Steve Jobs and Death

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Photo: James Merithew/Wired.com

While I was researching Inside Steve’s Brain, I read everything I could lay my hands on about Steve Jobs, including just about every book and magazine article published in the last couple of decades. One of the most striking things was how many times Jobs mentioned death as the driving force in his life.

Over and over Jobs said he was driven to make an impact before his time ran out.

It was such a recurrent theme, I thought of devoting an entire chapter to the subject in the book. Jobs had an obsession with death to rival Emily Dickinson’s.

Even in his twenties, Jobs obsessed about death. He told former Apple CEO John Sculley he was convinced he would live a very short life and urgently needed to have an impact before he died. Sculley thought this was why he was so driven and ambitious, according to Sculley’s autobiography. Of course, Jobs lived much longer than he suspected.

Best known perhaps, are Jobs comments during his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” he said. “Because almost everything all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

It’s comments like this that makes me pessimistic about today’s news that Jobs is stepping aside, even if he claims it is only temporary.

For the last four decades, since Jobs cofounded Apple in his bedroom, he’s worked like a horse — rising early, taking short vacations, avoiding parties and sacrificing holidays to prepare for Macworld.

Work and family — that’s all he does.

I think he’s now focusing on his family.

I hope it’s not the case, but I suspect Jobs will not return to Apple.

Today’s announcement makes me think he’s focusing on “what’s truly important” — his family.

24 responses to “Steve Jobs and Death”

  1. Jared says:

    When I read about the Steve’s absence this morning I had the exact same feeling: Steve is not returning. I’m little bit worried because I got a similar feeling when Ayrton Senna started his car to drive his last F1 race.

    Apple will not be the same without Steve – hope he’ll get well soon.

  2. Kirk says:

    Steve Jobs is either a Buddhist, or is greatly influenced by Buddhist thought. One of the fundamental truths of Buddhism is that life is impermanent. I’m sure that when Steve Jobs talks about death, it’s more in that sense; that he’s aware that this life is short no matter what you do. I would be more inclined to accept that interpretation than some Dickinsonian one.

  3. CB says:

    Unfortunately, Leander, I think you are correct.

    I pray you aren’t.

  4. Brendan says:

    If he doesn’t return, perhaps that is a part of why MWSF was a bit… quiet. A Jobsless keynote is a bit of a storm to weather. The first post-Jobs WWDC is going to need to be special. Apple may feel it needs to knock several balls out of the park on that one (new iphone, nano, mac mini, Snow-Leopard, etc…).

    Just a thought.

  5. Gouldsc says:

    Steve is getting the best health care money can buy, and is tenacious as hell; he’s got the best chances of anyone in similar circumstances. I realize some medical conditions are terminal, but in the absence of knowing his exact situation I think the most reasonable thing do is to take him at his word that he’ll be back in June. In the meantime he’s going to be getting some much deserved downtime with his friends/family.

    Hoping you get well soon Steve.

  6. James Pence says:

    Steve Jobs you are in our thoughts and prayers.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

  7. charli says:

    “For the last four decades, since Jobs cofounded Apple in his bedroom, he’s worked like a horse — rising early, taking short vacations, avoiding parties and sacrificing holidays to prepare for Macworld.”

    so basically the guy is taking a break so he can get healthy because after surviving cancer and having half his GI tract removed in the process he was driven to not let himself recover.

    certainly all this talk about how he’s dying every 5 seconds hasn’t helped. if anything he was probably driven to keep showing up at work because if he missed a day, the rumors would start up that he’s dead or dying. so he had to show just to keep the rumors at bay.

    but now that the rumors have taken a life of their own, it doesn’t matter what he does. he could stand up in front of the world with a clean bill of health from every major hospital and doctor on the planet but the second he farts, he’s dying, something’s wrong etc.

    and I’m sorry but at this point, Steve is not fool enough to lie. if he’s retiring, he’d say so. he would not claim that he will be/might be back ever. If he says he’ll be returning it’s because he has no cause to believe otherwise. No retirement, no ‘you only have six months to live’ proclamations etc.

    and lets keep something in mind. he could be dead tomorrow. any of us could be. nothing to do with cancer or any of that. Bus, person. boom. dead. it can be as unexpected as that.

    or he could take this very well deserved break, come back in June with WWDC and live another 30 years just to spite the rumor-mongers.

  8. Hugh Hue Carroll says:

    Leander helpfully remembers for all of us who love this Apple guy (so much more than the “salesman” he’s dismissed as) that the Great J always knew that his time with us would not be long. The internal pressure… thinking that Their Time is even less, is common in visionaries: it helps ensure they get done at least most if not all of what they came to do.

    I am quite convinced that Steve Jobs is an ET (one of many) who volunteered to come and help us all advance.

    It is touching to see here – and other regions of cyberspace (essentially an aspect of the Superconciousness of humanity) – many prayers ~ rest assured they are helpful… if not, perhaps, to override this great soul’s prior freewill choice or (if you prefer) the Will of God, then they can (because thoughts are “things” and are recorded) be presented in due course to the spirit of Jobs, not unlike earthly ‘birthday best wishes’.

    For those (there are always some) who will take umbrage at these decent folks who pray and invoke The Creator (though maybe not going so far as to WANT the death of Steve Jobs and actually looking forward to celebrating that inevitability, for such as they exist) it might be helpful to include another resource, an excellent one compiled by a Muslim scholar (remembering that Islam is the one major world religion that HAD done most to advance Science):
    http://www.darwinismrefuted.co

    As to the great philosophy of Buddhism, much error and many additions not the utterance of Gautama have crept in over so many centuries.

    LIFE IS ETERNAL.

    WHATEVER HAPPENS… Steve Jobs will never die. He never could. He never will.

    (And neither will YOU, whoever you are, wherever you be, whatever you believe)

  9. FireDune says:

    >Steve Jobs is either a Buddhist, or is greatly influenced by Buddhist thought. One of the fundamental truths of Buddhism is that life is impermanent. I’m sure that when Steve Jobs talks about death, it’s more in that sense; that he’s aware that this life is short no matter what you do. I would be more inclined to accept that interpretation than some Dickinsonian one.

    Steve Jobs is a Zen practitioner… and have been that for years.
    Is very ovious that is part of the Apple way to be.
    Keep it Simple. (iMac: No floppy, MacBook: no firewire, MacBook Air: almost no ports). All is part of the minimalistic Zen way.
    You can also see it in the Apple Store.

    And one last thing: he always use a black turtleneck that make he looks like a Zen monk.

  10. FireDune says:

    >Steve Jobs is either a Buddhist, or is greatly influenced by Buddhist thought. One of the fundamental truths of Buddhism is that life is impermanent. I’m sure that when Steve Jobs talks about death, it’s more in that sense; that he’s aware that this life is short no matter what you do. I would be more inclined to accept that interpretation than some Dickinsonian one.

    Steve Jobs is a Zen practitioner… and have been that for years.
    Is very ovious that is part of the Apple way to be.
    Keep it Simple. (iMac: No floppy, MacBook: no firewire, MacBook Air: almost no ports). All is part of the minimalistic Zen way.
    You can also see it in the Apple Store.

    And one last thing: he always use a black turtleneck that make he looks like a Zen monk.

  11. Zubair Ahmed says:

    Don’t see how many moments are there in life, But see how much life is there in every moment!

    Wish you good health Steve!

    Ahmed
    classifieds

  12. Oij says:

    http://networkedblogs.com/m8y9… Interesting perspective on his dying. 

  13. CarD says:

    Steve will never be forgotten that’s for sure.  Those of you who wished him good health, I commend you. 

    Check out http://www.pixt.com/remembersteve for a great tribute wall dedicated to the man himself.  I have nothing to do with the wall itself, it’s just a great site.  You can even upload your own tribute if you want.

    R.I.P. Steve Jobs!