The world is collectively mourning the passing of Steve Jobs, a man who not only revolutionized our relationship with technology, but who also had some great insights into how to live your life.
I can remember playing Oregon Trail on my family’s Apple IIGS when I was growing up. I can still picture the graphics, the way the computer worked. I can remember receiving my pink iPod mini as a gift and filling it with Dave Matthews Band music. And it’s rare to see me these days without my iPhone or iPad close at hand. Certainly, Steve Jobs’ vision and aptitude has had an impact on the culture and the function of our lives.
What’s truly moving about Steve Jobs and what makes the sense of mourning deeper is his understanding of life. An adopted child of working-class parents and a college drop-out, Steve Jobs became a classic American Dream story. He built his first computer in his parents garage and went on to conquer the world. For more on Steve Jobs’ life, the New York Times obituary is worth the read.
Many news outlets and tributes are quoting from Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. One of the most poignant parts of that speech is near the end, when Jobs says:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. (See text of the speech here).
So it is with us, CLE, not only in our own lives, but as a city. For so long and still for so many, we live with the results of other people’s thinking: We are the Mistake by the Lake; we are the city who’s river burned; we are a slowly deteriorating rust belt town.
We cannot let that noise drown out what we know to be true about Cleveland. We are a vibrant, unique, eclectic city. We have neighborhoods with strong redevelopment organizations and residents who care. We have world-class music, theater, health care, food. We are fighters, we are survivors. And we are living in a city that, with all of our effort and support, has it’s best days ahead of it. Our heart and our intuition know what CLE truly can become.
Thank you, Steve Jobs, for so many things, but mostly for reminding us to define ourselves by our own voice and not anyone else’s.