The big news of the week was that of Steve Jobs retirement from Apple. His impact went beyond a brilliant technologist or businessman. Beyond painfully beautiful consumer products. He is a cultural icon. As I saw the profound impact his announcement had on so many of the people I knew, I was trying to put my thumb on why. In the end, I concluded it’s just because we know that it is hard to define genius. Like obscenity, most of us just know it when we see it. We saw it in Steve Jobs.
The WSJ gathered the greatest hits of his quotes. So many of them strike me with that powerful feeling of saying something you know to be true, that you feel, that you have been groping around to express but could never put into words. I’ll do another post about various Jobs’ quotes and what they mean to me, but for now I want to talk about this gem from his magnificent ’05 stanford commencement speech:
“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.”
I remember the goosebumps I first got when I came across the speech 6 years ago. I watched/read it at least a dozen times in that first day because it spoke to so much that I was going through and thinking about. When I reread it this week, it synced with another piece of writing that I recently enjoyed. It was from a Paul Bucheit blog post called “I am nothing” Here’s my favorite part:
Until we let go of our mental images of who we are or who we should be, our vision remains clouded by expectation. But when we let go of everything, open ourselves to any truth, and see the world without fear or judgement, then we are finally able to begin the process of peeling off the shell of false identity that prevents our true self from growing and shining in to the world. And it starts with nothing
Bucheit echoes Jobs here.
We’re all, ultimately, naked and nothing. We wear our baggage and it prevents us from living the life that we were meant to. From experiencing the amazing promise we each came into the world with.
This week was great to remind me that I am naked. It’s a choice to wear the baggage that the world can effortlessly clothe us in — dogma, judgment, fear, failure, comparisons, etc. I am naked and I am nothing. And now that I’ve reminded myself of this, what should I do? Where should I go? How should I act? What should I pour myself into? These are the thoughts on my mind. Though my answers change depending on when I do the asking, I’m better for having the right foundation.
Anyway. Thanks, Steve Jobs. Not just for my laptop and phone. But for serving as an inspiration. For showing us what it can be like when we live up to our promise in an area of our life. For reminding us to remember that we are naked and nothing, and that being so allows us to be everything we ever hoped to be.