“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” –Steve Jobs
Some folks are frozen in the tracks of their lives, always looking backward to golden days when “things were better.” We even say sometimes, “He/She lives in the past,” but that is a nonsensical proposition. How can anyone live in a state that does not exist? That place is as gone as Pompeii or a ghost town of the California gold rush. Steve Jobs didn’t suffer from the malady of excess nostalgia, though; he accepted and encouraged change even when it brought pain.
In retrospect, he came to realize that even the emotional shock of being fired at the age of 30 from the company he had founded was, in truth, an opportunity to grow in ways that might not have been available if he had remained at Apple. For example, he may not have had the opportunity to start Pixar which created wonderful animated movies like “Toy Story.”
Is there anyone who hasn’t looked back on a painful moment only to come to realize its present value, a value perhaps at first hidden like a pearl in a damp, gray-mottled oyster? We rarely pay homage to that sort of devastating but freeing change but often come to treasure the teaching we take from it. Oh sure, there are some setbacks or losses that spread like messy finger-paint into a mural of misfortune. But many more shocks and setbacks occur to us that could not have been prophesied for the welfare they later bring to us, to our families, and to countless others.
As the epigraph above suggests, Steve Jobs understood that we cannot be faint of heart because we are made with change built right in, and therefore each individual is connected to the opportunity change promises in a deep, intrinsic way. But it was more than that, much more. Steve Jobs was a secular prophet of sorts. He did not merely respond to change, which is itself is a trait we should all emulate.
He went farther than that; Steve Jobs sired many innovations that spawned further changes. Walk into any Apple store and you will know what I mean.
William Least Heat Moon, author of Roads to Quoz (Back Bay Books 2008), observes that if you take a trip and return the same person you were when you started out, then the trip was a waste of time. If life is a path we walk–a trip, think how sad it would be to end that trip the same person we were when we began. As we celebrate the life and achievements of Steve Jobs, let there be no concern that he ended his life’s journey the same man he was when he started out. Let us, too, embrace with curiosity, good humor, and acceptance every opportunity for change, expected or un-, that enters our lives.