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Steve Jobs: On the Death of a Visionary

| Blog | October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs

“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.” – Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

I recently lost my brother. He was 31 and it was completely unexpected. Every day since his passing has been a test for me; some days I’m fine, other days I can’t stop crying. Yesterday was particularly difficult, but I stayed busy and kept my mind off of thoughts of him. I dreaded going home because it would mean time to sit and think and remember.

As soon as I walked in the door, I flipped on the evening news, and learned that Steve Jobs had passed away. Jobs, who was the inventor of the personal computer, iPod, iPad, and iPhone—which has created industries in iPhone application development, smartphones and whatnot—not to mention his success with Pixar, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 56. He died in his home, surrounded by his family.

I picked up the broadcast in the middle of his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, just as he was describing the day he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and his thoughts on death: “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be. Because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

When I heard these words, I felt a peace unlike anything I could have imagined. I accepted the inevitability of death a long time ago, but my acceptance hadn’t made losing my brother any easier. During his funeral, someone commented that mourning was for the living, but that did little to ease my sadness. Yet these common sense words from a man I have never met was able to accomplish what nothing else could.

But isn’t that indicative of the way Steve Jobs was? He invented the personal computer in his garage, and has always been known as someone who could achieve the impossible. In his statement on Jobs’ death, President Obama puts it well: “Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it. […]Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world. The world has lost a visionary.”

Farewell, Steve. The world truly has lost one of its greatest innovators, and we are all the poorer for it. I would like to close with more of Jobs’ Stanford speech: “[Death] clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your own inner-voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

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