October 6, 2011
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
Learnings, reflections, stories, and eulogies abound at the death of Steve Jobs. It’s no surprise. The guy really made a difference in how the world thinks about communications, beauty, technology, design, personal computers, telephones, music, virtual relationships, entertainment, movies, and more. Sure, he made plenty of mistakes – who doesn’t? And by all accounts, Steve was headstrong, cantankerous, stubborn, a perfectionist, and a highly demanding (and sometimes over-controlling) boss.
But he was also a visionary — a student of mindfulness who worked hard to be true to himself. And at the end of the day, his authenticity drove his passions and creativity – and we all benefitted from that.
I repost excerpts from Nilofer Merchant’s reflection on Jobs’s real legacy: the reminder to design and live our own life. Interesting to think about why we so often forget that very important truth.
What can you do right now to free your inner rebel? Focus your energies on the things that really matter to you? Find the contribution that is yours alone to make? No apologies. No excuses. No jumping through someone else’s hoop. No living someone else’s life.
What are you going to do with your gifts and talents to make a difference? I’m confident you’ll figure that out, and I’ll be cheering you on. I’d like someday to celebrate your impact and legacy of greatness, too.
In our society, thinking for ourselves is not highly valued. Our education model was designed with the 19th century more than the 21st century in mind. It reinforces fitting in and suppresses much of the natural creativity we start with. That’s how we go from drawing and acting and make-believe to PowerPoint. If we allow creativity at all, it is limited to arts and sports. "Real work" has us looking like a Dilbert character. Between the pressures of our teachers, parents, and ultimately co-workers, we often give up any search for personal meaning as we aim to belong to a tribe. After a while, we may not even believe we have something unique to offer. Rather than figure out what we are each about, far too many of us live within the boxes others define.
To live in a box defined by someone else is to deny our uniqueness. Each of us is standing in a spot no one else occupies. That unique perspective is born of our accumulated experience, perspective, and vision. When we deny these things, we deny that which only we can bring to the situation, our onlyness. And that is surely not the way the world is made better.
I’m reminded of the ad copy Steve initiated when he returned to Apple:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. (Apple Inc.)
The problem with being a rebel, a misfit, a troublemaker is that the masses will not be cheering you on. Rosa Parks might be a heroine today, but at the time, she lost her job. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. both had huge dissension within their own communities. It took Jobs years to come up with a turnaround strategy that showed what Apple could do. People forget the years between 1996-2001 where much of the market called him more insane, than insanely great.
But he knew that his journey was to apply what only he could — from his meticulous design methodology, to reimagining computing, to building a different type of company. He realized — and showed us — that our real job is not to conform to what others think. Instead, we need to recognize that our life’s goal is to find our own unique way in the world.
That is the fundamental gift of Steve Jobs. His insane greatness was to find his own journey and to live his life this way. He didn’t worry about being weird; he only wanted to be himself. He was competitive, sure, but mostly against himself.
So I ask you to join me in honoring Steve’s greatness not by trying to be Steve, but by trying to be your greatest self.