Steve Jobs’ lasting legacy is a simple, yet powerful question.

by / Wednesday, 05 October 2011 / Published in Leadership
Steve Jobs 1955-2011

The Apple co-founder passed away, Oct. 5, 2011 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer and many inquisitive minds want to know more about the legendary technological genius.

The world has said all that there is to say about Steve Jobs, his legacy, his influence over the 21st century, his private life, his public life, his creative genius, his drive for perfection, his desire for beauty — and so much more.

The world is mourning something bigger than a man. They are feeling the loss of something far greater than a creative genius who created touchscreen tech gadgets. They are grieving the loss of a mentor who, through the many attributes I mentioned, reached into our personal life and told us, we were capable of greatness. We believed him, because he showed us it was possible.

Heartwarming photo of Steve Jobs with his wife Laurene Powell

Heartwarming photo of Steve Jobs with his wife Laurene Powell

In a world where apathy and mediocrity rule at unprecedented levels, and ugliness abounds, Steve Jobs led a team of passionate creatives on a quest to leave a dent in the world. He invited us all on that quest, not once but twice. The world, and arguably even Steve himself, wasn’t fully ready to take that journey the first time. After a season of learning and growing, Steve was able to lead a charge on the gates of the status quo and burn them down. He did so patiently, and with purpose.

My personal career as a computer web developer and a graphic designer actually was inspired the moment I heard a Macintosh SE chime on boot up in 1988. The moment I fell in love with a piece of Macintosh silicon was when I was using DOS for graphic design. As if that wasn’t hell. My sister-in-law had just received her Macintosh LCIII. When she hit the power button it chimed, and then spoke words to me. “Welcome to Macintosh”.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. —Steve Jobs 

Like an indigenous person from a faraway nation seeing fire for the first time, I saw the human potential behind technology. The potential to transform the interface between humans and technology. Star Trek imagined it. Apple delivered it to us. The rest of us.

I swore off cell phones as an example of the worst piece of technology ever created by suits in a corporate office. They built devices based on power meetings with sales manager and geek engineers. The only user manual that mattered, was the Annual Report.  Cell phones and their carriers had one goal. Make a profit. Consumer experience be damned. Ring tones were the height of the consumer customization experience —that, only after you figured out the maze of menus that could lead to bipolar disorder.

I am sure a focus group told the cellular carriers all they need to know.

Steve Jobs told the profiteering technology barons to step aside and think different about their customers. None listened.

Then Apple found an open ear with AT&T. Steve asked them if would they consider a different way to use a cell phone. One that put the consumer to the front of the line.  AT&T cautiously, but smartly, stepped aside and allowed Steve and Apple to introduce a whole new business technology paradigm.

An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator… these are NOT three separate devices! And we are calling it iPhone! Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is. —Steve Jobs

Heartwarming photo of Steve Jobs with his wife Laurene Powell

When the iPhone was released, it made no sense to the rank-and-file. But, a small minority of the rest of us, upon seeing the iPhone said simply, “of course, that’s how a cell phone is supposed to work”.  Steve answered questions we never knew how to ask. Yet, when we saw his answer, the questions not only made sense, the answers seemed to be glimpses into our own imagination. How had Steve been able to rightly guess what we would all want so accurately, so many times?

Steve understood human nature. He understood our innate desire for beauty, symmetry and purpose. People don’t buy technology specifications. We buy the opportunity to express ourselves. By getting technology out of our way, Steve brought us to the forefront. He showed us we can be different; that we can change the world. In fact, he gave us the tools that are helping many to do just that.

In the end, Steve Jobs’ lasting legacy is a question. Will we dare to make a ding in the universe?

Heartwarming photo of Steve Jobs with his wife Laurene Powell