There are times in your life when someone comes along when you realize they had been impacting you for a long time. Enter Steve Jobs.
(Okay, so I know in the 24 hour news cycle, my reflections are a little outdated. But they keep whirling in my head, and I really need that space for more important matters.)
I was in elementary school when I was first touched by Steve's brilliance. Who doesn't have fond memories that black screen with green writing. Oh, the Apple IIGS. You could make cards and banners with print shop (on an equally amazing printer that took forever and made lots of noise...but at the time it was Ah-mazing). We never had a computer ourselves, but I loved using the computer in the homes of my friends who were lucky enough to have such a modern marvel. I learned to type on his machine in 6th grade keyboarding. Nothing like practicing "quid pro quo" over and over again. That iconic piece of machinery was also the spotlight of a robotics documentary from my 7th grade year.
But I never gave a thought to who created it.
Fast forward to my senior year of high school. Fall 1996. MASH bash at my house (a little get together after our performance of M*A*S*H). We watched Toy Story. I wondered "why are we watching a kids show?" But it was funny. And good. Begin the Pixar age, which was being run by Jobs. Now 15 years later, my house is home to many Pixar movies and figurines. Not that the characters were Steve's creation, but the company itself (that Steve owned) revolutionized the animation world. And as the parent of two small children, I am thankful.
It wasn't until 2003 or 2004 while playing trivial pursuit that I was introduced to Steve Jobs the man. The question was about what guy in the computer field wore jeans and a black long sleeved t-shirt. I had no idea, but a few people in the room did (computer lovers mainly). This was also about the time the iPods started becoming popular. And more popular. And newer versions.
We've never been early adopters of Apple products, out of budget reasons more than anything else. But I do love my shuffle and 4th generation Nano (which is considered "old" by now). And right now I'm typing on the MacBook Pro Andrew bought after graduation. And I couldn't understand why he'd want to spend that much money on a computer, but I have to admit...I love it! It is beyond question that Apple puts out great products. We've sort of become numb to the technology. But just imagine showing the iPhone to your 1985 self.
Reflecting on Steve's life an influence, I can't help but be amazed at the amazing job he did at branding. One Apple commercial that I linked on my facebook page is "The Crazy Ones", and it ends with "Be Different." But deeper than that, it was really saying more. Apple's message seems largely to be "Be Different. (Like everyone else, buy an iPod (or iPad or iPhone)". Job's knew that we all want to be part of something bigger, so those who adopt mac products feel we are part of a group. I haven't read this elsewhere, but I also suspect he knew of our narcissistic nature...think of the name of the products. And the fact that the products are (for the most part) intuitive. In our consumer driven culture, it really is all about us. And Jobs tapped into that. It was also by design that most of the products, at least in perception, are "outdated" in a short period of time.
Business leadership teacher Ken Blanchard says: "Profit is the applause you get for taking care of customers and creating a motivating environment for your people." I gave my applause to Steve in his lifetime and with every running workout I am thankful for his innovative spirit.