My first memory of Steve Jobs is from high school, when he was a senior and I was a freshman. I went to Prospect High but showed up weekly at Homestead High School, where Steve went, because my mom was the principal's secretary and I'd work in the office after school.
One afternoon, some kids were throwing a football out in front of the office and one jerk fired it at the back of Steve's head. He must have noticed my shocked expression as I approached him, trying to intercept the ball flying his way. But like Yoda, he ducked just in time.
The football skimmed the back of his neck and pounded my chest. It knocked the wind out of me -- even though I saw it coming! That's how Steve lived his life -- Zen like -- seeing not only what others couldn't in the future, but also what would normally hit the rest of us in the back of the head.
Another great memory I have of Steve is when I was the chief of customer experience at Charles Schwab, I also served on a few boards and invested in various startups. In the spring of 2000, I was recruited as chairman for Rioport, which had popularized a cool new technology known as the MP3 player (this was prior to iTunes).
I'll never forget watching Steve at a business lunch for the company, as he played with my RIO device. He gave me a slap on the shoulder and remarked that it was a "geeky piece of crap." And of course, he was right. I was running UI at Schwab at the time and I could see that the RIO was way too hard to use. But ultimately it was Steve's brutal honesty that saved me from investing millions in the company.
Just a year after that lunch, Steve went on to launch the iPod. No one remembers that it was Rioport who put the MP3 on the map, nor should they. What we all remember is what Steve did to make the MP3 player useful to everyone. He reinvented not one, but four industries: music, smart phones, PCs and digital movies.
And my best recollection of Steve is that as sick as he had been, there was always a twinkle in his eye, always a sense of the impossible, always a confidence that he could change the world.
Steve loved Richard Branson's signature phrase: "Screw it, just do it." Greatness, for him, was not just thinking different, but getting things done differently.
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