Trust, Love, Hard Work: Farewell Steve Jobs
Millions of us paused in a moment of reflection and sadness yesterday when we heard the news of the death of Steve Jobs. For me, there was almost a peace in that moment. We’d known for years that his time on Earth was very limited so I didn’t find the news jarring. Since then, I’ve reflected on the peace that comes when one succumbs to terminal illness (and excruciating grief, I’m certain for his loved ones) and on the impact he has had on the rest of us.
First, full disclosure: I typed my senior essay for my history major on an early Macintosh. I’m writing this post on a MacBook Pro with my iPhone4 at my side and my iPod shuffle on the coffee table. My kids use Macbooks and iPads for school work and fun. With my strong encouragement, the Puristics team has successfully made the transition to a Mac and iPhone-only company. Yes, I’m a fan and blessed to have access to such terrific products.
But that’s not the point of this post. For me, the lessons from one’s life are not in the “what” was done but rather in the “how” it was done. I honor Steve Jobs today for the “how”.
Reading the text of the commencement address he gave at Stanford a few years ago, I see a few key themes: trust, love and hard work. Overall, he talked about living life on your own terms and how a death sentence (pancreatic cancer) brings the important things into focus. I was talking with a colleague over dinner last night about this. We began to wrestle a bit with how we determine what’s important, when to let go and when to focus a bit harder. I would feel somewhat hypocritical if I wrote about the importance of jettisoning all worldly trappings and simplifying in order to focus on the few most important things. I’m in the middle of what feels like a whirlwind as I fly from coast to coast, meeting with retailers to convince them to place Puristics on their shelves in 2012. (I’m pleased to report that you should find it fairly easy to locate Puristics Totally Ageless at a retailer near you beginning in March 2012). Is what I’m doing my highest and best calling? Would I be truer to my words and thoughts to chuck it all? I don’t think so, and I don’t think I’m at odds with the words of Steve Jobs. I’m trusting while I do what I love, surround myself with people I love and work hard.
Providing a better, safer, healthier life for my family has been a passion of mine since the kids were born (beginning nearly 19 years ago). I’ve written previously in this space about the impact of chronic illness on our family (our oldest), acute illness (my mother’s ovarian cancer) and the impact on choices going forward. Making better choices for my family has turned into a passion and a business. Puristics was developed to make it easy to choose personal care products that are devoid of harmful chemicals, proven to be effective and available in regular retail outlets at reasonable prices. At least in this aspect of my life, I’ve combined trust, love and hard work and ended up focusing on what’s really important. I’ve also been able to demonstrate for my kids that you can have work that you love and still be a good and available mom.
Trust, love, hard work. As I write this from a hotel room in California just before I meet with Safeway and work to persuade them that Puristics will be an important addition to their shelves in 2012, I am trusting that it will all come together, loving the fact that I get an opportunity to talk about our terrific product line and working hard to stay on top of the millions of details needed to bring a line of products to market across the United States. Bob (my co-founder) and I started in late 2008 with nothing more than an idea. We trusted and worked hard and are now looking forward to shipping our products to more than 20,000 retail stores early next year. We had very lofty goals and very high standards, and it is extremely gratifying to realize that we didn't compromise on our goals and standards. I am tired; the gray hair is coming in too quickly; I haven’t run in 3 weeks; I am happy.
Aside from Puristics, Steve Jobs’ passing has caused me to reflect on 3 personal anecdotes that I think foreshadowed the trust, love and hard work that have fueled my current passion. In 8th grade, I was practicing my foul shots on the school basketball court when my teacher told me to move closer to the basket. He clearly didn’t know me very well because he thought I’d be satisfied by the easy basket. I was determined to improve my free throw percentage and that was not going to happen if I moved closer to the hoop. I went on to be the starting center on my high school basketball team for 3 years. Four years after that free throw practice, I found myself in the exact same situation. I was a senior and the captain of our high school soccer team. Toward the end of the season, I found myself staying after practice each day to practice my corner kicks. My coach was also my advisor so he knew about my heavy course load and suspected I had better ways to use my time. He encouraged me to knock off early. I didn’t. During the final game of that season, against our archrivals, the score was tied. I took a corner kick in the final moments of the game. The ball curved just right and sailed into the goal over the goalie’s head. We won the game. Flash forward over 25 years to my most recent example. I was managing the Mucinex business. The business had been successful because of our single-minded focus on the “mucus out” communication and our long-acting product benefit. In order to rush a new product to market, I was encouraged by an executive senior to me to launch a product that would not be consistent with our strategic imperative. I fought hard even when I was accused of spouting “marketing purist bull$h!t”. I stood my ground and now Mucinex is one of the top choices for cough/cold relief in the U.S.
It wasn’t until I sat down to right this post that I realized the consistency in these stories over my life and that each of them comes from trust, love and hard work. Steve Jobs’ words from the Stanford commencement address ring true for me:
“ . . . you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. . . . This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
The dots have connected for me and led me to Scerene Healthcare and Puristics, but who knows how the dots will lay out for the future. So, I’ll just trust, love and work hard.
Peace, Steve Jobs (1955-2011).
M'lou Arnett www.scerene.com