I was sitting about as far up as you can sit in the Presidio without a media badge when I watched Steve Jobs' final Apple keynote at the 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference. I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since. I’ve had an in-progress draft of the blog post to end all blog posts since the week after the conference, but I’ve never figured out how to say enough good things about it; how to thoroughly convey in writing the overwhelming excitement and emotion I experienced there, the sheer depth and breadth of knowledge I gained there, and the immense gratitude I felt and still feel for those who helped me get there. Today, something changed. So I’m sitting down with my water bottle at my side, tonight, right now, and writing something much simpler and much shorter.
I got a call this evening from my closest friend, Carter Allen, simply informing me that Steve Jobs had died. Neither of us had anything to say. We both spoke with silence, and with tears, and then agreed to reflect upon it later. The loss of such a profoundly inspiring man is currently deeply affecting the lives of many hundreds of thousands of people, and there’s something comforting about writing this in solidarity with all the other bloggers out there slowly trying to churn their poignant and meaningful but expansive and unorganized thoughts into something coherent and contained; something worth reading.
I could write a novella about how I went to WWDC as a 15-year-old programmer; how Carter forced me to apply for one of the student scholarships in the wee hours of the morning even though I was completely ineligable and had a paper due that day that I hadn’t even started, how I nearly died of elation when I received the email telling me I’d won it, how much my excitement was dampened when I found out that Carter didn’t get one too, but how we both agreed that it wasn’t going to stop me and that Carter would still fly out to San Francisco with us to meet and spend time with everyone there; how I received a call the week before the conference in response to an email I’d sent to thank them, saying it had come to their attention that I was under 18, and thus would not be able to go, and how I spent the entire week in phone calls and emails back and forth with the wonderfully supportive scholarship project manager until we finally received the email from Phil Schiller, past midnight the night before we flew out, saying I could go; how I had the time of my life out in San Francisco, listening and learning and experimenting and experiencing, how I met so many of my developer idols from fantastic companies like Panic and The Iconfactory, caught up and connected with some great programmer friends from my home town of Denver, and got to have dinner with Carter and a different group of amazing people every night; how I simply absorbed the music and the food and the laughter at the WWDC Bash, and how since then, even though I didn’t really consider them to be “my genre” at first, I’ve always loved listening to Michael Franti & Spearhead, having many times been brought to tears by their sounds; how I loved, cherished, and was inspired by each and every event I got to attend at the conference, including of course the opening keynote presentation, the charming and game-show-esque Apple Design Awards and Stump the Experts, the fantastically rich lunch sessions with Pixar, SpaceLab for iOS, and Buzz Aldrin himself, and even just the meticulously thought-out and fantastically informative sessions and labs throughout the week; how I worked personally with so many brilliant Apple engineers on my own code that I’ve stared at by myself for so long, and finally how, on the first day of the conference, as soon as the keynote was over, I plowed my way up through the media section to the front of the Presidio where I had one of the happeist moments of my entire life, not only meeting but being greeted by and briefly conversing with Phil Schiller, the friendly and cheerful Senior Vice President who had personally invited me to the conference, and whose picture with me has been my pride and joy and my token of success for all of the months since it ended. But I won’t. Why should I concern myself so much with making sure I say everything there is to say? Especially when, not to be morose, but now I know that there’s never any chane Steve will read it? I was there, and that’s what counts.
But I do want to say one last thing before I go to bed. Multiple people on Twitter tonight said that the loss of Steve Jobs at Apple is like the loss of Willy Wonka at the Chocolate Factory: the products and the culture won’t go away; he’s simply passing down the baton. But then the question becomes, to whom? The spirit of Apple will live on, no doubt, but there is no one who can ever take the place of Steve. Trying to be or find the next Steve Jobs isn’t what we need to do now, because he’s a unique individual who has come and gone, and who can’t be replaced. However, we can certainly learn from his many insights into life, and the best ways to live it. If there’s one thing to take away from how he lived his own life, it is this: Don’t try to be the next Steve Jobs.
Be the first you.