Like many, I was sad when I read the headlines announcing Steve Jobs’ death, even though ours is not an “Apple house.” I own 2 old iPods: 1 resides semi-permanently on C’s nightstand, plugged into her speakers, the other sits in a basket awaiting a new charger. Clearly, I am not attached to Apple products.
Even though I don’t type on a Mac or carry an iPhone, I felt a connection to Jobs–through 6 degrees of separation. I grew up in the Bay Area and watched Apple grow up in Cupertino. In college, I did a marketing internship at a retail store that sold “IBM clones.” I was thrilled when the business owner chose to run my ad, an ad that took direct aim at Apple. When I moved out of my parents home to share a house with 3 roommates, all of them worked for Apple. Like I said, 6 really big degrees of separation.
For those of us that were more than 2 degrees of separation, we only knew Steve Jobs through media coverage. And, there was plenty of media coverage both before and after his death. He was a visionary. He was a perfectionist. He was a college drop-out. He was demanding. He was a failure (referring to when he was “kicked out” of Apple.) He was innovative. He was ___________. Fill in the blank, I’m sure you have your own adjective based on what you know, or think you know based on what you’ve read. I certainly did, and I didn’t spend time seeking out Steve Jobs or Apple news.
Truthfully, the media reported on only one Steve Jobs; the man who wore black turtlenecks, blue jeans, and created innovative products. He was Apple’s “come-back-kid” and he played those cards beautifully. From college drop-out-to business owner-to terminated employee-to “turn around” maestro, his was a story that could translate easily to the “big screen.” And, that just touched the surface.
Last week, I stumbled upon A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs – NYTimes.com; the eulogy given by Jobs’ sister at his funeral. I don’t know if she ever intended for her words to go public, but I am glad they did. Like any “celebrity,” Jobs was much more than what was portrayed in the news, or on a company bio-sheet, or through the products he created. He was multi-dimensional. Did he make mistakes? Of course. Haven’t we all? (I’m glad mine don’t play out in the public arena.) However, his sister’s eulogy gives us a rare glimpse into the private side of a very public figure. She talked about her brother’s search for beauty in the world around him, his deep belief in love, his dedication to his family. Simply, he lived with passion.
By all material definitions, Steve Jobs was a success. He clearly had a strong work ethic and enjoyed the fruits of those labors. But, it wasn’t those fruits that defined him or determined his happiness. Perhaps, his greatest personal successes came the areas not covered in college classes or shareholder reports. Beauty. Love. Family. As consumers, we hold a bit of each in our hands every time we shuffle through our iPods, or iPhones, or iPads.
When I finished reading his sister’s eulogy, I thought about my definition of success and what I would want said at my eulogy. I thought about my children and what I have taught them about success. And then, I simply sat for a moment and reflected on her words and his life. “Not bad, for a college drop-out,” I thought, “Not bad for anyone.”
Please, take the time to read her eulogy. Whether you are an Apple fan, own no Apple products, or thought you “knew” who Steve Jobs was, it’s worth it.