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Why has Steve Jobs touched our hearts?

As inspiring as his life was, Steve's battle with cancer and the way he spent his final weeks is equally inspiring.

Steve Jobs Steve Jobs
There has already been such an outpouring of emotion, so many tributes and eulogies to Steve Jobs. Does the world really need another sentimental obituary? What remains to be said? Nothing really. But I had to ask myself: "Why do I feel such sadness at the death of a man I never met? And why do so many of us feel a void in the world with his departure?"

Much has been written about Steve's vision and creative genius and his unparalleled ability to blend design and business model innovation to reinvent the way we read books, listen to music, and surf the Net. In the process he transformed industry after industry leaving the world a better place. Such a life is, indeed, worthy of extraordinary admiration. But all this is about the head. Why has Steve touched our hearts?

OBITUARY: Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

Ravi Venkatesan
Ravi Venkatesan
I wonder if the reason for our sadness, this outpouring of feeling even from competitors like Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt, or companies like Samsung and Nokia isn't because of the WAY Steve lived his life even more than What he accomplished. More than any other person we are aware of, Steve lived life on his own terms completely oblivious of what others thought of him, and not wasting a second on things he didn't think important. This freedom resulted in stunning originality in product and business design. It allowed him to take personal and business risks most of us cannot contemplate. Much of his success can be attributed to this.

Where did this fearlessness come from? In his much circulated 2005 address to Stanford students, he offers an insight. "Death is likely the single best invention of life. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything just falls away in the face of death leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

You are already naked. There is no reason then to not follow your heart… your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." By so thoroughly embracing death, Steve was able to truly live life in unabashed pursuit of his dreams unencumbered by fears and unfazed by failure.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason then to not follow your heart…
As inspiring as his life was, Steve's battle with cancer and the way he spent his final weeks is equally inspiring. He fought cancer as ferociously as he fought his competitors, bought himself five more years than doctors gave him, and when he realised his time was near, he quietly turned over the reins at Apple, said his goodbyes and slipped away without fuss.

The hole we feel in our hearts then is because Steve truly lived his life in a way we wish to emulate. We, too, wish to have the courage to pursue our dreams without fears, to live our lives on our own terms without caring about the approval of others, and to eventually leave the world a better place. The void is because our world is desperately short of leaders who are role models, and we just lost a precious one, who showed us that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive goals in business. The best tribute that we can pay to the man is to live our lives the way he lived his - with hunger, with courage and with tenacity.

The author is an independent director at Infosys