When on a night hike over the weekend I was looking at the stars wondering what the really bright one close to the moon was, and bam! Someone in our group pointed his iPhone up at the sky and within seconds we learned it was the planet Jupiter. Pretty cool! But, as someone who ONLY owns one Apple product and wouldn’t be caught dead camping out for days in order to be the first to get the latest version of iThis or iThat, I struggled to understand why so many people appeared to be so sad because Steve Jobs passed away. Endless celebrity tweets, shrines made up of flowers and bitten apples, iVigils going on across the country…well, I just didn’t quite get it all. Why in the era of Wall Street protests and raging unemployment, are so many people so sad because a billionaire CEO was dead? Most of us did not know the man personally, and publicly he was not known for his philanthropy, did not seem to care about how his products impacted the environment, security concerns, or about the unlivable working conditions of some of the places where his products were assembled (remember the Foxconn suicides?). So, why was this guy elevated to godlike status upon his death? I understood Steve Jobs was a pioneer who gave us great tools that hugely impacted our lives. They enabled us to make money, create social movements, and offered new ways to be entertained and educated. But still, it’s not like he sacrificed his life so I could get an instant astronomy lesson. He died of a disease like a regular mortal and did what he loved to do along the way. So, do I consider him a hero? Turns out the answer is yes.
Just before he passed away, I attended a live event where a panel of leaders in the digital media world offered their opinions on the future of the industry. The moderator’s opening question was whether or not it will still be a three device world – handhelds, tablets and PCs – in five years. I realize he could have just as easily asked “Is Apple going to continue to provide the tools that shape our society in five years?” After Jobs’ death, I read articles about his life and work, old speeches, interviews, etc. While you still won’t see me tweet “iSad- RIP SJ”, stand around with a fake candle or waste a good apple, I do now have a greater appreciation for the man himself and what he accomplished. As a person looking for the next step in my career, I was especially inspired by this quote he gave at the Stanford University graduation ceremonies in 2005. He said, “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” So if a hero is someone that has great vision and passion, carves his own path in life despite many setbacks and provides me with inspiration to do the same, I will give Steve Jobs that honorable title. His shortcomings as a CEO take a back seat to his brave approach to life. He was guided by his own voice and nothing and nobody else. The revolutionary products he created and ton of money he made were just inevitable outcomes of who he was as a human being. His ultimate goal was not to be a celebrity billionaire, but to follow his heart.