As Steve Jobs passed away, what struck me most was what he left behind. He, of course, created the most valuable company in the world and did among the best jobs ever of being a CEO with leadership and vision. But what Steve left behind was far more important — a role model for many a person.
He left behind the possibility that one person can make a huge difference. He left behind the possibility that despite all the problems of the world, be they in resources, jobs, deficits, energy, education, healthcare, or any other, the power of imagination, fuelled by the entrepreneurial energy of one man (or woman) can wipe away all the expert opinions on what is likely to happen, what is and is not possible.
He proved many a pundit and prognosticator wrong through the strength of his convictions and his vision.
He demonstrated beyond doubt that with clarity of vision and passion for that vision and unwillingness to compromise on principles or on the need for excellence, one can achieve far more than what is imaginable.
He imagined what others thought impossible, repeatedly, and then made it come true. George Bernard Shaw once said, “ All progress depends upon the unreasonable man”.
Steve was unreasonableness personified in the pursuit of his vision. To me reasonable people only do reasonable things. Steve was the opposite. He built the Apple empire not by going after the lowest-common-denominator with cheap products but by striving for the best.
Jobs’s unwillingness to compromise on his vision and his demand of nothing less than the best has given us the Apple we know and love today. He created new markets only he could imagine.
He also loved what he did and that is why he did great work. Steve personified imagination applied to technology to make it compelling and human-centric when many thought of technology as a dehumanising machine. As one writer wrote, “To computer technology, known for its arcane complexity, he brought simplicity. To an industry known for its geeky/ugly functionality, he brought beauty.”
He had an enormous impact on modern life and the changes he started will roll through our lives for decades.
But to me and hopefully to others, he will stand as a role model of how much impact is possible by one man.
In his impactful Stanford Commencement speech in 2005, he said, “Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
(Vinod Khosla co-founded Sun Microsystems and several other Silicon Valley companies. He now runs his own firm, Khosla Ventures. Forbes magazine once described him as the “No.1 venture capitalist on the planet”).