As I’m sure you’ve heard, Steve Jobs passed away last Wednesday, October 5 of cancer. He’s left behind a legacy that will be hard to equal. iPads are handed out at the hospital now with diapers and formula with each new birth; smart phones the world over all use technology that was either created by Mr. Jobs’ Apple or because of it; the animated movie landscape is completely changed since he bought Pixar from George Lucas and started churning out one mega hit after another—all this and we haven’t even mentioned iTunes or a little thing called the Macintosh computer.
My father passed away October 5, 1996 of the same cancer that killed Steve Jobs. He was just 44 years old. His legacy is well, me (me and my brothers anyway.) I’d like to think that I’m as important to the world (not just my corner of it but the entire world) as Steve Jobs’ products were to it—I’m not sure that’s the case though.
As I thought about these two men who died so similarly while living such different lives a few thoughts went through my brain. I’d like to take a few minutes now and write about some of those because I think in some way some of them are at the heart of what I’ve been writing about for 16 or so columns here. As always I’m sure this will be a bit rambling as I work my way through everything spinning around my head. If you stick with me I think we might end up somewhere interesting and worthwhile.
When I received word of Mr. Jobs’ death, I was eating with my family. After I realized that both he and my father had died in the same way, I thought about the differences in their lives and how they both maintained a silent dignity. Through each of their illnesses neither complained (at least as far as I was aware I’m sure each went through the five stages of grief and complained in private). In truth we hadn’t spoken to each other in years, and it was this cancer that brought us back together and pieced together his family that fallen apart several years earlier. While I’m sure he wished there was something else that could have created the bridge, I know he was thrilled we had found a way to connect the chasm. His death continued to echo in his family as my brothers and I now have relationships with his entire family and that most likely wouldn’t have been the case if he had still been alive. For that I’ll always be grateful but I’ll still always despise the cancer that took his life. Yes, yes I know I’m rambling. My original point was both were dignified and lived their lives with the same dignity in which they accepted their death. My father worked every day eeking out a living and supporting his family. He didn’t complain or wish it was another way. He didn’t take vacations and he wasn’t the type of guy to wish he had it better than it was. He owned a home, had a car, two sons, two step daughters that was enough. Mr. Jobs had the entire world at his fingertips, the ability to buy and sell whatever he liked. Yet, from what I understand of him, he was most happy about his family. That is what these two men with two very different lives both shared.
At his heart, Steve Jobs was a creator and he was happiest when he was doing just that: creating his bliss by creating products. From the first line of code he wrote, I assume he was able to find joy inside of it and that joy continued through his recent developments of the iPad and iPhones. My dad worked menial jobs far below his education level. He went to the same college I attended, became a photographer, and began working for some of the local newspapers and taking wedding photos. I think if a few of the dice had rolled in different directions he would have been much happier doing that for a living. Instead he had a family to support and decided chasing his bliss could, and had to, wait. I’m not sure if Jobs found his bliss because he did what he loved or loved what he did because it created his bliss. Whatever the case, it’s obviously the model to follow. My dad toiled earning enough money to support his family. Late in his life he was able to work for a company where I think he found some happiness, ironically working with computers. I think it’s better to chase your bliss now while you still can. I believe if you do that things will work out. I’m not sure I have up to this point but I intend to; I’m taking just the smallest pause so I can look at the weather vane and see which way the wind is blowing. I feel confident that when I make the leap, bliss will lead to all things. Funny how we’re taught that working leads to bliss and a fulfilling life. In reality, I believe doing what you love and surrounding yourself with the ones you love and hopefully love you leads to bliss, internally and externally. Doing that yields a rich life.
When I was just a teenager and had to move away from my dad and go to another state. He told me it was important to understand that time or distance didn’t alter love. It was important to understand that neither of us could change what was happening but someday we would, that being upset, while human, wasn’t going to alter the course we were currently following. Steve Jobs talked about connecting dots, how only through looking backward can you see the dots that were connected and how they changed the course of your life and helped you find your bliss. I think that I can now look back into the very near past and see that two men who never met and had very little in common have connected the dots for me and shown me that now is the time, that the future has arrived and the only thing stopping me from realizing my bliss is me. I won’t find it following the same course. Now is the time to alter my course, reach across the abyss, and find my own happiness. The next time you see me I’ll be smiling.