Steve Jobs, who would have turned 58 years old today, is very much on my mind. After just finishing Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, I consider myself even more fortunate to have lived during his lifetime and to have reaped the benefits of his accomplishments: he transformed our very ability to communicate through revolutionary innovations in the computer, music, publishing, imaging, and mobile phone industries. This came, in Isaacson’s words, not from being smart:
“Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical…Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds and sense what lay ahead.”
One of the quotes for which Jobs was best known was the admonition to “Think Different.” He lived that way. In Jobs own words:
“Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do…People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”
He certainly showed me what I wanted before I knew I needed it. We used to be PC people until my daughter wanted an iPod. We went into an Apple store and asked about the compatibility of iPods with a PC running Windows XP, which we figured we were going to need to buy to support her iPod. The Apple salesperson said, “why don’t you think about buying an Apple?” I had only vague impressions of Apple’s incompatibility with the PCs that dominated the world, so initially I was skeptical. But after asking a lot of questions and learning about the quantum leaps in Apple’s hardware and software, buying an Apple seemed to make perfect sense.
Thus, in 2004, we bought a Mac G5 Desktop computer with a gorgeous 20-inch cinema display (along with an iPod for my daughter). On the same day we brought it home (after the data was transferred from our old Dell computer), we also purchased a new barbeque grill (charcoal-based, of course – for us, it is the only way to grill). Now we had two projects: assemble the grill, and assemble the new computer. Guess which took less time? The computer, of course. We have been devoted Apple fans ever since. My daughter had one iBook that lasted her through middle and high school; her Macbook is getting her through college. And I love my Macbook Pro (although I’m still learning about all its bells and whistles), which finally replaced that old non-Intel-based G5 that just couldn’t keep up with new software.
Jobs had many virtues and blessings yet fell short in some areas. His anger, always on a short leash, could be a hurtful thing. But part of what made him angry was his frustration with the fact that most people could not see things as clearly as he could, and were more willing to accept compromise instead of moving heaven and earth to achieve what he believed was absolutely necessary. More from Isaacson: “ With a ferocity that could make working with him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world’s most creative company. And he was able to infuse into its DNA the design sensibilities, perfectionism, and imagination that make it likely to be, even decades from now, the company that thrives best at the intersection of artistry and technology.”
I’m no Steve Jobs, but I feel a kind of kinship with him. I am asking people to “think different” about invitations, gifts, memories, and keepsakes. I’m showing people what I believe they need even though they don’t know it yet. I am passionate about preserving memories and bringing all of my artistic capabilities to helping people connect to the feelings of their most joyous life milestones. When people have asked me why I don’t sell my collages unframed, I tell them it is because the frame is an integral part of the design – as Jobs was committed to keeping his products in a “closed” system, I am committed to providing a “fully integrated product” that comes framed and ready to hang. And I love the fact that my handmade works of art can be sold across the country (and around the world, for that matter) thanks to advances in technology – I provide something that is high-touch in a high-tech world. I hope that Jobs would approve.
And I intend to keep pursuing my passion – to share my ideas and my talents with as many people who will listen, and realize that they need what I have to offer. In a very small way, it is something I can do in honor of Jobs’ memory. This illustration provides a “Cliff Notes” version of life lessons you can learn from Steve Jobs – following this path, one can lead a rewarding life.
Perhaps it is fitting that this year’s Academy Awards ceremony is held on Jobs’ birthday. After all, another of the industries he revolutionized was animated film. Happy Birthday, Steve Jobs. I hope you are celebrating, wherever you may be.
Do you feel inspired by Jobs or connected to him in any way? How has he influenced your life? What lessons do you draw from his life and legacy?