American Greatness: Steve Jobs & The American Legacy

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

I’ll admit it: I cried when I heard Steve Jobs died.

No, Steve Jobs is not related to me. Nor did he appear to me some warm, fuzzy humane figure, though he appeared to be a good friend. It’s none of that that moved me.

I cried because I feel greatness died, in its prime and it’s a rare and beautiful thing to behold. The products Steve Jobs created were borne of a spectacular mind and singular ability to make his imagination manifest.

Because his creations were so transcendent, so empowering, so elegant, useful and beautiful, he became rich. It was a result, not a cause. The love came first.

Love always comes first. Well, love and hard work and singular vision.

Think of those who have done well in the marketplace: Henry Ford, Sam Walton, Bill Gates, Jonas Salk. Ultimately, their innovations benefitted people.

Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Sam Walton: “I have always been driven to buck the system, to innovate, to take things beyond where they’ve been.”

Bill Gates: “We are not even close to finishing the basic dream of what the PC can be.”

Jonas Salk: “Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”

Anyway, it’s not wrong to recognize greatness. It’s right to mourn its passing.

America is still a place of amazing ideas and innovation. Right now, someone is toiling away with artificial intelligence (we’re very close to creating nearly “conscious” robots). Right now, someone is toiling away unravelling a cure for cancer. Right now, someone is imagining how to make teleportation possible (hey, an invisibility cloak already exists, don’t laugh).

The thought of all these innovations and a future that I cannot even imagine (who ever imagined an iPod?) gives me hope.

I sit here and type on my Mac i7, listening to music through iTunes (don’t have to buy the whole crappy album!), with my iPhone sitting next to me. My kids are fighting over my iPad. My blogging is made infinitely easier with my whisper-light, purse-carried MacBook Air. I love elegance, beauty and the minds that imagine what I cannot.

I’m sorry to see Steve Jobs passing. He represents all that is good about America. He was adopted. He wasn’t rich. His smarts carried him to college and beyond. His imagination and hard work created a future that no one else could see.

America will produce more innovators. No one will be like Steve Jobs. He said it best:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Only a unique individual vision can innovate like this. Group think and doing what’s been done has never changed the world. America needs more rugged individualists, more people with more unique vision. She has them. Now, to let them have the room to do what they do best.