My father passed in July 2011, and it was a time of great reflection for my family and me. Hearing of Steve Jobs‘ passing affected me intensely and has also spurred deep reflection—though of course different than that for a parent, but deeper than you might imagine for a person I have never met and only admired from afar. Like so many others who are writing their Steve Jobs stories, I feel compelled to share mine.
I know I’m not the first or last to write about Steve’s passing, but that’s not important. I had a similar experience with my father—I couldn’t stop thinking about his passing and what his influence had been on me and my family, but I needed to process it a bit before I could formalize my thoughts. Some of my reflections are personal, and some of them have to do with our company.
I have had so many people reach out to me to share their Steve stories. Many of them have referred to his Stanford commencement speech on YouTube as required viewing. In it, he talks about three things: dropping out of college, the importance of failure and being humble, and facing his own death.
In his dropping out of college section, he talks about how liberating it was to sit in on nonrequired classes that he really wanted to take that had no bearing on his degree. One of the classes was calligraphy and it inspired his life-long love for fonts and typography. A key aspect of the Macintosh that set it apart from other computers was its beautiful type and graphics capabilities. Had Steve not dropped out and taken the class he wanted to take, the course of computer history would have been less relevant or compelling to me, and legions of other design-conscious people.
Yesterday in the lynda.com executive team meeting, we shared a moment of silence in Steve’s honor, and then shared our Steve stories. Eric, our company’s President and CEO, said that the calligraphy story reminded him of lynda.com, because people could study anything they wanted with no restrictions. Eric wondered if perhaps we are inspiring someone of Steve’s talent with a special piece of knowledge that will change the world.
When it was my husband Bruce’s turn to talk, he spoke about how Steve wouldn’t settle for anything less than great. How “good enough” shouldn’t cut it, and how we could keep Steve in our thoughts when we are making decisions about our web site, our mission, and our future directions.
I spoke about how Steve was committed to presenting technology to nontechnical people and how this same intention had been a guidepost for my entire career as a teacher. I also spoke of how I had been inspired by Steve to stick to my convictions about how to run a company in a different way, in an effort to be better, regardless of what others say or expect. I also talked about how Apple had forged their own brand pretty much alone, without making many partnerships and instead created a direct relationship with their customer—making their own software, hardware, and even retail channels. This tenet has also been a guidepost for our company, as we have resisted the temptations to take on investors, become the arm of another entity, or work with other brokers or systems to deliver our product. That hasn’t always been a popular position as we’ve turned down lots of big money and quick opportunities, but it has paid off in the long haul just like it did for Apple.
I had never attributed it directly to Steve before yesterday, but I know that our company would not exist if it were not for his brilliant innovations and inventions. I didn’t get my first computer, which was an Apple II+, until I was 28 years old, long after I had graduated from college. This first computer was the catalyst for what would become an obsession and addiction to learning and teaching software. When the Mac came out, I could not afford one but instead charged it to my May Company charge card and paid it off over three years. I am so happy that I was an early adopter; it changed the course of my life and career and was worth every penny of credit card interest.
Of those friends who have reached out to me in the past days since Steve’s passing, most have expressed that they are struck by his Stanford speech in terms of making every day count as if it were their last. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have found my passion around a technology that Steve created, and to live my passion on a daily basis.
Though I am sad, the more overwhelming feeling is gratitude that I walked the earth at the same time as both of these men in my life: my father and Steve Jobs. Their influence on me will last my lifetime, and will hopefully pay it forward to future generations as the fruits of Steve’s labor bear the fruits of our labor, and inspire the fruits of others.