Thursday 6 October 2011

Steve Jobs (1955-2011): Our Time is Limited

Steve Jobs is dead at the age of 56. Such an announcement always sparks a personal reflection on one's own mortality. Life doesn't last forever and depending on the source of information, I see that the statistical average for my own demise is around age 81. I am going to turn 59 in just two weeks. As a rough estimate, this means I have 22 years to fit it all in, to do what I'm going to do.

Obviously, I can't compare myself to Jobs. I haven't touched one millionth of the people on this planet as Jobs has. I don't have one millionth of his wealth. Okay, maybe I should change that to not having touched one billionth of the people Jobs has.

However isn't it thus for the majority of us? There is only one Steve Jobs; there is only one of a lot of important people. Not all of us are going to rise to international recognition; not all of us are going to end up in a confluence of circumstances which will vault us to the status of gods. Nevertheless, we all will make a mark, even if that mark extends no further than our family, our neighbours and our work colleagues. Not all of us will change "the world", but we all can change "our world". We all can't be a "great person" as in the eyes of the world, but we all can be a "good person" in the eyes of our world.

Various newspapers, in reporting this passing, made reference to the commencement address Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005.

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.

In the past few years, I have begun to appreciate more and more just how limited my time is. *chuckles* Maybe I'm becoming obsessed about it. Being just another cog in the wheel, my ability to affect change is severely limited. Like everyone, I must work to make my living for without that job, the lights would be turned off. And don't we like the lights on? And that flat screen TV? I understand what Jobs means when he says "don't waste [your life] living someone else's life" but all of us are in some way restricted in just how far we can go with that idea. We have to eat; we have families to support; we need to keep the lights on. This means we can't capriciously run off to Tahiti to "find ourselves". We need to work this out while respecting our responsibilities. And hey, sometimes respecting our responsibilities takes our entire lives and we never go to Tahiti. Such is our lot in life.

Interestingly enough, I note another point Jobs made in his Stanford speech.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Death is Life's change agent. At some point, I will die. And that's a good thing. It's an odd statement to make that me dying is a good thing but then again, maybe not. Those who come after me will do, will hopefully do, a better job than I did. And that would most certainly be a good thing.

Final Word
Steve Jobs was a great man. Steve Jobs did great things. As I wrote elsewhere (Perils of Divorced Pauline)

In the grand scheme of things, I know that I am merely a single grain of sand on the beach of life and my contribution to the background cacophony of seven billion voices is just a blip meriting an allusion to the posterior of a rodent: Who gives a rat’s ass?

Nevertheless, like everyone else on the planet, I can strive to be the best I can be. Okay, I'm not the best in the world but I can work to become the best I personally can be. And that is a laudable goal.


Wikipedia: Steve Jobs
Steven Paul "Steve" Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American computer entrepreneur and inventor.

Stanford Report, June 14, 2005
'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says
This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.
[full text and YouTube video]

my blog: The Start of the 4th Quarter
Part of my reflecting on soon to be turning 58, on soon to be entering the 4th quarter of my life, is what probably all of us mere mortals think of when looking back: what have I accomplished? What have I accomplished in my life? Anything worthwhile? Anything which will last? I could reflect on that; I could rationalise; I could dwell on the failures; I could dwell on the successes. However, I was reminded the other day by a man who was 73 that "it ain't over til it's over."

my blog: A hundred years from now it won't matter
[being in my fifties], I realized I could start saying, "It won't matter 50 years from now" or maybe "40 years from now". I'm sure the reader might think this is kind of maudlin or self-pitying but I assure you, I was at the moment this thought first came to me quite amused about it.

my blog: Immortality: simply by doing one great thing
In 2006, Johnnie Walker produced a 60 second television commercial called "Human" which was a science fiction story from the future from the perspective of an android. The story reminds one of Isaac Asimov or the film "I, Robot" by Steven Spielberg based on Asimov's writings.

Uploaded by thepabs06 on Oct 20, 2006
Johnnie Walker Android
I can achieve immortality by not wearing out. You can achieve immortality simply by doing one great thing.


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