Six Years On, I Still Get Emotional When I Think About Steve

Steve at the Opening of Apple Fifth Avenue in 2006

Today is the sixth anniversary of Steve’s passing. This year being the tenth anniversary of his greatest creation, the iPhone, makes it particularly emotional. I remember the night Steve passed away more vividly than any other. I’d looked up to Steve since I was just a little guy, more so than anyone else in my life. He’s arguably the most important figure in my life, more inspiring than anyone else will or could ever be. Every decision I’ve ever made is because of Steve, where I am is because I was inspired by Steve and what I do everyday is because I’m consistently reminded of him. Every time I look at my wrist, take out my iPhone, start designing an app on my Mac, or even when I pop my AirPods in to listen to some tunes I think of him.

Steve at the D8 Conference with Legendary Tech Writers and Iconic Duo Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher

The night that Steve died was rough. Less than 24 hours earlier, his colleagues introduced the iPhone 4s without him. Something had felt off, their moods seemed uncharacteristically somber, but it never crossed my mind that they were aware that Steve was on his death bed. I truly never believed he was going to die so soon. I thought he’d continue to change the world and my life. So after returning home from a day of shadowing my cousin at his high school, I felt my iPhone 4 buzz in my pocket. My phone fell to the ground as I read the notification. It was a breaking news alert from the CNN app and it said something along the lines of “Steve Jobs dead at 55.” I went into a state of disbelief, I turned the television on and there it was, a breaking news report saying that my idol had lost a battle I thought he would always win. It really hit me though when I loaded up and saw that iconic black and white photo of him. I have a giant print of it on my wall back home, it has always told me to work harder and do my best. I didn’t know what to do, I was speechless. I checked Twitter and my favorite Apple news sites. My world was rocked. This was an event so shell shocking that those of us who were impacted so deeply by Steve will never forget where we were and what we were doing. I remember reading the statement by Tim and Apple’s board as well as when I wrote a message on the “Remembering Steve” website. I barely slept that night. All I could do was think about Steve and what would happen to Apple. I was never a person who believed Apple would flounder after Steve. I just didn't think it would all change so soon. I was only in 8th grade at the time. Death is always a lot to process. In this case, sure Steve wasn’t a family member. But Steve was my idol and in a way, just as important to me.

Steve’s Final Public Appearance at a Cupertino City Council Meeting Where He Pitched his Vision for Apple Park

The next day I felt two intense feelings, sadness and hope. I didn’t think you could feel these two things simultaneously, but I did. My teacher wrote me an incredibly nice note that I still have to this day. Everyone knew how this event would affect me. The night before, I received tons of texts and calls from friends and family checking in on me. There were of course several people who mocked me for caring about the death of someone I never knew as much as I did. But those people were uninspired and unkind. I remember reading President Obama’s statement, it really resonated with me: “There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.” I remember watching Woz tear up on the news. Most of all, I remember the Today Show that morning before school. I can’t get through it without tearing up myself.

Steve at a Dinner with President Obama and Other Tech Leaders at John Doerr’s Home

Steve taught me more than I could have ever learned in school or in business. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from him though was that if I followed my dreams and never let anyone tell me I couldn’t accomplish my goals, I could change the world. There are a lot of great quotes that Steve left us with, so many words of wisdom. His Stanford commencement speech in 2005 is probably the best speech anyone has ever given.

Steve at the 2005 Stanford Commencement Ceremony

My favorite quote and the one that keeps me going, however, is this:

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

If I can pass on anything I learned from Steve it’s that you should always follow your intuition and your heart. Nothing is more important in life than your passions. Steve said “The only way to do great work is to love what you do” so don’t ever hesitate to do what you love. You might just change the world in the process.

Steve at the 82nd Academy Awards, Probably the Last Time He Wore a Tux

Steve passed away at the age of 55 in California with his family. He’s survived by his four children, his wife Laurene, and his sister Mona Simpson. You can read his sister’s beautifully written obituary for him here at the New York Times.

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