Reflections on the week after the loss of Jobs
You’re no Steve Jobs, so quit acting like one. I had just picked my daughter up from school when my business partner called to ask if I had heard that Steve Jobs had died. Since I’m the geekier one, it was ironic that she was calling me with the news. As a former Apple employee and self-confessed gadget freak, I’ve had a long love-hate-love relationship with Apple. And I’ve been both impressed and distressed with recent press coverage of his life and death.
I was an employee at Apple during the dark years, back when Gil Amelio was CEO (remember him? Didn’t think so!) and Apple was building and shipping some of its worst products in the history of the company (if you’ve never heard of the Power Mac 5200/75, for example, consider yourself lucky). I’ve watched with fascination as people who once made flip and nasty comments about Apple (for example, Michael Dell’s infamous suggestion that Apple shut down and give the proceeds to shareholders) go out of their way to say warm-hearted and fuzzy things about Steve after his death.
In our collective rush to jump on the “I loved/understood/respected/learned from Steve more than you did” bandwagon, I think everyone has missed what I think was one of Steve’s fundamental beliefs about achieving success: doing well in life demands being true to yourself.
A vision and a plan
When Steve came back to Apple in 1997 I was in my 2nd year as an Apple employee and would happily bleed six colors for you. I was greatly inspired by his “we succeed by being true to ourselves” battle cry. We weren’t going to be the low-cost PC manufacturer like Dell. We weren’t going to license our OS like Microsoft. We were going to be Apple. While most of us didn’t know what exactly that meant, Steve had a vision and a plan, and he built one hell of a team to help make it a reality.
As Steve famously said in his 2006 Stanford commencement address, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.”
For all of us still alive today, the dogma of the moment is to “Be like Steve.” Emulate his focus. Or his vision. Or his [fill in the blank with your astute observation about him]. The biggest tribute any of us can pay to Steve is to remember his mantra to live true to ourselves. None of us are or ever will be Steve Jobs, so let’s quit pretending.