The Steve

Everyone at Apple—everyone in Silicon Valley—had at least one story, one moment when their path crossed his. Some had worked for him, some of those had been fired by him, and a few had just up and quit. For The Steve was a challenge to work with. Bull-headed, dismissive, deliberately demeaning sometimes. Getting sideways with the guy usually meant one of you would limp away. It was always all or nothing.

We call this uncompromising, visionary, genius. The Steve had the genius to surround himself with people far smarter than he would ever be. Most of them didn’t need the klieg lights like The Steve did. Apple employees loved him.

My moment came when the group I was consulting with decided to head over to the Apple employee cafeteria for lunch. Crossing DeAnza Blvd and hiking over to 1 Infinite Loop, we chatted about the challenges we were working through; difficult deliberations hidden behind the Just Do It! personna. As we approached the cafe, we were overtaken by an electric buzz. “The Steve’s here! The Steve’s here.” Seems Jobs was having a quiet lunch with his son, and everyone entering the cafeteria seemed to suddenly stand about half a foot taller and be mugging for some invisible camera.

The atmosphere was palpable. We each felt it, a life-force, perhaps of our own making, charged through us. We were instantly smarter, taller, tanned and ready. We were different, special, uniquely qualified. When The Steve looked up from his lunch, every eye in the place seemed to be seeking out a spark of contact, a quiet recognition, confirmation that they, too, were as real as he seemed to be.

His reality was myth made flesh. Not even he could stand in the shoes everyone imagined he’d invented. His life was a few sizes larger than he ever was. A physically unimposing man magnified by the stories surrounding him.

He turned out to be human after all. And he will, no doubt, continue even in death to inspire those of us not yet too jaded to believe in differences that make real differences. We willingly set aside the rough edges, forgiving the many trespasses in homage to that one ennobling moment when I’m certain our eyes met across that bustling cafeteria.

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