It is a strange thing to mourn the death of someone whom you have never met. Having witnessed September 11, 2001 from the streets of New York, I can only imagine that my grief must seem—to Steve Jobs’s friends and family—as tacky and cheap as the grieving of those who were far from New York seemed to me for quite some time after that day. Still, I do mourn the loss of Steve Jobs.
There are people whose work I admire, people who’s thinking I admire and people whose behavior I admire. I am surrounded by them every day: at work, in my personal life and online. I compare my output and actions against theirs each step of the way—perhaps too often. It’s part of my nature to experience life as a competition, albeit a friendly one. The people I admire are my competitors in a daily race. They’re one step ahead. They are my “adjacent possible.” The life and legacy of Steve Jobs by comparison, has left us all in the dust.
My feelings on Steve Jobs go far beyond this kind of competitive admiration. Steve Jobs was my hero. Not because he was wildly rich or influential (I don’t think those things mattered much to him anyway), but because of the kind of creator he was. He was a creator with a vision so consistent, so simple and clear that others around him couldn’t help but see it as well. He was a creator who understood that what we make says everything about what we believe. His successes in life and business were a direct result of these qualities. The artifacts of his work taught me what it was to be a digital craftsman.
The life of Steve Jobs showed me that it’s okay to want to “put a dent in the universe” as long as that ambition is matched by an equal ambition to make life better for everyone. It showed me that clarity isn’t seeing what’s better than what we have today, it’s seeing what should have been all along. When we hear our friends say “my 2-year-old daughter knows how to use my iPhone!” or “My grandmother is 90 and her first computer is an iPad!” we see his proof that technology can make everyone’s life better. He taught computers how to use people.
I find myself in my 29th year of life, working (Finally! Praise Jesus and hallelujah!) as a digital product designer. I get to work on projects that, for better or worse, affect the lives of millions of people in whatever small or large way. I get to invent. I am extremely lucky. So, what do I take into this work from the life and legacy of Steve Jobs? Just this: be brave enough to have a vision, sharp enough to see it clearly, and stubborn enough to make it happen.
I don’t mourn Steve Jobs because I worry about the future of Apple products. The company is in good hands. I mourn the death of Steve Jobs because I get the sense that he didn’t get to see his vision through to the end. It would have been epic. Still, here’s hoping we’re all lucky enough to see our own visions realized as thoroughly as he did his.