Steve Jobs’ Final Words

In yesterday’s New York Times there was an op-ed written in by author Mona Simpson. Mona is the sister of the late tech guru Steve Jobs. She wrote a beautiful eulogy of him, which you can find in its entirety here. But the ending of it was particularly beautiful. It’s an incredible story. I’m not going to take any kind of stab about what was going on inside of his brain or what he was seeing, but I think it’s a pretty phenomenal story. This is the last little bit of her eulogy. Enjoy.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.

I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.

Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”

“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”

When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.

Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple.

Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.

His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.

This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.

He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place. Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night. He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again. This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.

He seemed to be climbing. But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later. Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were:

Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.

What are your impressions of this? What struck you? What will you take away from it?

Cheers,
Eric

“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”

My wife and I worship at the altar of Apple. Well… I worship. She think it’s pretty cool. Between the two of us, we have a MacBook Pro, a regular MacBook, an iPad 2, 2 iPhone 4’s, and 3 iPods. Sure it’s a bit excessive, but what’s an altar without vestments? So needless to say, I took the news yesterday particularly hard. Steve changed the way the world communicates. He was a leader in a field of leaders. He knew what we wanted before we even could dream of wanting it. Now that he has passed, people put him up there with Thomas Edison. Thomas freaking Edison! It blows my mind the kinds of things he was able to think of and actualize.

But I think what stands out to me is the way he kept his drive through making mistakes. In a commencement speech he gave at Stanford in 2005, he wrote this.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” These are good words to live by. Stay hungry enough that you’re never satisfied with where you are. Stay foolish enough so that you always think the impossible is possible. It’s a good legacy that he leaves behind. As I type this (on my MacBook) I know I’ll sit with this a while longer. But I hope that throughout my life I can stay half as hungry and foolish as Steve was.

Cheers,
Eric

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