Revisting Steve Jobs, who changed my life


Recently I ran across my op-ed that I wrote in the Commercial Appeal, back on Oct 16, 2011 (the crunched up newspaper photo, above).  This was a mere week after Steve Jobs’ passing, which was on Oct 5th of that same year.  I was going to simply repost the article (copy and paste), but I could not find a digital copy anywhere, so I was forced to re-type everything that I had written almost seven years ago, word-by-word.  And I’m glad I did.

When I wrote this article, I was genuinely devastated, much as if you had lost a loved one or a close family member.  It was a strange feeling, never having even met the man in the flesh.  Yet this guy impacted my life so much, in almost every way, that it was truly painful.  Because of him, and his ideas, motivations, and his philosophies, he shaped most of my adult life (after I had the common sense to eventually find a purpose).

Those who know me will know that I am incredibly picky.  I think through everything, probably to the point of overthinking.  I walk into one of my venues, and instinctively, I turn the chairs to exactly 45 degrees facing the front and make sure the chairs are matched up because it drives me nuts.  I don’t even notice I do it, but I am, of course, teased about it.

But this is part of the value that Jobs instilled in me.  Nothing less than perfection, as much as possible, is acceptable.  It is paying attention to the details that make all the difference in the world and set you apart from your competition, and the rest of the pack.  For example the fact that even in early Mac apps, they all basically had the same menu (file, edit, view, etc), so that as you learned one app, you could fairly easily pick up another.  This was brilliant, and it was due directly to Steve Jobs’ penchant for demanding perfection.  And those menus still exist to this day.

Further to that point, since his passing, I’ve borne sad witness to many bugs that would have been completely unacceptable when Steve was among the living.  Bugs in the MacOS, in iOS, and hardware issues, as well as stupid moves like slowing down the OS for older phones for the sake of a battery bug (yea, right).

Mind you, none of these issues are earth shattering, and Tim Cook has absolutely done a good job in attempting to fill Steve’s enormous shoes.  But even these very small bugs are an indicator that the man whose grand vision spawned nothing short of a revolution in technology is no longer at the helm.  Its sad.

So as much as it drives those who know me absolutely batty, I can assure you that I will still subscribe to Steve Jobs’ philosophy, and most assuredly you can bet that if someone tells me that I cannot do something or “it’s not possible,” then I am going to go out and do it just to prove that they are wrong.  I will continue to be picky and demanding, because that’s what it takes to be the best.  I won’t settle for second best.  I may not be Steve Jobs, but his spirit definitely lives in me, and drives almost every decision.

So again, even seven years later, thank you Steve for your impact on my life.  I haven’t changed the world quite yet.  But I will.

Read the below original article…. I hope you enjoy it.

(from the Commercial Appeal, Sept 16, 2011)

Steve Jobs saved my life.

Now, I’m sure you say those are some pretty strong words, coming right out of the gate. Especially given that I never knew the guy personally.

But back in the mid-1980s, I was as lost as I could possibly be. I had served in the Air Force, and after my stint, jumping from job to job, mostly in the “hair net and name tag” category.

Back then, Jobs had yet to invent the iPhone, much less personalize the world of technology and music. It was the “dark ages,” and we were excited to just have beepers.
But he did invent the Mac, and shortly before I decided I had had enough of “Do you want fries with that?” and returned to East Texas to go back to school. I managed to procure a Mac Plus, with a 10MB hard disk, and a whopping 1MB of memory.
Of course, I really had no idea what I had. It came in a little black bag that I could lug around, which I thought was cool.

I finally took my Mac out of its bag when I arrived back in East Texas. I plugged it in, turned it on, and along with the “bong,” it smiled at me! From that moment on, I was hooked.

I’ve always been a visual type of person, by my prior classes in computers had been righteously boring, and because my particular school (which shall remain unnamed) seemed to be stuck in the stone age, involved things like punch cards and green screens. And I don’t mean like the green screen you would get when you run-of-the-mill PC crashes.

So needless to say, until I pulled that little tan computer out of its hip little bag, I seriously had no interest in computers at all. But all that changed, literally in an instant.
I became a Mac-phile. An apple “fanboy.” I read every Apple article I could get my hands on, and I grew increasingly skilled at every aspect of the Mac. I saved my hard-earned fast-food pennies and bought a truly amazing invention: An Apple LaserWriter. Forked over five grand for that baby! Was the first in my town to own one. Such a proud moment!

Soon I was supplementing my meager income by typing up school papers for other kids, and it dawned on me pretty quickly that I was relatively good at graphic art, too. That evolved into the creation of ads for local publications, and at the same time, I pursued my “geekdom,” and became certified in Apple technologies by the “mother ship” so I could actually consult.

Soon I bought a copier and was running my own little design, print and copy business right out of my one-bedroom apartment directly across from the college. I would have so much gear running at one time, every light in our building would go dim. It was wonderfully joyous.

This eventually led me to my first “real” position outside of the burger-flipping world: art director and a columnist for the Galveston Daily News, and the caretaker of all the newspaper’s Macs. It was a big move – going from little old Nacogdoches, Texas (fondly called “Nacanowhere”) to the big city of Houston.

There, I took care of the News’ computers and convinced them to go digital prepress, something that very few newspapers were doing at the time. It was very exciting, and I was the textbook Mac Evangelist.

From there, I moved on to various positions in Houston and then Dallas, most of which involved Macintosh and Apple equipment.

I continued to soak up everything Mac, and at the same time had to learn about PCs because they were so prevalent in the corporate world. And that taught me something very important:

Steve Jobs’ genius is what separated the Mac from all of the other PCs. These were elegant machines, superbly engineered and well thought out – adhering to Apple’s famous “Human Interface Guidelines.” The same company that made the hardware also engineered the operating system to rigorous standards. It was brilliant.

Between then and now, I’ve started and run several companies, all of which ran on Macintosh technology. I became interested in technology in the first place, because of the Mac. I have my career because of the Mac, and Mr. Jobs’.

I’ve been in the music business about 10 years (with a heavy technology side) and almost exclusively use Macs for everything from recording and production, to design and virtually every other imaginable task.

I owe it all – my life as I know it – to Steve jobs and his brilliance. He not only allowed me to find my talent, but also give me the inspiration to “think different” and push boundaries, to be foolish and to not let people tell me I could not do something just because it had not been done. I’m sure he has touched countless others in the same manner.

As Steve said, and I’ll never forget:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things…they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Thank you Steve Jobs, for everything.

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