In Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement address, he argued that in work, as in all aspects of life, “you’ve got to find what you love”. He went on to explain that he found what he loved early in life when he started Apple. His passion for what he does has been evident ever since.
In the past, each time he took a medical leave of absence, Jobs returned to do the work that he loved as soon as his health allowed. Far from limiting his potential, if anything the experience seemed to drive him on to even more remarkable achievements. The iPhone and iPad were both launched after his cancer diagnosis.
Once, in an e-mail to a customer who had recently experienced a bereavement, Jobs remarked that “life is fragile”. Cancer patients and survivors are painfully aware of this fact, while others are sometimes blissfully unaware of it. When your awareness is raised to the fragility of your own life, you tend to value it more, and perhaps make more of it as a consequence. That is surely what Steve Jobs has done. Just months after treatment, he’s been back doing his Stevenotes, announcing Apple’s latest magical invention. As I’ve argued in a previous post, he is a remarkable role model for all cancer survivors as a result.
Jobs’ example illustrates how, when we encounter profound adversity like cancer, we should get back to doing what we love as soon as we can. And with the insight that life is fragile, we should apply ourselves even more as a consequence, to truly make the most of our lives.
This week, Jobs wrote that he could “no longer meet [his] duties and expectations as CEO”. Given his evident passion for his work, he would have explored every avenue and option before reluctantly making this determination. That is why this is such a profoundly sad moment.
I don’t doubt that in his role as chairman, Jobs will continue to do as much as he can of the work that he loves. And his example will continue to inspire cancer patients and survivors everywhere, as it did for me, when I was in hospital, undergoing chemotherapy. Steve Jobs’ post-cancer accomplishments gave me hope at a time in my life when things seemed pretty bleak.
In this way, Steve Jobs is not just a leader for Apple, but for all of us. Let’s hope he carries on providing that leadership for many years to come.