I am still thinking about the premature death of Steve Jobs. Last night I watched the commencement address he gave to Stanford graduates in 2005. He said that every day he asked himself: “If this were my last day, is this what I would be doing?” This was a real thought for him at the time; because he had just been given what he thought at the time was a free pass from his first cancer diagnosis.
The heart of his message was about figuring out how to love your life. Finding what you love to do and letting it lead you in both the occupations you take on and the personal relationships that fill your life is the soundest advice you can live by. It is the single thing that all deeply accomplished people share, that their legacies and their contributions were driven by what they love.
A precious few of us create the kind of lives Steve Jobs did- the kind of lives that impact millions and reinvent their lives. His thinking and innovation redefined the ways we interact with each other and the world around us. He transformed our relationship to technology through his deep understanding of the interconnectedness of basic truths. His lasting legacy was one in which beauty, simplicity and function intertwined to make life more meaningful for many of us. What he will probably never know is that his vision will continue to transform the world in ways he’d never imagined.
I have always said that in the last moments of life it is only love that matters to us. Until his recent death I had no idea that Steve had a wife and four children. His demands for secrecy in his company were of legend quality. His need for personal privacy so great, that none of us ever witnessed his wife or children watching Steve deliver another amazing new Apple product. Who knew that his wife had launched a natural product company of her own? Steve was seen as many things in the media- I can’t remember a single story that called him a family man.
After his death, I learned that the he had agreed to be interviewed throughout the last two years by a biographer. The biography is due out shortly and is anticipated to become one of the bestselling books of the year. Surprisingly, Steve was willing to relinquish control of the book’s content and direction. The interviews took place during his most recent battle with cancer- a cancer he’d previously thought was gone. When his biographer asked him why he would agree to an author’s questions, he replied, “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t there for them and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
The closer he came to the last weeks of his life, the more devoted he became to spending time with his family. He was not interested in the many offers for recognition, awards and thank you gifts that came to him; he only wanted to get home for dinner. This is the thought that has stayed with me when I think of Steve lately. It is heartening to know that Life comes to the same conclusion for all of us. Whether we are billionaire visionaries or just an average person, at the end of the day we all count our years by whom we love and who truly loved us back.