As the months have unfolded since Steve Jobs death in October 2011, one thing we’ve all become painfully aware of is that our legacies are not really written the day we depart this world, they’re written paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter every day of our lives. The choices we make, the conversations we have, the relationships we invest in (and the ones we don’t), all transcribed only to be published for all to see when we’re finally gone.
Words like… creative, passionate , innovative, visionary, prodigy and many more have been used to describe Jobs and these things were no doubt part of the DNA of the man… but another back story has emerged as well.
At the time of Jobs’ death, biographer Walter Isaacson was discussing with a network news anchor the 2-year interview process that culminated in this 657-page exploration of the man behind Apple. When Isaacson asked Steve Jobs why he wanted him to write the book, one of his compelling reasons was he “wanted his kids to know who he was”.
Yes, he was brilliant. Yes, he was one of the most visionary leaders we will probably see in our life times. But no, he wasn’t around his kids much growing up and the time to make it right was over.
I never met the man but based on the last reported moments of his life, I doubt his final thoughts were of disappointment over not seeing the Apple product road map play out farther. Or of not seeing a new feature set in the next iPad release. I suspect at that very moment, those things were pretty unimportant and paled in significance to the people who were now gathered around him.
As I reflected on his life again this week, a friend, Tim McGarry, came to mind. He was a guy I worked with years ago. Shortly after I left the company we worked at, I heard he had developed inoperable brain cancer. Although chemo had robbed him of his hair, it never robbed him of his perspective. As a dozen or so of us gathered one evening to be an encouragement to Tim, he caught us all off guard with these words…
“I’m the luckiest man in the world”
Our jaws dropped. I’m sure he saw that. But our momentary shock was quickly addressed as he continued… “It’s not that I’m looking forward to the months ahead, but for right now… at this moment, I know what’s important in my life. My priorities are all perfectly aligned. And I want that for all of you here tonight.”
Tim would die less than 6 months later. But he taught us an important lesson. Life is short… maybe shorter than you know. And it makes me think, what will I be thinking about in my last days?
We’ve all benefited from Steve Jobs amazing creativity – but if I were one of his kids, I just might be thinking the price on an iPhone or iPad was much too high. They had all the privileges of success, but I’m guessing there were days they just wanted their dad around.
You and I… we still have choices that can be made. Priorities that can be altered and schedules that can be cleared, if only for a few hours to make that ball game or music recital.
Start writing the legacy you want to leave.