A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

Whether you saw him as an innovator, an inventor, a brilliant marketer and packager, or a CEO, it’s difficult to deny the fact that during the course of his short life, Steve Jobs profoundly affected our world and our lives.

It hardly seems to matter now that I (still) don’t really want an iPhone (and honestly, who am I kidding? Sooner or later, I’ll probably eat my words). To appreciate the impact that Jobs had on us all, you don’t have to be part of the maniacal tribe of iPeople who bought every edition of every mouth-watering product Apple put up for offering. The mere existence of those folks is proof enough of the man’s unique genius. His ideas spawned generations of rabid devotees, and another that will never know what life was like before people listened to songs on an iPod. Little fingers that haven’t yet mastered holding a pencil can deftly navigate iPads, touch screens, Macbooks, and any other iThing that comes down the pike. It boggles my mind! I once played Angry Birds against a ten-year-old who was attempting it for the first time, and he schooled me like it was nothing. He’d beaten all my best scores before I could figure out how not to expand and decrease the screen size haphazardly in the middle of my turn.

To that point, Jobs also paved a way for young people to make their elders feel stupid pretty much all the time, which is something young people love to do.

Jobs also changed the way we think about all the old media we ingest—books, movies, music, television. His imagination forced entire industries to scramble to keep up with him (and they’re all still trying). He gave us a new aesthetic, one which so many others have attempted to imitate, never to the same effect. Apple became untouchable, and not because they fought unfairly. It’s because they had at their helm a man who thought like no one else had before him. He didn’t just invent gadgets. He invented a lifestyle.

And now that he’s gone, it becomes clear that his own lifestyle is one from which we can all learn. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed Luddite who laments modern communication, whether you dutifully stand in line for a new iPhone every year, whether you dabble or appreciate from afar or you’re an Android person or you simply don’t want an iPhone because everyone is so into their iPhones is besides the point. Jobs lived his life in a terrifyingly brave way. Here’s a quote from Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech, which has been making the rounds online and scares the absolute crap out of me:

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. . . . 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.”

Easy to say, easy to agree – really difficult to follow. He put his money where his mouth was, and his absence should challenge everyone to step up and do the same. We can’t all go out and invent the next wave of the future, but I’d say that advice can apply to all of us, no matter who you are or what it means for you to follow your heart and intuition. It’s probably the least we should all be doing for ourselves, but I doubt many of us truly manage it. It’s incredibly ambitious in its plainness, and the results of living by that philosophy are abundantly clear.

It’s rare to have experienced firsthand the changes a genius can bring upon the world. Most especially now, when change is constant and often for its own sake. For that, we all owe Steve Jobs a debt of gratitude, if not for the technology he made and the brand he built, than for showing us how far our ideas can take us. (At least our good ideas.)


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