We are not meteorites, and our impact, even if we were, would likely not be a worldwide event, hopefully not catastrophic. The winners write the history books. The tides and winds wash away our monuments. There is a small window of time for us, as individuals, to leave a measurable impact. Some will define themselves by what they took, others, what they gave.
“Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth our powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered,” said Daniel Webster.
Two industry giants will soon be forgotten. Your children will not recognize the name Steve Jobs when they pick up their fifth generation iPad. Nations will forget that Bill and Melinda Gates eliminated their need for a budget to treat victims of malaria and polio. They are just men, simple passionate dedicated men, who gave all they had. Each did it differently. One gave all he had, the other took nothing in return for his efforts.
“The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard,” said Gaylord Nelson.
Bill Gates can write code, something I will never attempt. He loves to write code. He used to get up in the middle of the night, walk to the university to use the computer at the library, and then go home for a little nap before his mom woke him up to go to high school. He was not an average child; not much has changed.
“I never took a day off in my twenties. Not one. And I’m still a fanatical, but now I’m a little less fanatical,” said Gates.
The foundation he started with his wife is on the verge of something great. Correction, some great things. In a few short years they will have eliminated polio, and they are making more than a large dent in polio and tuberculosis vaccines.
“The world has been very careful to pick very few diseases for eradication, because it is very tough,” Gates said.
They recently began an effort to change the way the American education system works. The man knows how to find flaws, eliminate them and make improvements. It’s his job, and he is really really good at it.
“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” Gates said.
Steve Jobs is no longer with us. He has come full circle. He came, he saw, he innovated, he triumphed, he got fired, he started over, he built an empire, he got his job back, he built another empire, he enabled the world to partake of the empire, he got paid a buck. Jobs didn’t waste time, not his, not his company’s, not the consumers’. He might just be the most modern pioneer of the 21st century.
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected,” Jobs said.
Jobs carved a path through the wilderness, laid down a road, then paved a highway for us to travel along in the information era. He is John Glenn, Ernest Shackleton and Ferdinand Magellan all rolled into one.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important,” Jobs said.
Jobs’s death was a surprise to the world and an inconvenience in a steady stream of progress. What started as children’s toys coming alive will most assuradely not end with a sassy Siri. The computer industrial model left to this generation will enable all of us to do more with less.
“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,” Jobs said.
It’s up to us to remember them. Maybe we build monuments. Perhaps we tell stories. Most likely, we’ll just take that first bite of an apple or open a four paned window and remember the giants that once were. Either way, nobody is quite ready to “shut down.”