I had been expecting the news. I wasn't sure if it would be this year or next or maybe even a few more years after that. But when Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO, I knew his time was drawing to a close. I expected that when he passed on, the world would mourn. I expected the outpouring would exceed anything any CEO had every received. In fact, the only thing that really surprised me was just how deeply it affected me.
At first, I was surprised at my own reaction. It took me a day to realize why. While the world mourned the loss of the visionary man who created the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, it was his broader but less celebrated accomplishments that may leave the largest hole. Steve Jobs was the man that single-handedly convinced an entire dysfunctional recording industry to sell its music one song at a time for 99 cents and brought it, kicking and screaming, into the digital age. He convinced a telecommunications industry that epitomized inertia to fundamentally remake the way mobile services were sold, provisioned and consumed. Despite having no background in the film industry, the studio he created, Pixar, quickly achieved the highest average revenue per movie of any studio in history. And, perhaps most amazing of all, he and his family had the best haunted house in the neighborhood each Halloween.
No less noteworthy were the things Steve Jobs did not do. I never saw him on talk shows. As far as I know, he didn't lobby governments for alternative energy programs or third-world intervention. Outside of Apple, he didn't seem to be a regular keynote speaker at industry events. He certainly didn't attempt to write a series of business books.
Upon reflection, the reason that his death has hit me so hard is that the world has lost a man who had everything we're supposed to want—fame, money, influence—but seemed to be only interested in the things so many of us already have: a family and an opportunity to passionately pursue the things he loved.
Many people have said that Steve Jobs' death is the end of an era. I'd like to think that his life marks the beginning of an era. Steve Jobs showed us how a relentless pursuit of excellence, beauty and ideals can transform anything, even things as mundane as circuit boards, business processes and software, into creations that can change the world ... forever. He did things most of us can only dream of, and he did them purely because they were worth being done. I hope you will all join me in ensuring this new era of excellence, beauty and ideals lives up to and exceeds the vision of the man who started it.