How Steve Jobs got his last year done

Michael Sliwinski — №10 with Seth Godin

Steve Jobs, a person I never got to know personally but who’s been my mentor, inspiration, and product guru, died earlier this month at the age of 56. So early, so young…

Mr. Jobs was known for planning everything carefully. Aware of the fact that the cancer was winning, he even seemed to have planned his death, timing it perfectly. I think it takes great courage to plan a departure like Steve.

Steve’s Last Year at Apple

He struggled with cancer since 2003, but had won every battle…until now. With each win came the introduction of yet another ground-breaking innovation. This time he knew it was over and he planned his last year at Apple in an amazing way: `

Step 1. Medical Leave

In January he took a medical leave to let Tim Cook run the company and Steve became a mentor to the whole company while letting them run about their business. He showed to everyone (and proved to himself) that Apple could be run without him.

Step 2. The iPad 2

He took the stage to show off the second iPad while nailing to the ground all the would-be competitors. He did it personally to make a statement that “people don’t really want tablets - they want iPads”.

Step 3. The most-valuable company

Though Steve didn’t “plan” it, Apple became recognized as the most valuable company in the world thanks to all he’s done in the past years. Perfect to commemorate his last year alive.

Step 4. WWDC and the iCloud that “just works”

Despite being really sick, he took the stage to show off his latest invention — the iCloud. If you look at the keynote carefully, when first says hi, he looks really sick. However, when he comes back on stage for the second time, he’s a different person. He’s so excited about the iCloud that he almost jumps off the stage. You can see he’s a product guy and he’s totally in love with this new thing that will change the way we work…yet again. He repeats several times how the iCloud “just works” — as this is what Steve was all about. About technology that “just works”.

Step 5. The Apple Mothership in Cupertino

Just after the Apple event, with the same eagerness and spirit, Steve Jobs appeared in front of the Cupertino City Council to show them the project he’s been working on lately — The new Apple Headquarters in Cupertino that will be nothing like any other office building in the world. You could see he was excited and needed to present this one personally.

Like many great artist and masters, Steve knew he wouldn’t be able to see it built. He knew he was not destined to work there, but wanted to pass on his dream to a younger generation of Apple employees and enthusiasts. It reminds me of Antonio Gaudi designing the “Sagrada Familia” — a work of art greater than himself - Gaudi knew it’d take 130 years to build it. He didn’t care. He went on with it knowing he would never see the completion of the project. Ever. Steve was a grand artist the same way.

Step 6. Resignation as the CEO

At his deathbed he finally decided to resign from the role of CEO while he was still alive. He wanted to make sure the shock at Apple wouldn’t be too overwhelming. He wanted to see and witness the official transition. Some say he was at Apple on the day he resigned to make sure personally that everything went according to the plan. I’m sure it’s true. It’s Steve, and we’re talking about a dying man here.

The additional benefit of resigning was being able to witness how people reacted to it. He received so many letters of praise, articles in press and so much attention and he still could enjoy it while spending his last days on earth. I’m sure he enjoyed it, and hope it sweetened the imminent d-day at least a little.

Step 7. Apple iPhone event

The first event after his medical leave that he didn’t attend. It was Tim Cook’s show with other executives participating and helping out. Steve could relax, knowing his spirit and soul lives on at Apple, trusting these guys could pull off a great show and assure everyone that Apple will do just fine. Again, I’m sure he enjoyed watching it happen. His disciples were doing a great job. Now the Jedi master himself could finally move on.

Final Step: Death

Only two days after the event Steve passed away. His job was done. Apple was in good hands. His soul and spirit will live on. The death seems to be perfectly timed with everything that happened this past year. He will be missed. While I believe in the Afterlife, I don’t know what Steve believed, but I’m sure he achieved his Nirvana.

One more thing: Steve’s Biography

Even after his death, Steve didn’t disappoint. He was known for adding “one more thing” before closing a speech at Apple events, and it was a moment everyone would be waiting for. This time was no different. His first official and authorized biography hit the shelves this October — one month after his death. I’m definitely getting a copy. I’ve read all of Steve’s other biographies and can’t wait to read this one and pay tribute to Steve.

Steve was a real perfectionist

He proved again that even his death can be planned perfectly and he knew how to execute this plan. I can’t even imagine how much courage it takes to come to terms with imminent death and plan your last year alive. Yet he’s done it and proved again there’s no one like him.

Steve, God bless, may your soul rest in peace. I know it will.

“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.” Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech

Photo: © pressureUA / Shutterstock

Michael sliwinski

Michael Sliwinski

Michael Sliwinski is the editor of the Productive! Magazine, the founder of Nozbe (a time and project management application for busy professionals), and a best-selling author of the #iPadOnly book.

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