Thursday, October 6, 2011
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Love What You Do.
I never felt like I knew Steve Jobs. He wasn't family, or even someone whose face I saw often. He wasn't a movie star or recording artist I saw or heard on a daily basis like an old friend.
And yet I did let him into my life, in a greater way than any celebrity.
Every day, I wake up and turn on my iphone before I get out of bed, check the weather on it to see what to tell the kids to wear to school, peruse emails quickly to see if I missed something important in the night. I kick on the ipod to listen to music as I shower and get dressed and fix the kids' breakfasts and pack their lunches. Once they are out the door, the rest of the day I sit with my MacBook attached to my lap.
I have written three entire novels on my mac laptops, and uncounted partial novels, flash fiction and short stories. I have sent tens of thousands of emails. The first laptop I wore all of the letters off the keyboard. Literally, it's now like typing on it blind. You better know where your fingers go, because there's nothing there to guide you. And yet, nearly eight years later, that ibook still runs fine, hums without a care in the world, no viruses, no popups, no sudden freezing. I love that computer more than I should love an inanimate object.
When I sit at Starbucks with a friend who tells me about a new great song that she loves, I can download it right there and listen to it. I can find the carbohydrates in the coffees and pastries with my carb app that allows me to keep my blood sugar even. When I am waiting in the car at the bus stop for my kids, I can play angry birds and scramble and Sudoku. I can read a book on the phone. When I am lost or trying to find a restaurant, my phone will help me get there. When my children were babies - before my youngest was even born - Pixar changed the way we watched movies as a family. It gave us something to watch that my husband and I could love as much as the kids. Toy Story and Finding Nemo shaped our language.
How Steve Jobs has changed our lives cannot be overstated.
In 1980, when our phones were still tethered to the walls and envelopes with stamps were the only way to write friends, he imagined taking the hulking computers out of universities and businesses and putting them in the home, in a package small enough to put on a desk. He visualized every one being connected by that computer, in ways that hardly any one at that time could wrap their heads around.
Steve Jobs did not follow the trends, he set them.
"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
How true is this of writing? If we are constantly running after the trends, we will be missing them. There was not a wizard trend before Rowling. There were few sparkling teen vampires before Meyers.
I don't know a lot about Steve Jobs as a person. I never met him or saw him live. I haven't read a book about him. I only know his products, and his work ethic, and the values he talks about in speeches. I know that his products are dependable. I know he was passionate about what he did, and that love showed in what he made. I know he was occasionally humble, even when he shouldn't have been. I know that, even though he made a lot of money, money didn't drive him. I know that he worked hard and loved what he did, and was grateful every day for being able to live that kind of life. I know that he wanted to make a difference.
I know that his work wasn't always easy. He didn't find immediate success. He didn't stay successful, but he didn't give up. He was compared to other CEOs, his products and company compared to other products and companies, sometimes favorably but often not. People laughed at his vision.
But he kept at it. A lesson for us writers, and parents, and artists, and business people.
"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. 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. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."
The road is not always easy, but I am always so thankful to be on it.