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Robert Levin

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Steve Jobs' Life Helped Me Think Different. His Death Inspired Me to Live Different.

Posted: 10/10/11 01:17 PM ET

Steve Jobs died at 56. My guess is that had he not had access to the best medical practitioners who employed the latest practices, he might have died a few years ago.

In early September, I started a "what we can learn from Steve Jobs" blog that I didn't finish at the time. I have shared those thoughts here.

But as I write this, days after his passing, I have taken away something much more powerful from Jobs and his early death. I didn't realize that he was only 56 years old--I forgot that he started Apple at the age of 21, so I thought he was older. I'm 42 and pretty healthy. My kids are four and eight and I have never doubted for a second that I will dance at their weddings. My guess is Jobs was also pretty healthy at 42. As I checked out the news and Facebook over the past few days, I have seen several references to Job's 2005 speech at Stanford's commencement, which I hadn't seen in a few years. Jobs said many amazing things but some of the things that stick out for me include:

• "You got to do what you love."
• "Don't settle."
• "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."
• "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."

He said these things after his initial cancer scare when he was about 50 years old. By this time, he had birthed and developed Apple, NeXT and Pixar, accomplishments that put him in the very upper circles of the greatest business people of all time. Years later it was apparent that he kept pushing himself and the Apple crew as they developed the iPhone and the iPad, and the company became the most valuable company in the world.

Life is short. Take advantage of it while you can. As an entrepreneur you have a luxury that most people don't have. You set the strategy, determine the priorities, and get to do things your way. And remember that it was your vision of doing something differently that created an opportunity in the first place. Don't stop doing what you believe in even if people think you are crazy--and you are crazy to become an entrepreneur.

The irony for many of us is that we started our business with the intention of having a certain culture, level of customer service, and level of perfection. Then come the pressures of inadequate resources, time, customer demands, etc. So we give up on some of our dreams of doing things our way. Jobs says that's wrong, and he is right.

More importantly, be the parent/spouse/friend/community member that you want to be. Say and do the things that you want to do now because you may not have an opportunity to do them later.

That is what I just learned from Steve Jobs.

P.S. As I wrote this blog, I learned that a classmate of mine from business school just passed away from cancer. She was 41.

 

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