“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do,” said Steve Jobs to a group of Stanford University graduates during a commencement speech in 2005. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”
Wise words from a great man — who sadly passed away yesterday, aged just 56. I’m actually quite sad about this because, although I obviously didn’t know the man personally, he’s had a profound impact on my life. I’m not the only one, either — this morning various social networks are filling up with tributes to Jobs, his life and the influence that his company Apple’s products have had on their lives. My good buddy AJ Minotti, for example, noted that he’s been podcasting with his brother for four years now — and this is longer than anything else he’s ever committed himself to in his life, whether that’s work, school or relationships. Podcasting defines him, and although podcasting may well have come along in a different form with a different name had Apple not pushed it as a publishing medium, in his mind it’s inextricably associated with Jobs and Apple as a whole.
For me, my exposure to Apple products began with an early stint as a freelance writer for the Official Nintendo Magazine in the UK. I was putting together walkthroughs for Turok 2, Star Wars: Battle for Naboo and Banjo-Tooie. To take screen grabs from these titles, I had to play the game through a video capture card linked to a Mac and take shots from the video feed as I played through. I’m not sure exactly why they used the (then-OS 9 sporting) Macs for their office work, but I guess it was due to the supposedly common knowledge that Mac software was good for creative and design work.
Subsequently, I got myself an iPod with a 20GB hard drive. At the time, I couldn’t imagine ever being able to fill it — but having graduated to it from a 32MB (yes, really) MP3 player it was a revelation to be able to carry that much music around with me in my pocket. I took it everywhere with me, and it lasted a good few years, too. It moved house with me several times, remained an almost permanent attachment to my car stereo and joined me at the gym on many occasions. I came to know and love the music on it and, to this day, that first iPod is one of my favourite pieces of technology I’ve ever owned.
After joining Apple back in 2007, I got my first exposure to the modern OSX Mac, and I was instantly smitten. Here was a system that ran smoothly and efficiently, did what I wanted it to do with minimum fuss and yet still remained powerful enough to let you tweak it as you saw fit. The online community agreed, too, and Macs remain a great platform for independent publishers to release awesome and useful applications, utilities and — to a lesser extent, admittedly — games.
It was the creativity side of things that really grabbed me though. Apple’s iLife suite was excellent, allowing you to do things that many inexperienced users who came through the doors of the store assumed to be difficult, challenging or demanding on their computers. Things like editing and organising photos; editing video; making a DVD; or producing professional sounding music — all of it was within reach of the average user, and all of those applications gave users a firm understanding of the concepts they’d need to be familiar with prior to graduating on to more advanced, professional software.
When my role changed from the in-store “Mac Specialist” salesperson position to the in-store “Creative” personal trainer position, I got to spend all day every day working with these applications, teaching people how to use them, presenting workshops and tutorials on them with genuine enthusiasm — I believed in these products because I’d used them extensively myself — and even training new members of staff on what they needed to know about the computers and their applications. It was, for a very long time, absolutely the best job I ever had, and I felt very much what Steve described when he was addressing those Stanford graduates in 2005. I’m sorry that I had to leave — but, without going into too many details, poor in-store leadership that seemingly rejected many of the core values of the Apple credo meant that I, and several others, saw little choice but to move on to pastures new. In my case, this pretty much marked the “beginning of the end” for me, as from that point I was to only have one more short-term teaching job before a year of unemployment and the collapse of my marriage — along with my life as I knew it, of course. I won’t lie — I regret some of the choices I made back then, but what’s passed is passed, and you can’t change what’s already gone by.
Besides, nowadays things are seemingly back on track, of course. In Apple, terms, I still use my Mac every day for work. While it’s getting on in years a bit and, like a faithful old dog, is a little sickly and decides not to do what it’s told at times — Apple products don’t break, you know, yeah, right — it’s still my weapon of choice for all sorts of things: browsing the web, working on documents, working with photos, making music. While I have my PC for gaming, now, Macs will always be a part of my life, as will my trusty iPhone, which never leaves my side.
In short, Steve Jobs has — at least indirectly — had a profound impact on my life. As an employee, he was an inspirational leader with an obvious vision for where he wanted the company to go, and even for those who aren’t Apple “fanboys” it’s difficult to deny that he was a figure in the tech industry who commanded — demanded — respect. He will be greatly missed by all — whether they knew him personally or not.
Farewell, Mr Jobs — and thank you for the good times.