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Think Different, Be Different

My usual perch is in the heart of Silicon Valley, but this week I’m in New York City for Interop. So when I heard the news Wednesday night about Steve Jobs passing, I felt a sense of the surreal. Nothing like hearing about something hard-hitting and close to home when you’re 3,000 miles away. While I didn’t know Steve Jobs personally, he has been a source of inspiration for me, from the start of my career, on. He was part of the legend of Silicon Valley that drew me from Toronto.

Clearly he has moved many and inspired untold numbers. So much has already been written, but I feel compelled to share two things that, for me, characterize the essence of his inspiration:

  1. A Steve Jobs quote as reported in All Things Digital: “When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”
  2. From Forbes a few weeks ago, “The Top 10 Lessons Steve Jobs Can Teach Us – If We’ll Listen”: “To create the future, you can’t do it through focus groups…The customers today don’t always know what they want, especially if it’s something they’ve never seen, heard, or touched before.”

Steve Jobs challenged all of us to ‘think different.’ But more to the point, he set the bar that much higher. He inspires us to not settle for easy or mediocre, but to push for excellence not yet defined.

And, if you have a spare 15 minutes, please listen or watch Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 where he says, among other elegant, inspiring things: “do what you love.”

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