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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.