The world gives us so few who provide a way for us all to see in new ways. It always hurts when they leave. The effused sadness that has spread through the internet from the news of Steve Jobs’ death is to be expected. We lament when things are taken from us, and I’d say that Jobs’ death (like Henson’s, like Disney’s) took a valuable lens onto the world from all of us still here. His way of seeing gave us a desirable path forward, and offered a way to live better with all of this technology. It was a way built on empathy and laced with magic. Technology and design have the potential to be life-enhancing, and I have never felt that more acutely than when using the things Steve helped make. Jobs liked to say computers were a bicycle for the mind, and with that understanding came something that was always left unsaid: a bicycle can be used for a commute, but it should also be used to joyride.
Today seems to be a suitable day for us all to step back and assess the influence and legacy of the work that we do. Jobs always said he wanted to put a ding in the universe. We don’t have to be quite so ambitious in scale, but it does seem prudent to consider the effect of our work in this larger concept of time. How will our efforts affect people now, and how will the way they change people extend into the future? The sadness you have (if you feel it) is not from a come-back story ending, or the changing of guard at a company, or from a connection to a device you carry with you daily. That sadness is for the loss of a man who unabashedly devoted his life to making things that helped others live well.
We all have that same opportunity. Take a moment to consider your job. Boil it down to its essence: you make things for other people. The most important concept to learn from Jobs is embedded in how we feel after using one of his products. That very same thing is happening now in his wake. Look closely and you will see it: wonderful experiences have an afterglow to them. The delight we find in what we do is in some way lost in the moment, but captured in our memories.