Last night, Steve Jobs, the visionary CEO of Apple, passed away at the far too young age of 56 after an extended battle with cancer. I was walking home from a haircut and the news was broke to me that Jobs had passed away. Sure enough, upon returning home, I found that every conceivable source I consulted was running coverage of the devastating news.
The internet was ablaze with the news. Visionary. Creative Genius. Inspiring Mentor. Marketer of our Generation. These were just a few of the descriptors that were bestowed upon his legacy. To me, Steve Jobs was the ultimate success story…but not for reasons you might think. Sure, he was a creative genius armed with an infamous temper and meticulous eye for even the slightest of details. Steve Jobs succeeded because he failed. He succeeded because he failed and persevered through seemingly insurmountable odds. He succeeded where others would have turned their hand in and folded.
Jobs entered this world in January of 1955.
Soon thereafter he was put up for adoption by his biological mother who was a young, graduate student at the time. Her one request: that her son be adopted by college graduates. Jobs was adopted by parents without college degrees, his father without a high school degree.
Jobs enrolled at Reed College in the fall of 1972…
Only to leave after one semester. He didn’t leave college for lack of motivation. He left to preserve his parents’ dwindling savings.
Jobs un-enrolled from Reed College in 1972 but he hung around.
He stayed another 18 months dropping in on classes that interested him. Through this transient life, Jobs was able to sit-in on a calligraphy class, where his passion for typefaces emerged…that would later re-emerge in the Macintosh computer in 1984.
Jobs co-founded Apple with Steve Wozniak in his parent’s garage in early 1976.
Less than 10 years later Jobs was out at Apple and looking to hit the refresh button. Between getting fired in 1985 and returning to Apple in 1997, Jobs founded two companies, NeXT and Pixar. Pixar created the world’s first animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. After returning to Apple in ’97, Apple bought NeXT, which was at the core of Apple’s renaissance.
Jobs re-joined Apple in 1997.
He guided the company out of a period of anonymity by reshaping the consumer electronics industry with iTunes and later the iPod. By 2004, knowledge of Job’s battle with cancer became common knowledge.
Jobs was told he had 3-6 months to live in 2004.
He was told that the cancerous tumor on his pancreas was inoperable. The doctors instructed Jobs to go home and “get your affairs in order,” which to Jobs was code for “prepare to die.” A biopsy was taken later that evening, which revealed that Jobs’ cancer was rare but operable….he would persevere through his gravest challenge to date.
Jobs was never afraid of death.
As keynote speaker for Stanford’s Commencement in 2005, he told the recent graduates, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know how to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Jobs found what he loved and followed his passion through successes and failures, through health scares and challenges in the office. I’ll remember Jobs not for his prescient thinking or innovative mind. I’ll remember Jobs for succeeding when no one would have blamed him for being a failure. Jobs wasn’t gift wrapped anything in life…quite the contrary, he was presented with every burden, hurdle and obstacle one could ask for.