By some coincidence, I am in Palo Alto today and a few hours back when I got the news of Steve Jobs’ moving on, the Sun was setting on the Pacific West and there was a huge cloud in the sky that was softly orange; the air was still and not a leaf was stirring. There was a preparation in the air to receive one of the worthiest-born sons, as he returned to her lap.
I felt empty; not sad.
Sadness is not what you want to feel for a soul like Steve. He was so way beyond it; if you have ever downloaded the commencement speech that he delivered at Stanford a few years ago, you knew that he, like the setting Sun of the last afternoon, was letting the Universe know that it was a matter of time. There was this tinge of inevitability even as he said, I am fine. I am now cured. He was simply preparing us. He was, from somewhere deep inside telling us, like everything made of elements, he too must go. But go like what?
After the news sunk in, I stepped out for a walk. For as far as I could see, there were no people. After some distance, I turned into a lonely street. A young woman stepped out of her home and walked towards her car and briefly, made eye-contact. I thought she was going to cry. She simply muttered, ‘it is sad day’ and I nodded. We will never meet again but she had to tell her feelings to a stranger who was united with her in a loss like no other.
Steve Jobs was not about technology
The man was about life and living and love. And, giving. Making people twice, thrice, a hundred times removed, to feel wonderful.
Every day, I meet leaders in positions of importance in organizations of different sizes and shapes. They talk about constraints, they exude entitlement, they tell me how brilliant they are and how screwed up the world is and why they could do so much more, if only….!
I think of Steve Jobs when I hear them. None of them were given away at birth; none suffered the isolation of growing up without an identity in the Valley where Stanford alone was synonymous with intellect. None of these people had to walk to the Hare Krishna temple for a meal. We so easily, so quickly, become entitled.
Steve has left behind two legacies: Apple and the capacity to rise beyond the immediacy of personal pain, mediocrity, disability and constraints of our own making. We blame things around because we are not willing to create the future. In leading Apple, Steve Jobs was showing us all that the innate capacity we have to give away (and in what quantum!) even as sometimes, in some ways, we are all “given away”.
No goodbyes to a man who will live in our hearts for ever.