“When I was seventeen I read a quote that went something like, ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.‘”
Steve Jobs, the man behind Apple Computer, Pixar Animation Studios and the innovations that changed our lives has passed away, leaving behind a grieving consumer base, who looked to Jobs as not only a business-savvy creative, but a prophetic spiritual leader who incorporated his own brand of philosophy informed by time in India and his own Buddhist religion into the products he developed.
In 2005, Jobs delivered an address to the Stanford graduating class. It was a thoughtful, heartfelt introspection on his professional life, his battle with pancreatic cancer and brush with death, and finally, just what it means to live. It was inspiring before his death, and will likely go down as one of the most inspiring speeches of our generation.
“Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”
This interest in calligraphy would turn into a key facet of the graphic user interface in the Macintosh computer, which debuted in 1984, to a response one attendee would describe as, “pandemonium.”
He goes on to describe love and loss, recalling the story of the birth of Apple computer, which he co-founded with Steve Wozniak, and his eventual ousting from the corporation at the hands of John Sculley, the CEO that Jobs himself had hired.
“Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.”
Throughout Jobs’ life, each Apple event, each keynote offered a little insight into what he tried to achieve with Apple. At one event in 1997, he presaged cloud computing, a system of data processing that involves online file storage and now, many years after he talked about it, is become a reality through Apple’s iCloud.
Jobs was an artist, a visionary and a hell of a salesman. His legacy will be felt long into the future, as we continue to use the products he developed with the belief that they would change the world.
Towards the end of his commencement address, he reminds students that nothing really goes as planned, and that they must continue to persevere, even through the toughest times. That’s no less true today for everyone, than it was 6 years ago.
“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love.”