Steve Jobs (1955-2011): An Appreciation

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When I think of men in my lifetime who dared to imagine an ideal world and then worked toward that seemingly impossible goal, I think first of the guy who set out this mantra in a gorgeous song, John Lennon. And close behind him, Steve Jobs.

Starting in the mid-1970s, Jobs sought to build personal computers that were uncomplicated and empowered everyday people, first selling his wares door-to-door barefooted. By the end of his tenure at the helm of Apple earlier this year he had built a company as big and profitable as the world’s largest oil companies, but he did so entirely by relentlessly innovating and pushing the impossible into the realm of possible. Moreover, he became a magnet for the best and brightest minds. A few years ago, my niece graduated from Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School. A very bright young woman even among her peers at the highly regarded college, she entered what was already a tight job market able to name her employer. She never wavered with where she wanted to build her career: she chose Apple, and in the ultimate confirmation of her vast potential, Apple chose her.

Jobs also inspired not only the smart, creative and ambitious to come work for his company, he pushed his competitors to bring their “A” game. There’s a long list of those who didn’t in the corporate graveyard. And for regular folk like you and me, he, perhaps more than any other single person, transformed our world by changing and simplifying how we use the power of the computer, how we use a phone and, something dear to our hearts on this site, how we listen to music. Maybe he didn’t invent all the enabling technologies, but his ability to see how technology could be leveraged to make real differences in our everyday lives was staggering.

Of course, the secret to life’s happiness doesn’t lie in material things like slick gadgets. As a practicing Buddhist, Steve Jobs surely understood that. But the impact he’s made worldwide started with a drive and a vision that’s inspiring to all people in every walk of life.

The defining figure of the Digital Age is gone, now. And it feels like December 9, 1980.

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