June 25, 2009, and October 5, 2011. What those two dates have in common is that I’ll remember exactly where I was, forever. 2009 was Michael Jackson.
And 2011 brought Steve.
The song playing in the background couldn’t have been more appropriate: Speed of Sound, by Coldplay.
I was absolutely frozen in place by the lyric “if you never try, then you’ll never know“.
Steve was a brilliant man, but I had a more mixed relationship with him. I was a late adopter to the Apple craze, and resisted probably longer than anyone else.
Almost exactly a year ago, I bought my first Apple product — an iPhone 4, on August 8, 2010. Prior to that, I had never owned another Apple product, nor used any of its software, including iTunes. I found it too unbending to my desires.
In Steve’s world, functions were stripped of excess to their core. In my world, having choice meant better fit, and choice meant more functions. So I resisted.
But as I reflect today on how deeply my iPhone has embedded itself in my life over the last year, I better understand how Steve’s vision has inspired and improved lives of millions.
Simply put, Steve stood for perfection. He wouldn’t release something that hadn’t reached it. My iPhone experience was so dramatically better than any phone I had previously owned that I now have trouble imagining what life was like before it.
Now, as we all collectively ponder Steve’s legacy, I find more understanding of his management style. He was a notoriously difficult leader, with an extremely strong sense of vision, and an unwillingness to settle for anything less than what he imagined possible.
This makes more sense in context of his passing away. Steve had no time for imperfection. He lived every moment as part of his legacy. He lived as a man would when he knew he was running out of time.
We often pay lip service to living like it’s your last day, and think up bucket lists for ourselves in terms of things we might like to experience before we die. But how often do we internalize them?
Steve’s bucket list contained entire markets and categories of things we interact with. And he lived with the fire of someone who knows he’s almost out of time. Yet he did that for years, instead of months.
So he checked off most items in his bucket list, and changed the world over and over again.
Tonight I can only echo the thanks that many others have given to Steve for inspiring us all. “Change we can believe in” matters most when the change actually happens. And change he did.