Before going to bed last night for a terrible night’s sleep due to the onset of man-flu, I posted the following comment on Facebook:
“I think the Steve Jobs eulogies are getting a little over the top… he had great ideas for shiny new things for people with money, headed a company with ethically questionable manufacturing practices, and had some great speech writers.”
You can probably guess the reaction & comments it provoked from some of my friends. And there’s probably a fair few more who didn’t make a comment, but certainly sent some dastardly thoughts my way.
And the majority of them really are my friends. Indeed if they didn’t have ideas, viewpoints, opinions that conflicted with mine from time to time we probably wouldn’t be friends. Who really wants to be surrounded by “yes men”, whether in business or personal life? I certainly don’t.
But back to Mr Jobs… I’d like to ask a question: If he hadn’t existed, would our lives really be that different? Sure, some of the toys we have wouldn’t be as “sexy”, or “shiny”, and maybe more than a few of them we’d still be waiting a few more years for their emergence. But would any of us really be living a lesser existence than we are now?
And don’t get me wrong, I’m happy Steve Jobs was around. I too have a weakness for shiny new things from time to time, it’s probably an inherent human weakness. We’ve all seen those documentaries with the monkeys playing with something shiny they’ve found on the ground, in some areas evolution hasn’t brought us that far along. And I’m sure his family and friends are extremely happy to have been able to share his 56 years of life on this earth with him, and he with them. But some balance folks, that’s the point I’m raising here.
My thoughts also went to the many other people of note who have died in 2011. There are some truly great people in that list, some who really have “changed the world” for the better. But most of them didn’t make headlines, nor arouse as many online eulogies as Steve Jobs, if any. And I’m as guilty of this ignorance as anyone else. Life is a distraction most of the time. Work, friends, family, health, fun… survival. These are the priorities of most of us for most of the time, and understandably so. Our immediate environment is what takes up most of our attention, it’s a human weakness so hardly something I could hold against anyone personally. Though when you start to uncover studies that indicate that the majority of Americans (are we the same in Australia nowadays?) get on average 6 minutes of international news coverage in an hourly new bulletin, you do begin to wonder where we’re headed. Here perhaps?
And the [expected] reactions my comment provoked also brought with them a sense of irony when you consider one of the well known quotes that has been attributed to Steve Jobs, one that has been posted more than a few times over the past 36 hours or so on Facebook:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
The first irony? The above quote was written by [I presume] copywriters Rob Siltanen and Ken Segall for the Apple “Think different” campaign from the late 90s (source). So yes, Jobs had some great script writers working for him.
But to the quote itself, which is certainly an extremely quotable quote, a great piece of advertising copywriting:
“misfit”… “troublemaker”… “not fond of rules”… “no respect for the status quo”…
Now I certainly am no “genius” by any stretch of the imagination, nor have I done anything of note that could possibly “change the world”. I have tried, but in most instances I’ve failed miserably. Well, perhaps “miserably” is a little harsh, however I certainly don’t think I’ve created any major positive impact that has had a lasting effect.
However, I have tried. And I will try a few more times in the future. And I may fail a few more times in the future. Or I may fail every time in the future. Should I stop trying because I’ll most likely fail? I would hope the answer from most who read this is “Of course not”. I may disagree with my friends from time to time, but I would certainly never accuse them of a lack of intelligence or thought.
I’ve also learnt a lot from my many failings. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. Hopefully some of this knowledge will hold me in good stead in the future when I once again try to do something positive for someone. But the one thing I’ve definitely learned is to constantly question the status quo, the prevailing opinion, no matter how unpopular.
Will I be right all the time? Of course not, no one ever is, and anyone who thinks they are is deluding themselves. But hopefully I get some things right, and hopefully now and then provoke enough thought in someone somewhere that perhaps they go on to achieve something great, something that “changes the world”. I certainly have a few friends who are capable of doing so.
And I may be wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time), but I think Mr Jobs would probably respect my viewpoint, even if he disagreed with it.
R.I.P. Steve Jobs, my thoughts go out to his family and friends.