Steve Jobs is gone.
He's a guy I never knew. I bought computers and gadgets from a company he founded. He wasn't family, a close friend or even an acquaintance.
So why the hell am I so upset?!
I've been trying to figure this out since I heard the news of his death last night. The best that I can logically conclude is that I associate Steve with Apple and of course, Apple with computers and technology - the things that changed my life.
Computers and technology have had a major impact on me, both as a kid growing up and yes, even as an adult.
As a friend of mine wrote on Facebook this morning, "Thanks Steve, for creating things that helped us geeks fit in."
It think that's the crux of it.
My discovery of technology and it's impact on business, life, community - and many other things - put me in a position to take my unique talents and make a life for myself.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke
As adults, even if some of us achieve wealth and can afford the trappings of wealth, we become jaded with these things. The introduction of new technologies from Apple made me feel like a kid a couple of times a year. For the past ten years, Apple and Jobs gave me "toys" that changed my life. Things that amazed even me.
Innovations like the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air are emblematic of the types of things that, as kids, we geeks dreamed of seeing someday. Imagine how much fun it was to see them come into being while we were still alive and even get to share these things with our own kids.
Yes, Jobs was a hyperbolic showman and salesman but for those of us who believed, the things he presented us with were magical at the time - and sometimes still are.
Take Siri, the new artificial intelligence built-in to the iPhone 4S: for those of us who remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey and watching, with amazement, the interactions between HAL 9000 and the crew, this is as close to science-fiction-becoming-reality as we've seen yet.
"It's hard to fly with Eagles when you're surrounded by Turkeys."
Jobs defied mediocrity. I would like to think I could do the same, but I'm discovering that in practice, the realities of life make it difficult. It's a challenge to maneuver yourself into a place in this world where you can take that no-compromise position, that set of values, and instill them in everyone around you to produce something Truly Great that embodies those values.
Recently, when Jobs retired as Apple's CEO, Jean-Louis Gassée wrote a post with the title, "Steve: Who’s Going to Protect Us From Cheap and Mediocre Now?"
There is so much truth in that question. Perhaps too much.
Who is going to innovate? Who is going to be a role model for living a life without compromise? Who, in this world of quarterly earnings, questionable values - financial or otherwise - and diminishing hope is going to take the long view and move us all forward?
I think one of the reasons I find myself upset is because I don't immediately see anyone who can do that. Worse, I don't see that in myself right now - and I'm an optimist, a believer and a hustler. Ask anyone who knows me.
Removing the emotion from all this, yes, I'm sure there are people out there who have these same values, have an even greater impact on the world and are worthy of emulating. Apologies if I haven't found you yet.
I want to.
In the end, this post will simply be a cathartic tool for helping me figure out why I'm so upset. I may never publish it and even if I do, it will get lost in the sea of musings about the death of Steve Jobs.
But it's not simply about the passing of Steve, it's what his passing represents to me and others like me.