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“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.”
-‑ Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford University, 2005
With the passing of Steve Jobs, I think about how this quote must have made an impression upon students sitting on the lawn at Stanford University. Waiting to receive diplomas, filled with ambition and hope, they grew up in a world shaped by Jobs’ vision. I can say the same for myself, having graduated from Virginia Tech just four years later. Like so many others, I’m glad to be part of the “Steve Jobs Generation.”
The many tributes to Jobs since his death underscore his impact on a global level. For me, the impact was very personal. Through Apple, he influenced my world views of technology, art and, most recently, life. My professional choices too. Jobs had much to teach us about the possibilities of a single career, that you didn’t need to design computer products for a living to appreciate these lessons.
My first memory is that of the Macintosh I used at my school’s computer lab in elementary school. I remember liking the cute boxy design and the easy-to-use graphical interface. It was so different from my home computer, which required command lines. Then came Toy Story, when I was 9. To this day, I am still mesmerized by Pixar’s beautifully rendered CG animation, and even dabbled with the idea of pursuing a career of computer animation while in high school. I didn’t know who Steve Jobs was at the time.
I first heard his name when I was in junior high. That was when I had my first brush with the iPod. Those lucky enough to get one of these neat gadgets enjoyed hypnotizing the rest of the school with its fun click wheel. Before this, none of us never paid attention to technology or gadgets ‑ iPod was a game changer. The iPhone arrived several years later, when I was in college, and the way the world connected was forever changed.
Jobs’ genius extended far beyond tech. My fellow marketing students and I studied his promotional strategies. For a 21st Century tech maverick, he favored traditional approaches to marketing. Other big companies focused on digital media, but Jobs developed creative advertisements for TV, billboards and newspapers. And let’s not forget the famous 1984 Apple ad, which introduced the Apple Macintosh. Steve pushed for that ad to air in the 1984 Super Bowl for a full minute, even though the entire Apple board of directors hated it. It’s regarded as one of the greatest ads of all time. (Among other honors: It won “Best Super Bowl Spot” in the game’s 40-year history in 2007. TV Guide named it “Number One Greatest Commercial of All Time” in 1999.) The lesson learned for our marketing class: Leadership by vision means pushing for what you believe in.
It also means that you can’t succeed without passion. Jobs always conveyed this quality because he devoted his career to two things he loved: technology and art. He transformed our understanding of tech from “a bunch of 1’s and 0’s” to works of simplistic beauty. Jobs oozed creativity, but not at the cost of extraordinary user functionality. That’s because – in an era when too much of tech is created to impress tech people ‑ he always crafted his products with the consumer experience foremost in mind.
This was a man who followed his heart. He understood that time is too short to not do what we love most. When you love what you do, great things will follow.
Tiffany Peng is an account coordinator at W2 Communications.