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The Tao of Steve

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There I was, watching the Phillies-Cardinals game with Mike Montero at a pub near my apartment, feigning interest, all the time checking the Twitter feed, when I saw an alert from WSJ: Steve Jobs is dead. I will remember that very minute – bottom of the fifth, Game four. Suddenly, everything went out of focus. I could hear the blood pounding my head; tears welled up in my eyes.

It is perhaps the only time that I didn’t care for the news; I didn’t want to write that story. Why doesn’t the world realize that my Elvis is dead! I don’t care about news. I don’t care about a world that is a lot less exciting than it was when Steve was around. I don’t care what our readers might want to know. Can’t you see that my soul is being put through a meat grinder.

Every generation has its heroes. I was too provincial to love the Beatles and cry over John Lennon. I was too Indian to care much about Elvis. And I read about President Kennedy in books. But for me, Steve Jobs was all of those people. I don’t know why, how and where that happened but Jobs was my icon.

For many of us who live and die for technology and the change it represents, he was an example of what was possible, no matter how the chips were stacked against you. Jobs put life and soul into inanimate objects. Everyone saw steel, silicon and software; he saw an opportunity to paint his Mona Lisa. People saw a phone; Steve saw a transporter of love. People saw a tablet; he saw smiles and wide-eyed amazement. They made computers; he made time machines that brought us all together through a camera, screen and a connection.

Mac, iPod and iPhone — they are like Silicon Valley’s Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker and E.T. — magical, memorable and life-changing. And perhaps that is why I didn’t want to meet him, interview him or even talk to him. I had the opportunity on numerous occasions when I was attending Apple’s events, but I decided not to. To me, just the idea of Steve was powerful enough.

The idea of Steve led me to follow my heart, make tough choices, be brutally honest with myself (and sometimes annoying to people I love) and always remember that in the end, it is all about making your customers happy. There are simple ways to get along with everyone. There are easier ways to get things done. There are compromises. But to me Steve Jobs meant try harder, damn it, your customers (readers) expect better than that. Steve taught me to care about the little things, because in the end, little things matter.

Steve was my secret muse. Trust me –- he is a secret muse to many of us in the valley. Mark Zuckerberg. Jeff Bezos. Dave Morin. Jack Dorsey. We are all part of the tribe called Jobs. There is a whole generation of entrepreneurs who ask themselves this one question –- what will Steve do. Natch. What would have Steve done!

P.S. I wrote about Steve’s resignation as CEO of Apple earlier. It sums up a lot of my feelings – then and today.


48 Responses to “The Tao of Steve”

  1. Deepak Srinivasan

    You said it right and from the heart Om. He was indeed a secret muse to all of us – showing us that there was more and better we could always do. @deepakslore

  2. Mark Billinge

    The less smart phones I have, the less tablets ,the less PCs’ at home, the less social networks I consult, the less TV I watch – the happier I am !

  3. checkthemfools

    Maybe chinese culture metaphors aren’t the best choice here.. what’s that? No big outpour of grief from the floors of Foxconn? Weird. I half expected you to go all “cultural revolution” on us.. also without irony. Disappointing. From the Internet’s outpouring of grief he clearly had a bully pulpit.. what the hell did he do with it at the end of the day?

  4. Roberto Valerio

    Strangely enough today I am thinking about all that less-than-stellar experiences I had with Apple: The Mac Portable (my first and last 7.2 kg “Laptop”), the first Mac OS X 10.0 (no,it did not work as advertised), the first iPhone (great, as long as you did not try to actually call someone).

    But then again about the great moments in my 20 years as an Apple fan: Mac LC (the “Pizzabox”, my entry ticket to the Apple world), The Newton (Everything Palm copied and more) , The App stores (I always loved to collect software like in the old days).

    Someone who met Steve Jobs a couple of times told me his amazement how deeply involved he was in every little detail of Apple products. It could ruin your day as an Apple employee if you spent months in the making and Steve simply didn’t like it. But I guess that was his magic as well. He simply knew it better. Every single future Apple product will be measured by his standards.

  5. For the first few seconds after I had read the news, my world came crashing down on me. Then I looked at my iPhone – the device that conveyed the message and I smiled through the tears… Steve’s legacy has just began and it will never end!

  6. Atul Afre

    3 apples changed the world:
    1. Adam’s Eve ate apple and human race started
    2. Isaac Newton saw falling apple and enhanced the human race
    3. Steve Jobs created apple and took the human race to the next level.

    My hero…RIP

  7. You’ve captured my feelings exactly. Steve Jobs defined what can be done when you don’t settle for mediocrity. Steve was truly an icon and will be greatly missed.

  8. Elizabeth Boylan

    When you wrote that last piece in response to Jobs resignation, the last thing I wanted to believe was that this day would come so soon. Such a mental contrast to yesterday when we went ‘crazy’ after watching the keynote to submit our upgrade for iOS 5. As an artist, I was always hoping for that crazy day when Steve might notice. I think that’s what so many developers are doing, trying to get his attention. He’ll remain a role model for millions of excellence, perfectionism and the core values that I believe Apple will continue to emulate for some time. I wonder if he can see now how loved he was by so many?

  9. Krtk Shnkr

    Om, when I learnt about the news from a text, the first thing that came to my mind was your article that said,”…He wouldn’t be making this decision unless things were pretty dire.” Your words were prescient.