May I please have 35 seconds of your time.
Did you catch it?
On Jun 26th, 2011 Steve Jobs gave his last keynote at WWDC. He knew he only had weeks to live. After this event Steve knew he was going to hand over the reigns of the company that he built from a tiny garage, pined for from afar when he was ousted, and creativity ideated his way into a historic rebirth.
At :20 – :38 we see tired man readying himself for a long conversation. The turtleneck he wears is no longer snug, but bags and tumbles over his hands like a child’s hand-me-down. He connects with the audience with smiles and nods. He grunts with satisfaction, showing gratitude and urgency to begin. And he starts calming the audience, readying the wheels for the last great pitch of his career…
At :40 an audience member shouts something. To me, it sounds like “We love you!”, but after a dozen listens it changes each time. Maybe Steve heard the same amorphous audio bumble we do.
When he was at his prime Steve would have had a quick retort, the way a clever comedian would at once acknowledge and shame. But this isn’t a normal day. Steve is winded. He was ready to pitch, but this small personal gesture reminded him of the gravity of this event.
At :47 Steve begins to choke up. His voice wavers. He looks down, inside himself. It takes him ten whole seconds to get back on track.
There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t miss Steve Jobs. Not that I ever came close to knowing him. I just liked that people like him existed, somewhere out there, working themselves endlessly so they could bring an ounce of joy greater than when they came into this world. And instead of spending the final days of his life on a tropical isle, he wanted to be on a stage, in old tennis shoes and jeans, talking to a few friends.
Here he is at the end of that keynote, head bowed, crumpled against his wife because of a rough day.
I’ve never watched this full keynote. I felt the end was coming and couldn’t stomach it. Nor have I read his official biography (for other reasons), or the glossy printed remembrances on checkout shelves. Sure, I bought them. Collected them for when I was ready to let go. They sit in a box waiting to be opened, delicately unearthed like a fresh piece of tech. But it hit me today, heading ever closer towards two years from his passing, that acceptance still feels really far away.
But I got five minutes in today. So, I wanted to share.
Thank you Steve. Not for the pieces of metal, plastics, and silicon, though I make my living building in those. Thank you for the reminder that if you wouldn’t spent your final days doing it, then why spend any day doing it? Do what you love so much that death itself is fearful to interrupt your joyful work.