Steve Jobs.

As I’m sure you are all aware, Steve Jobs died yesterday. The world lost a truly brilliant man. He deserves attention here, because his creativity and innovations were integral to my personal and academic life.

A smiling Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone.

Growing up, I would gather around the family computer with my parents and watch every WWDC. At one point in my life, when I wanted to major in computer science, it was my greatest dream to attend WWDC. I loved Steve’s ingenuity and simple approach when he would explain his products. I cheered with the audience and marveled at Apple’s marriage of minimalist design with groundbreaking technology. His trademark turtleneck and jeans made me feel like he was just an old friend, explaining new developments to me using gorgeous displays, humor, and suspenseful pauses. I was always on the edge of my seat when he readied himself to click to the next slide, unveiling something new. My parents and I would guess what the next big Apple product was. We undershot every time. Who can guess what will spring from the mind of a genius?

I was in high school when I got my first iBook. I think I cried when I turned it on and saw the glossy, gorgeous screen light up for the first time. I owned an iBook. And yet, that was part of the beauty of Steve Jobs’ products. Anyone could use them. They were centered around community – sharing ideas, photos, and video with the people most important to you (or your business). That iBook served me faithfully during the remainder of my high school years through the first two years of college.

In 2008, I upgraded to my current laptop, a black MacBook. It’s been through a lot. I took it to Italy on a three week trip. It almost got soaked by a flash rainstorm in Florence. I used it to type up notes, record lectures, and write all my papers. It was on this laptop that I wrote my thesis and started this website. It has everything important to my personal and academic life: all my school notes and papers, every single photo I’ve taken or received since 2008, 15 GB of music, every email since 2008, and hundreds of iPhone apps.

Along with my iPhone, my MacBook inspired me to think creatively. These products’ displays are so simple and beautiful yet at the same time, they represent a huge leap forward in technology. How could I do that in my writing? In art historical analyses? One of the big problems with art historians who employ modern forms of analysis is that their theses and conclusions tend to be convoluted and stray from “art”, “history” or both! I didn’t want that to be the case with my writing. Steve Jobs’ innovations and design reminded me to stay simple and distraction-free.

A little over a year ago, I started working at an architecture firm. This isn’t my ideal job and for a long time, I resented not being directly involved in academia. Then I read something Steve Jobs had said in a 2005 Stanford University commencement speech:

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

I spent some time thinking about what that meant for me. I realized that I didn’t need to be enrolled in a university to keep up with current scholarship and explore art history further. I didn’t need “permission” from an institution to continue with what I loved.  I was determined to do what I love no matter what. And so, in May 2011, I started this website. It’s been an incredible journey so far. Sometimes I get discouraged, but I keep thinking back to Steve Jobs’ advice: Don’t settle. Steve didn’t settle, and with time he rightfully became the most revered innovator in the world.

Steve Jobs, thank you. Thank you for your entertaining and magical keynotes. Thank you for not compromising your ideas and for giving the world products that inspire and make users exhale with an awe-filled “Ooooh” and joyous applause. Thank you for giving value to community and simplicity. Thank you for getting me through high school, college, and the real world. I couldn’t have done it without the iPod, iBook, and iPhone. You were a fearless leader and inventor who changed the face of business, technology, and community forever. You will be remembered far longer than the company you created.

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. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. … 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.

Hello/Goodbye by Ben Hughes.