There are occasions in life when something happens that have the potential to bring a profound impact on the direction you take. They are fleeting and if we don’t recognize them then they lose their power. I’ve had a few but one that sticks vividly in my mind was late 2005 at LeWeb. Like other ‘big’ events such as the Concorde Paris crash, I don’t remember the exact date but I recall with total clarity what happened.
I was new to the blogging scene, had made some waves and had been invited to LeWeb by founder Loic LeMeur. In the packed 500 seater auditorium I took a spot next to Ben Hammersley. At the front. That’s unusual for me as I prefer to be at the back of the hall where I can make a quick getaway. As the lights went down and the next speaker came on I casually looked around to see that a good 80-90% of the people in the room were sporting Mac laptops. How do I know? The Apple logo was glowing all around me. Ben had one and I could see from the way he used it that it was a totally different experience to the IBM laptop I was toting. My head exploded. Metaphorically. My false sense of superiority at owning a premier business machine evaporated.
Looking back, I was in what Steve Jobs, then CEO Apple might acknowledge is the Apple ‘reality distortion field.’ What else explains the paradox of occupying a world of business where IBM reigned supreme in the laptop department yet being in a crowd that as living an altogether different reality? When you experience such things they are at once both incredibly humbling yet exhilarating.
The memory of that fleeting moment was etched into my mind.
The next time I was in London I bought my first MacBook Pro from the Regent Street Apple Store. Being a sometimes (cough) sceptical bugger I set the Apple Store a task. Don’t sell me shit, explain this to me. I know laptops in and out but I want to see what you’ve got. That’s what went through my mind. I asked the sales person: ‘I need a laptop but I don’t know which would be right for me?’ The chap asked me a lot of questions to which I gave truthful answers and steered me towards a 15 inch model. He allowed me to make up my own mind, simply explaining what the differences are, how they’d likely perform in given situations and so on. Not once did he knock IBM or any of the other PC based laptops. It was a completely different experience to that which I was accustomed. I was sold.
And until very recently instantly became what some call an Apple fanboi. I even managed to get Jude, who has forever been a technophobe to use one of my cast offs, a 13inch MacBook. She ‘got’ Mac in 30 seconds. She’s in the UK at the moment with her iPad for company.
Today we have it all – well almost. Apple TV, Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro (my third), iPhone, iPod Touch, (I gave away two other iPods we’d owned) iPad (2), iPod Nano, Time Capsule, Airport Extreme, Airport Express…and a ton of applications, music and videos.
In that one moment in Paris, 2005, Steve Jobs, with his relentless, obsessive attention to design detail changed my life. Probably forever. Why? Because I saw a new, a different reality that looked so much better and exciting than the grey and unappealing world of the business computer. I rewarded the man and his company by buying just about every piece of hardware they have on offer.
But it wasn’t until he died yesterday that I realized the extent to which he has been impacting my life in subtle ways.
Today, I like to think that the embodiment of what I am about is summed up by the cartoon you see at the top. It’s the way I believe all professionals should view the world. I use it in all my presentations, I have presented the cartoon to the CEO of a large software company, another to the CEO of a small company and will be doing so again shortly – to the CEO of a large company. It was presented as a gift to close on 100 colleagues as an inspiration to them. ICAEW’s Richard Anning has a copy. But its roots are much deeper than the sharp and incisive mind of its creator, my good buddy Hugh MacLeod. They go back at least to Jobs who, among other things is quoted as saying:
They are the sort of thing I know inspires Hugh. Just as much as they do me. It is curiously fitting that those quotes come from Tweets put out by Loic. They’re in the sidebar of his personal weblog.
And yes…I will be at LeWeb this December. Once again as Loic’s guest, once again looking to be inspired.
RIP Steve Jobs, a man who made the world a better place and whose genius touched my life with unexpected but always rewarding consequences.
Bonus link: more quotes