I remember thinking when Steve Jobs passed away that I would write something meaningful on my blog about his life and premature passing. Time got away from me, but I knew I wanted to read the biography/autobiography Walter Isaacson penned with a ton of input from Steve and the people around him. Isaacson captured so many thought-provoking moments in this book I can’t help but recognize a few.
I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment. I promise this won’t be too much of an Apple commercial. There’s a bit of real life woven in here as well.
As an Apple advocate, I enjoyed hearing how Steve grew and created all the wonderful toys that are so valuable to me on a daily basis. While it’s easy to say that Steve Jobs (and Apple) changed our life from a technology standpoint, I think when you step back and consider the list of products he presided over or invented it’s a bit awe-inspiring:
The Apple and Apple II
Toy Story and all that came from Pixar
The App Store
A pretty amazing list. Isaacson also painted a clear picture of Steve’s personal life, not a pretty one. Steve Jobs was a pretty horrible father (self-admitted). As his health waned, he had this to say about why he chose Isaacson to write this book:
“I wanted my kids to know me” he said. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
I think it’s interesting that Steve realized he wasn’t a great parent to his children, that he somehow lacked some of the fundamental skills to do it well. Saying that you could have been a better parent doesn’t make it okay. I spend a great deal of time away from my family, and that makes it tough to be a great father. While I’m thrilled that Steve Jobs has changed the way I work and play, I couldn’t sacrifice my family to do so.
My daughter asked me to help fix a doll that she had broken. It was part of a set of dolls that cost me less than $5, but she said, “Maybe you could fix it with the tools in your office.” While that mostly consisted of scissors, crazy glue and a small screwdriver, I could see it was important to her. My wife even commented on why I was bothering to fix a 2 dollar toy.
When I emerged from my office a half-hour later, crazy glue dried, I handed the doll (fixed) back to my daughter. “Thanks, Daddy. You’re the best!” was the reply, and it was all worth it.
As a side note, I think it’s important to point out that while writing this post my daughter hung out in my office, hanging a paper tie around my neck she made for Father’s Day 3 years ago and dumping 3/4 of a box of Cheez-Its into my backpack. All I could do was laugh!
Isaacson closes the book with a few quotes from Steve about his belief in God, and they left me with a smile on my face:
“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing God” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.”
“I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.”
He fell silent for a very long time. “But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch, he said. “Click! And you’re gone.”
Then he paused again and smiled slightly. “Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”
The end of the book would seem to be a good place to end the discussion. It is, after all, the end.
But, my favorite part of the book is when Steve recalls his twentieth wedding anniversary and shares a note he wrote to his wife for the occasion:
“We didn’t know much about each other twenty years ago. We were guided by our intuition; you swept me off my feet…..Years passed, kids came, good times, hard times, but never bad times. Our love and respect has endured and grown. We’ve been through so much together and here we are right back where we started 20 years ago-older, wiser-with wrinkles on our faces and hearts. We now know many of life’s joys, sufferings, secrets and wonders and we’re still here together.
My feet have never returned to the ground.”
I was immediately struck by how close this hit home for me. As I come up on my ten-year anniversary of being married to Michelle, I can’t help but think I’ll have to spend the next ten years on my A-game to find a better way to describe what my time with her has meant. I marvel on a daily basis at how she manages to the unmanageable and still has a smile on her face. I didn’t set out into adulthood to start a family, especially based on the abrupt and painful end to my parents’ marriage. And yet, here I am.
In the end, it wasn’t something metal and shiny that I most value from Steve Jobs. It was an appreciation for those intangibles that life manages to weave into our history like an off-color thread in a quilt that becomes an irreplaceable part of a masterpiece.
Things have a way of finding you in life as opposed to the other way around. I’ve been lucky enough to have been found by a great woman and two great kids that will hopefully spend a long time exploring the world with me.
I hope to see many of you along the way.
P.S. Michelle, my feet still haven’t touched the ground.