Thursday, October 6, 2011

Live your own life!

Two seemingly unrelated things happened yesterday ... 

First, I receive a phone call from my 16-year old son in the afternoon to inform me of the news that Steve Jobs had passed away. It was initially not on NYTimes, not on CNN, but I did see it on Twitter, and I finally believed that it was not a hoax. I was not surprised, given Steve’s failing health, but it was still a very empty moment. 

Second, I went to my son’s school for an orientation on college admissions - how my 16-year old will select his college. As I sat there, noting that one of the parents was making notes on an iPad, it struck me that in a very short time, my son would leave home for college. Time has flown - our time with our loved ones is very limited. 

This morning, on my ride in to work, I saw this Tweet from a former colleague of mine that gave me pause:

Steve Jobs passed at 56. Far too young. He fought pancreatic cancer, had a liver transplant. Individually, he had a very interesting life. Professionally, he had a hugely successful life. Every luminary thought so. He’s left legacy - in multiple fields - computers, movies, music, phones... - technologically, anyone would love to be in his shoes. 

I lost my father earlier this year. He would have turned 84 this month. A good long life. He was diagnosed with liver cancer in early June and passed away a mere 6 weeks later. He left a different kind of legacy - a different kind of field. He was responsible for building a couple of parks in Bangalore that many people still enjoy everyday. 

Many of us are people with no legacy - not big, not little, nothing of note … When I go, there’ll be a few pages that may live on for a while until someone blocks them due to inactivity. Yes, it’s easy to wax eloquent about our accomplishments, but only a few people really matter have enduring legacies. (Correction 10/08 - based on a comment that not only a few people matter)

The question I asked myself today is - “What’s important to people?” Would I trade off 30 years of life for the ultimate glory of being an icon, an innovator, an almost-Edison? Would I rather be rich, successful and famous or would I trade that in to be able to live long enough to be able to see my sons graduate from college, get their first jobs, marry, .... Given a choice, would I trade off anything for living long enough to see my sons’ sons? 

I guess Steve himself said this best (watch this if you have not) - we don’t have a choice about death, and “death is the single-best invention of life - life’s change agent” - so we do the best we can to follow our dreams and live our own lives. 
Your time is limited... so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. 
As technologists, as consumers, we will all miss Steve Jobs. 

As a son, I really miss my dad! Especially today.