Ridge Runners, or So Long and Thanks for All the Dreams, Steve

On October 5, 2011, the world said goodbye to Steve Jobs: a relentless innovator, a charismatic visionary, an unapologetic perfectionist and certainly one of the most important people of the last 100 years. 

Thousands, if not millions, of tributes to Steve Jobs have flooded the media in the last 16 hours. Rightfully so. The Apple main page is a stunning, powerful photo of Steve. I don’t know that I can add more to the conversation, but I’ll give it a try. Why? I’m compelled. Yes, I’m heart-broken.

This picture was shot on an iPhone this morning. More pictures are taken on iPhones than on any other device in the world. Let me say that again: more pictures are taken on an iPhone than on any other device in the world. Let that sink in.

That’s amazing on a million levels.

The iPhone changed my life, in the same way that other Apple products changed my life. I was in a photographic rut, as noted previously, and when I got this crazy little device, I shot pictures for weeks. Tons of them. I drove people insane. Chase Jarvis published a book of his iPhone photos to great acclaim before I got my iPhone, and I knew it was a powerful tool. Admittedly, I was late to the game on the iPhone. Vermont, along with Oregon, had no coverage for AT&T, so I couldn’t even buy one for a long time. When it finally came to Verizon, I waited all of about, I don’t know, an hour? I’m an Apple fanboy from old times. I’ll get to that, later on.

I never met Steve Jobs. I’m not sure I would have wanted to meet him, because I can’t imagine being able to do anything but act like a foolish fanboy. He was famous for not suffering fools lightly, and I’d have been an unforgivable, slobbering fanboy, I’m sure. Nonetheless, he was an inspiration to me, so I probably wouldn’t have pass up the opportunity to simply thank him.

This will have to suffice.

One of my first experiences with computers was a Macintosh II, way back in the mid-’80s; it had me quickly forgetting my Commodore-64. Yeah, I was nerd and a geek. Through the years, I’ve maintained a lifelong relationship with Apple, Inc., not only as a consumer but as a certified Apple tech for a few years, a developer and tester for Apple software and other suitably geeky roles. I’m writing this on a Mac, while listening to music on my iPhone and my photos are hosted, edited, shown on and printed from Apple computers. It’s not that different elsewhere. 

So, what does Steve Jobs passing mean to me? Strangely, a lot, given that I never met him. I write this the day after his death, and I’ve been deeply affected. His drive, his products and his vision have informed much of my life, both professional and personal. In the last 24 hours, dozens of quotations have been attributed to him, all of them inspiring and powerful, but this one phrase from his 2005 Stanford commencement address struck a massive chord with me, given my whine-fest the other day:

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

Think about that. Really hard. Take a moment, and let that sink in.

Now, as Judge Smails says in Caddyshack, “The world needs ditch-diggers,” but that’s dismissive as though people who dig ditches can’t love what they do, of course. That’s nonsense. I know people who LOVE to play in the dirt, dig ditches, hammer nails, cut lettuce and all manner of demeaned “menial labor.”

Life is short. Over the years, that fact has been hammered home to me. Some days are going to be harder than others, less rewarding, more frustrating and downright painful. Ultimately, it’s about attitude. That commencement speech, which you can find here (and I can’t recommend enough that you should watch it; enough so that I’m going to embed it below), is so loaded with amazing quotes, it’s too easy to just keep quoting it. However, I want to close with this one, because it relates very closely to my last post, and it speaks volumes:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Love what you do.

Steve was a devoted fan of The Beatles; so much so that he honored them by naming his company after their label (which got him in trouble for years, but he always said it was worth it). “Love is all you need,” sings John Lennon, and Jobs did what he did with everything: took it to another level. By doing so, he made it possible for shlubs like me to do what I love and love what I do in ways I never envisioned.


I could go on and on, but I’ll close with this.

Thank you, Steve Jobs. Thank you a million times over. Thank you for your vision, your unrelenting drive and your love of what you do, which has made it possible for me, and millions of others, to do what they love easier, better, faster and in ways we never could have imagined.