Thursday, October 6, 2011

7 Words Steve Jobs Never Uttered

Image credit: Jonathan Mak
I, like so many people, was surprised to find myself so impacted by the news that Steve Jobs died last night. Surprised because, though I am a huge Apple fan, I've never given too much thought to the co-founder. It's not like I sat around thinking about how remarkable Steve Jobs is every time I checked my e-mail on my iPhone. It was never a conscious thought. I guess I took for granted that an actual human being invented the remarkable tools that impact my life on a daily basis.

But last night at dinner when Bob said, "Steve Jobs died?" after sneaking a peak at his iPhone, I found myself choked up by the news.

"What? No. What? Seriously? He's dead?"

The news made me sad. Sad for him. Sad for his family. And sad for the world. The human being behind the technology was suddenly real in my mind. A real person. A visionary. Who succumbed at such an early age to this (and please pardon my french here) fucking disease.

How to be like Steve
Today, after watching and reading countless tributes, I'm left thinking about how I want to be more like Steve Jobs. And how there are seven key words that stop me in my tracks before I even begin to think about being more like Steve Jobs.

Those seven words are:

That's just not how things are done.

Has anyone ever told you that before? Have you ever uttered those words? Maybe you've said them to yourself.  Maybe you say them to yourself on a regular basis.

I led a large part of my life prisoner to those seven words. "That's just not how things are done."

The "rules." The way you're supposed to do things. According to... who? Those who came before? The rule setters? The problem with the sentiment is that it only looks back on what has been done in the past and implies that anything never tried before is invalid.

I've been thinking about this a lot as I've been calling myself out for being stopped by fear. And today... all anyone is thinking about is Steve Jobs. Right? I mean, aren't you? Reflecting on Steve Jobs, reading all the wonderful tributes about his extraordinary life has me thinking about the limits I place on my own life. 

I remember ten years ago (or something like that) when I had just finished writing my first full-length play, THREE FITTINGS, my good friend and actor Porter Kelly suggested we produce the play ourselves. I was against it. Why? Because that's just not how things are done. No.

You're supposed to send your play out to any and all theaters that might possibly be interested in producing your play in one of their four slots per year. Then you're supposed to wait up to a year (sometimes more, sometimes never) to hear back as to whether or not those theaters want to produce your play. And if they all say no, you either put the script in a figurative drawer or revise some more, send it out again and wait another year. Lots of waiting. And trips to the post office.

That's how "real" playwrights do it. That's at least what I thought. I thought self-producing was not in "good form." And that "people" would look down on it. They wouldn't consider it a "real" production. I'd be considered one of those playwrights. The kind that self-produce. I obviously had a negative connotation attached to "self-produce."

I didn't look at it as a way to take the bull by the horns. As a way to actually BE an artist as opposed to waiting around for someone else to make me one. To live in the moment. To chart my own course. To make art now!

No. Self-production for me was "just not how things are done."


I'm not sure how I came around or what Porter or Bob said to change my mind. Because one of them, if not both, must have said something to pull me out of my little box. Or maybe it was something my mom said. Or my dad. Whatever it was, I did eventually come around. Maybe I just got tired of waiting. Porter and I formed WALKER KELLY PRODUCTIONS and produced the heck out of my play. We worked with some pretty fantastic people. Johnny Duda Directed. Cece Tio Assistant Directed. We had a cast of nine amazing women.... who all got along. It was an amazing experience.

The relationships created during that time are of the life-long variety. I learned so much. It was hugely challenging, frustrating, exhilarating, exhausting and extremely rewarding. If people thought I was a fraud for self-producing, I was having too much fun to care. To think that I could have missed out on such an amazing experience because I was afraid of what other people would think... just makes me crazy.

Those seven words put a stop to creativity. They don't allow for exploration and discovery. They are very dangerous words when put together. And they don't hold water. The only purpose they serve is to keep people small.

It has taken me a long time to really get how much I lived life by the "rules," beholden to those seven words. I didn't see how much it limited me. How afraid I was to take any action that might be considered "crazy" or "misguided" or "naive." It kept me living life in a tiny box. Making tiny progresses along the way.

And it's so unsatisfying.

I don't know for fact, but I'd be willing to bet that Steve Jobs never in his life uttered those seven words. He didn't follow the "rules," instead he made his own by trusting his "curiosity and intuition." To a person who is carving his own path in the world, the only thing to do when someone tells them, "That's just not how things are done," is laugh. Laugh because they know better.

I am finding myself incredibly moved by the passing of Steve Jobs. I just watched his 2005 Stanford commencement speech (thanks to the link shared by Man Vs. Debt in his incredibly moving tribute post today) and found myself crying.

Why? Because it's always sad when the world loses a visionary. Steve Jobs was a genius in the truest sense of the word. And it is with him in mind that I banish the words "That's just not how things are done" forever from my life and replace them with the mantra that Mr. Jobs shared with that Stanford audience: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

If you haven't already watched this video, I HIGHLY recommend you do. It's incredibly inspiring.

And if you have a moment, share in the comments below how you can be more like Steve in your own life.

This post was written on a MacBook. Thank you, Mr. Jobs.


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