Let’s get to it.
I don’t think there’s much I can add to or opine upon or opinionate on in regards to Steve Jobs’ (1955-2011) passing. I am not a professional business journalist, nor do I consider myself particularly clever or insightful, particularly when it comes to the serious nature of op-eds, eulogies, or commemorations.
So instead, I write this column tonight from the heart. Hunched over my MacBook Air (the $2K+ price-tag I still bemoan months after purchase), listening to Blood on the Tracks (viva Dylan!) on my (yeah, I know) iPod, I’m not as concerned with what I say or how I say it, but instead am focused on relaying precisely what I’m feeling (no matter how incoherent) on this warm-for-Chicago night/early-morning.
So here I go.
Steve Jobs was, as everyone can and will tell you everywhere and in every way possible over the next few days and weeks and months, a visionary. To be honest, I never paid much attention to his- or Apple’s (or Pixar’s) – story. Sure, I studied the man and his company(ies) in grad school – learned the stats-and-story, memorized the oh-so-applicable-quotes (“I want to put a ding in the universe” being a particular favourite) and, of course, read into his life and achievements the very validation of my choices, approaches, and life-course.
Unlike many within my socio-economic class, however, I never considered Jobs a contemporary – yes, we’re both wildly ambitious and far-reaching businesspeople many deemed, at one time or another, “crazy” (literally 2 months and 9 days ago, someone sent me this, with the note: “reminds me of you”) – but I never thought him a distant “mentor.” I was never foolhardy enough to think this man’s (for whom an early passion for calligraphy revolutionised our latptop font options) life’s works and loves and accomplishments authenticated my own. Instead, this farm-girl from Wisconsin admired Jobs, used his product(s) – impotently complaining about price in the process – and listened passively to my business partner’s (and best friend’s) analysis that “you’re Jobs – the barking carnivaler who can sell anything – and I’m Woz, the dude you put in charge of doing the actual work” without much intrigue or interest.
Why, then, given my personal indifference toward Jobs “The Man,” do I find myself tonight hunched over my over-used keyboard on my over-priced MacBook Air, crying – indeed, nearly inconsolable – about his death?
I don’t know if I can honestly answer that question. But I can, and will, certainly try.
Tonight, given all we’ve read and seen and heard about Jobs, it’s hard not to feel diminished by his life’s accomplishments. Yes, I literally dream of changing finance and culture and people, but Jobs, you see, he DID it. DID what he set out to DO. Sure, he played the creative genius- spouting the great quotes and “lifeisms” we all imbibe and internalize – but he was so much more. For while he rocked Stanford commencement speeches and inspired-through-quotable-word, Jobs was also simultaneously literally changing our world, dream-by-dream, effort-by-effort, device-by-device. It’s easy to look at an obit and think “of COURSE, that all makes sense,” but Jobs suffered, endured, dreamt, and created much of the tech-world we live in today – meaning, he lived his successes AND failures. How many days did this mere mortal awake to think, “I’m the only one who believes in this. But is my wish enough?” Sure, Jobs’ death serves as an excellent “I haven’t done enough with my life” marking point, but perhaps tonight, I’m overwhelmed with shame at how often I’ve doubted myself – for in his death, I sit in the shadows of Jobs’ beam-of-creative light and marvel at a man for whom “no” was heard far more often than “yes.” And yet he still persevered, chubby-and-cuddly Woz at his side, determined to create, sell, and change.
Ergo, perhaps I cry tonight for the many mornings I have awakened to the thought “I’m not strong enough to do what I want to do.” And acted accordingly.
Or maybe I cry tonight because the death of such an inspirational and beautiful spirit reminds me – and all of us – we will all die. Think about that. No matter what we’re eating, breathing, living, loving, or experiencing at this very moment, we will all – maybe later than sooner – be no more. I don’t know about you, but that scares the living f#ck out of me. Death terrifies me, and when someone so impressive, so quotable, and so incredible at Jobs passes on, it reminds me that my – all of our – time(s) will come. I hope I leave at least a few good memories and loves and accomplishments behind.
Finally, I think I cry tonight because Jobs’ passing reminds me of all those who have passed before, those who have meant so much to each us, regardless of headline or obit or memorial. Even more poignantly, my thoughts go out tonight to my many friends who have, many far more recently than I, lost loved ones. Obviously, I miss my sister tonight; but just as importantly, my heart also aches for my close and loved ones whose hearts hurt tonight remembering and celebrating and mourning the lives of those they’ve lost. I don’t know if I’ve always been the best support system for you all – but, then again, I don’t know who or what could ever ease your pain. Instead, tonight, I merely share your sorrow and pray for better tomorrows.
So, there we go. Is this the greatest thing I will or have ever written? Of course not. But I suppose that for myself, like many I know, it’s important to weigh in and put my stamp upon the passing and memory of such a generational icon, leader, and man. For perhaps we all must celebrate the individual who imagined and sold to us the very technology through which we could effectively voice our own opinions.
No matter how small, insignificant, or unoriginal.
And on that note: RIP Steve Jobs. You will be obviously and universally missed.
Margaret Bogenrief is a partner with ACM Partners, a boutique crisis management and distressed investing firm serving companies and municipalities in financial distress. She can be reached at [email protected]