I doubt I'll be the first one to tell you this, but Steve Jobs has died. Maybe you don't care because you didn't really know him. Maybe his death doesn't affect you. I don't know how you feel. But I did know him. And his death does affect me.
Before you jump ahead of me, I feel I should say that I never met the man. Never even dreamed of it, really. In fact, I didn't even really think about him much until the other day. I always sort of admired him, but I just had no reason to dwell on him. He just made the computers and phones and mp3 players I liked to use. There was nothing more to it than that.
At least I thought there wasn't.
It's a lot like when Heath Ledger died. I knew it was tragic and I knew it was awful, but I just didn't see how it had any direct effect on me. Then I saw The Dark Knight. That's when I realized the world had lost an artist who still had a lot more to give.
It's the same way with Mr. Jobs. It wasn't enough for him that he made Apple into the most successful business in the world. It wasn't enough that he revolutionized the phone market, the laptop market, and the tablet market. He had to keep working. Keep improving things. Keep creating.
The world has lost another artist.
I hear stories about how controlling he could be and they make me cringe a little bit. That isn't a pretty word. It usually makes the one labeled with it sound mean and selfish. Our heroes aren't generally painted that way. They're usually selfless and sacrificing and all about everyone else.
But can an artist be? Should an artist be willing to compromise his work to spare someone else's feelings or thoughts? Or should an artist believe in what he's doing and defend it against any outside forces? I know I'd go to the mattresses with anyone who tries to make me bend or break my work for their purposes. Maybe controlling isn't so bad all the time.
And as I thought all of that through and sat in my bed and honestly cried a little, I realized why we need the Steve Jobs of the world. We need them like we need the space program. Why? Because these are the people willing to look for "what's next" when no one else is.
"We went to the moon. Do we really have to go to Mars?" "Yes." "Why?" "Because it's next. Because we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill, and we saw fire. And we crossed the ocean, and we pioneered the west, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on a timeline of exploration and this is what's next." -The West Wing
Steve, thank you for reminding us to look for what's next. I don't think it's a coincidence that you named your early company NeXT. You were always looking for it. Hopefully we'll be able to find a little bit of it on our own without you.