As the world mourns the passing of Steve Jobs, I hear a lot of people say that he died young. In real-time years perhaps this is true, but I believe Steve Jobs died having lived the life of 1,000 or more men. It is time we recognize that the physical age at which we die has nothing to do with how well we maxed out the years we lived.
To illustrate my point, imagine two friends, John and Steve. Both graduate from high school at the age of 17. John decides to lead a very safe life: never taking risks, just following the system. He goes to college hoping to land safe and secure employment. He graduates from college and gets a $50,000 job. It then takes him 15 years to pay off his school loans (if he’s lucky). John eventually gets married and has two kids. After 10 years of working his tail off, he gets laid off and then goes from job to job to make enough money to pay his bills. John starts to realize the system he bought into didn’t work the way he thought it would. So John settles for living an ordinary life of “just getting by.” As John lies on his death bed at the age of 79, he thinks about the highlights of his life experiences: attending a Yankees playoff game with his best friends, and going to Hawaii with his wife on their honeymoon.
John’s friend Steve takes a different path: he decides to max out on life. He becomes an entrepreneur. He takes risks, travels the world, and learns about different cultures and experiences. His failures and struggles build his character. He learns how it feels to have critics belittle you when you fail and second guess your every move. Through the trials, Steve becomes tougher and more committed to his belief that life is about more than just playing it safe. He celebrates New Year’s in different parts of the world and experiences the best of culture and cuisine everywhere he travels. Steve pays the world back for a lifetime of amazing experiences by using the gifts that God gave him to develop products that improve the lives of millions, create tens of thousands of jobs and donate millions to charity. On his death bed at the age of 56, Steve reflects on a life of experiences that equals the life of 1,000 men who played it safe.
Our age is just a number and we don’t have much control over our expiration date. What we do have control over is the way that we use the years that are given us. Steve Jobs knew that his time on earth was limited, as it is for all of us. His legacy is more than just great technology products; it is an example of what it means to live every day of your life as if it were your last. Steve Jobs did more in 56 years than a thousand men do in a lifetime.
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.” – Steve Jobs