Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Steve Jobs & Leaving a Legacy

Steve Jobs didn’t believe he would live to reach 40. That’s what “Woz” said in an interview, commenting on his friend’s death.

This is the secret to why Jobs made such a difference in the world. The man who gave us the iPod believed his time on earth was was limited.

And he didn’t waste a minute.

Steve Jobs

Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

When death is imminent, life is important

I’ve spent the last twelve hours reading obituaries, tweets, and videos about the passing of the co-founder of Apple.

The thought that continues to haunt me is this: Jobs knew his life was ending soon; he had to make it count. Here’s an excerpt from his famous Stanford commencement speech:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

The legacy of a genius

As Seth Godin says, we best eulogize someone by doing something with what they leave us.

As I reflect on the legacy of Steve Jobs, it inspires and encourages me to leave my own. To make a difference today. Because I’m not guaranteed tomorrow.

Here’s some of the legacy that Steve left us — call it life lessons from a genius:

  • Build what you want. Steve didn’t believe in focus groups; he believed in giving people what they wanted before they knew they wanted it.
  • Do what you love and do it well. Apple is notorious for releasing remarkable products into the world, all of which is connected to Steve’s reputation (something he took seriously). But even when he was fired from Apple, he continued doing what he loved.
  • Create beautiful things. In his brief college experience, Jobs took a class on typography — a seemingly impractical skill. When Apple released the first Macintosh, it all came back to him. Today, Macs are known for their elegance. Jobs showed us that beauty matters.
  • Follow your dreams. Apple was founded in a garage with nothing but passion and vision.
  • Live before you die. One day, we all will die. And death, as Jobs once said, is “Life’s greatest invention.” It forces us to make a difference now.

What do we do with this?

What do we do with a legacy of genius? How do we apply such passion, charisma, and quirkiness to our daily lives?

Jobs didn’t die when he was 40. He died when he was 56.

To the average person, that sounds early, as if his life was half-lived. But for Steve, this meant 16 years of life he hadn’t expected. 16 years that were an absolute gift.

So what do we do?

We live.

We count it all as a gift, treasuring every moment.

We do what my friend Chad is doing to honor the death of his sister. We honor those who have passed — not just with tears, but with sweat.

We work. We finish what they started. We leave our own legacy.

And it begins today. (If you need some inspiration to “think different,” watch this video. Also embedded below.)

What will your legacy be? Remember: Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world do.

*Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)


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About Jeff Goins

I am the best-selling author of five books, including the national bestsellers The Art of Work and Real Artists Don't Starve. Each week, I send out a free newsletter with my best tips on writing, publishing, and helping your creative work succeed.

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