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October 06, 2011

The Wow and How of Steve Jobs

I regret to inform you that I have never owned an Apple product. And, I'm not proud of that fact.

It's not as if I don't recognize the brilliance of invention that was the spirit of the man who used computing to transform the way we live, but I've always owned a PC (silly me).

I am embarrassed to admit that I've never downloaded from iTunes. I have indeed watched ToyStory which of course was a Pixar-produced animation created after Steve Jobs purchased the Graphics group from Lucas Films Computer Graphics prior to it becoming Pixar as a result of co-producing, financing and distributing by Disney if Wikipedia has its facts right.

Still the news of this man's death made me a little sad. It was a strange sad. Afterall, he is a stranger. It was a mixture of genuine regret that a really smart guy who had revolutionized the way we communicate (with a lot of help from other really smart people) had to die of cancer so young. But, that's not new. In addition, there  was also quite a huge portion of envy at how he managed to do what so many of us have not; he got so many aspects of his life together. Then, add in a heaping dollop of wonder at how some individuals have everything it takes to do what they were sent here to do, and then they just do it, while most of us may just never figure it out.

It's not as if the world isn't peppered with an ever-diminishing cast of  individualists. But, so few of them manage to focus their creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and outright smarts at the right time and place, and then take a leap of faith to create something out of nothing that brings change that dominos throughout the world in a positive way. It takes a lot of incredible variables to come together to do what Steve Jobs did which is not to take away a single thing from his own brilliance as perhaps the biggest variable.

To think that Jobs then translated all of it into a challenging, passion-filled existence that resulted in a lot of money for himself and his family, and more importantly providing challenging employment for about 49,000 knowledge-based workers and countless others in the goal of birthing innovative and exceedingly user-friendly tech gadgets  is, well, breathtaking. Or so I see, when I look at everyone who is using an iPhone, iPod, iPad or a Mac. His entire life can be summed up in two words:  "Wow" and "How?"

The 88-year-old woman who owns the property I live on was given an iPad by one of her techie sons and she loves it. She uses it to do her crosswords. She was able to see a photo of her new great grandaughter born in a different part of BC and she stays up-to-date on world events.

She also has an iPod shuffle that enables her to walk around the house listening to CBC's Anna Maria Tremonti do her ever fascinating interviews or to Stuart McLean on Sunday mornings, the wee headphones snugly fitted into her hard-of-hearing ears.

When I listened to Jobs' 2005 commencement speech that, as we all know, has been plastered on every medium from radio to Twitter, my focus was on his focus on listening to one's inner voice. Every day he said, he'd look in the mirror and ask himself, "If I knew today was going to be my last, would I be happy doing what I'm doing?" THAT my friends is a sobering question. Especially, if you're not so sure or it's an outright No way. He said that if his answer was "No" for too many days in a row, he knew he needed to change things.  How you doing with your own answer to that?

Possibly, it's just the mid-life crisis thing in overdrive but lately I can't even figure out exactly where I want to live, let alone what I want to do for money. When you've had children, at least you might feel (which may or may not be accurate) that you've accomplished something. But, when you haven't had children, it leaves your entire life as the only canvas you have to work with, be responsible for, and face. For better or worse, as you know, all of our choices have led each of us to where we are in the present moment.

Which is why I found the insights Jobs shared in his 2005 Stanford commencement address so timely as I was driving around Vancouver this week, through every neighborhood, all possibilities open, trying to hear my own inner voice about where I might want to live. Towards the end of three days,  instead of asking where in the Lower Mainland, I began to ask whether moving back to Vancouver, at this time, is really even as smart an idea as I have been coveting for some time now.

I'm not sure. I think the answer is still yes. I'm just wondering about the timing. And timing, my friends, truly is everything!