time to look at not just the stuff he dreamed up like the Mac and the iPod, but to look at who he was and what we can learn from him; how he died and how he lived.