Farewell, Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Steve Jobs, the visionary behind some of the world’s best loved technology, has passed away at the age of 56.

One of the most important and influential figures of our time, the name of which could be found in the credits of all Pixar movies, left us peacefully, surrounded by his family members, early today (Malaysian time).

Thank you Mr. Jobs, thank you for everything we have today – personal laptops, mp3 players, touchscreen smartphones, all-in-one desktops, legal music downloads, etc, the list goes on! There is no area of technology that Steve Jobs’ work has not directly influenced and profoundly transformed. He built products that transcended technology and dealt in meaning and wonder rather than hardware and software.

Jobs, along with his engineer friend Steve Wozniak, was the man behind the first popular, low-cost computer. Jobs created the concept of an all-in-one computer in the Macintosh, which lives on today in the iMac, and hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets. In 1997 Jobs returned to Apple, and in 2001 he launched the iPod — a device that drove the revolution of the antiquated, analog music industry into the digital beast that it is today. This paved the way for the iPhone and then the iPad, two products that forever changed the course of consumer technology.

In his own words (something he wrote recently):

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

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. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, putatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancrefine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

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 is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

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 others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Steve Jobs will be sorely missed by his family, his friends, his comrades in Cupertino, and of course all of us.

Rest in peace, and farewell, Steve Jobs.