Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." -Steve Jobs at Stanford's Commencement Address in 2005

I feel so weird about Steve Jobs' passing. I never knew him, I never met him, I don't think I was ever in the same place with him… but he had such a huge impact on my life, I can honestly and without hyberbole say that I wouldn't be where I am today without him.

In 1984, I bought my first Macintosh. It was a 128 with one floppy drive. When I plugged it in and started it up for the first time, it was like I'd stepped into The Future from a science fiction novel.

Before my Mac, the two big computers we had were an Atari 400 that belonged to the entire family, and a TI-99/4A that was all mine. I learned how to program on both of them in BASIC, and I was able to do lots of cool things with them, mostly writing and playing games.

When I got my Mac, the first program I started up was Visual BASIC. It was this confusing jumble of windows and weirdness that didn't work at all like the BASIC I knew so well. After a few frustrating failures to write and run even the simplest program, I gave up; writing stories in MacWrite and drawing pictures in MacPaint was more fun, anyway.

I wrote my first story on that Mac, and my second, and my third, and pretty much all of them until I got a color Mac II in 1988. I wrote on that for years, until I got my first Powerbook in the 90s. I used that Powerbook to take my first steps onto the Internet, using a VT100 emulator, a 4800 baud modem, and the mysterious ftp and telnet protocols.

Today, I own and use a Macbook Pro and an iPad. I have so many iPods, most of them just live in a drawer at my desk. My wife has an iPhone and an iPad — the first two devices that made it possible for her to embrace her inner geek and understand the one she married — and both of my kids have Macbooks. Anne has an iMac in her office that she uses every day.

Hearing that Steve Jobs died today hit me in the stomach, even though I'm not an Apple Fanboy, and I love to tease and make fun of Apple Cultists. I use a rooted Android and spend almost as much time in a Linux VM as I do in Mac OS… but the world I live in was shaped by Steve Jobs and the people he inspired. I got to find the person I am because Apple tools made it easy for me to take my ideas and move them from my head onto paper when I was a kid, a teenager, a twentysomething, and today.

I don't agree with everything Apple does, but I feel like the world lost an important person today, and I feel like I lost a distant relative who I never got to meet, but knew everything about because for one reason or another his influence was everywhere I looked.

iRIP, Steve Jobs. Thank you for making the incredible things that made it possible for me to live in a real future that's even cooler than the one I pretended to live in when I was flying that spaceship so many years ago.

42 thoughts on “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”

  1. Both you and John Scalzi have said that Macs made it easy to be the creative people you both are.
    I think Jobs would be enormously proud of that.
    Making it easy to be awesome is pretty much what Macs have always been about.

  2. It sure brought back memories of sitting in front of that little itty bitty Macintosh screen writing my name in macpaint and then printing it out! Oh the joy! My dad even brought home a neXt computer for us to enjoy for a while (the perks of working at Motorola). Such a creative genius…

  3. Been reading your blog for years(it was the first blog I ever followed), and this is the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to comment. That was a great post, Wil. Expressed so clearly how a lot of us feel today(and I have never ever bought i-anything; but, like you, I realize how what I use has been impacted by his vision). Nice job.

  4. Wow, I had no idea, this is the first I’ve heard about it. I’m so glad I checked your blog tonight.
    I’m not an Apple fanboy either, but my first experience with computers was an Apple II. I think my father recognized what a big deal it was and bought one in the 70’s. That pretty much set the course of my life. I spent many hours playing games, typing in programs from computer magazines, then writing my own… eventually it led to a CS degree and career as a programmer.
    Thank you, Steve.

  5. For years I did not have the money to get a computer. Anything that needed to get done was either regulated to my office’s PC during my lunch hour or to a very generous friend’s computer on the weekends. When the precious milestone arrived, I did my research. I read the reviews. I bought my first computer, a laptop. Not just any laptop, but a shiny WHITE 15″ iBook. I loved how different it looked and how quickly I assimilated the creative and extremely intuitive OS.
    I created fangirl wallpapers, Livejournal icons, and headers on that iBook. I wrote my first NaNo novel.
    Today, I proudly tickle the keys of my four year old (or is it now five?) white, 13″ MacBook. Yeah, I stuck with the white. It’s refreshing to stand out in a crowd of steel gray and anodized black laptops. So far “Capt. Rio” (yes, I name my gadgets) has helped me write four more NaNo novels and a ton of blog entries. Not to mention help organize all my knitting patterns.
    Thanks Steve. You help me become the creative person I’ve always wanted to be.

  6. Well said…my whole house came to a stop (and that’s saying something when there were 6 kids here) when the news came on tv. I still can’t believe someone so larger than life is gone.

  7. Sage words and from the heart. I spent many years as a certified Apple tech and repaired thousands of Mac workstations and devices in my day. I too had my issues with the company (from mostly a technical side as in – what the #$#$ were they thinking when they designed this new logic board?)…but I’ve been using Apple computers since the very beginning and they have been a huge part of my life.
    I had never read that quote by Steve and it really resonated with me. Yesterday I went through some very old zip disks that had a backup of emails I wrote from 10+ years ago…and it made me realize that although I cringe and my greying hair and the wrinkles that are forming now…I have grown so much as a person since my 20s that I wouldn’t trade that life experience for anything. Maybe I didn’t accomplish everything I’d hoped for, but I certainly made some positive changes that made me the person I am today.
    Say hi to my folks if you see them Steve…and if there is really an afterlife and the supreme being or whomever asks you to explain the eMate, tell him/her/it to stuff it. :)

  8. I have to say that while being the same age as you, Wil, I only discovered my interest in Apple products since the IPod first was introduced. I had two IPods, now an IPad2 and an IMac. I love working with Apple products and though not everything they do is good and not every product works for me, I love the overall experience of working with those devices. Thus, this is indeed a sad day and sad news. Thanks for sharing your story, Wil!

  9. I have never been much of an Apple fan. Their products, whilst nice and shiny, are generally seriously overpriced, and not as good as many would have you believe.
    However, Jobs was a forerunner on ideas in the field – even if, in later years, most of those ideas were someone else’s just refined upon. However his dedication and passion towards the company he owned was visible throughout. Never a ‘back-room’ CEO, he was always at the front, pitching ideas, showcasing technology, and showing that he loves tech as much as those who buy his products.
    He was also crucial in the early years of one of the best animation studios in the world, Pixar. For that I will be eternally grateful.
    RIP Mr Jobs – you’ve earned your rest.

  10. in independence day, the virus that saves the world…written on a mac
    it was jobs who changed viewing habits for the super bowl
    however, its important to note that his partner, the woz…is very much alive and doing well
    sometimes its ok to just stop and smell the roses

  11. Well said, Wil.
    I live in a multi-platform house. We run a Mac and a PC and each have their uses here. Our mobile devices run toward the fruit, though, and all are i-somethings. While I have my issues with Apple, too (oh, iTunes, why you suck so hard sometimes?), one can’t argue that Steve Jobs changed the world.
    We lost a visionary.
    It happens, but it sucks. Boo, real life, boo.
    *Incidentally, I was talking to my husband on my iPhone when I heard. I put him on speaker, opened Twitter, and confirmed what he saw on TV 3000 miles away. We do, in fact, live in the future, and it’s not so bad. Not so bad at all. iRIP, Steve, iRIP.

  12. Most people are unaware of this.
    Before he died, Jobs created a massive virtual reality landscape deep in the most secretive of Cupertino laboratories where, once released, millions of users will be able to interact across hundreds of worlds and thousands of communities.
    And rumor has it that within this massive universe are a sequence of puzzles that, once unlocked through a series of progressively more intricate tasks, will reward the clever and ambitious with a prize of untold fortune. Rumor also has it that Woz has some involvement and knows a thing or two about how it works.
    Hmmm. They pterodactyl glitch had me playing for twelve hours straight. Got to love them there ostriches…

  13. I wasn’t ever a big Apple user myself, growing up with Windows 3.1, but I felt great sadness at the news that he had passed.
    It’s never nice when somebody passes away, especially when they are such a good person. He really did change the world.
    His inventions were more than just technological greats, they were works of art.
    Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.

  14. Very well said, Wil. I’ve never owned an Apple computer, my dad worked for TI (and was on the design team of the 99/4A) so we always had TI computers, and later Compaqs when dad went to work there. But, I know how Steve Jobs revolutionized the way we live, starting in 1976 and continuing to this day. He will be missed.

  15. Beautifully said, Wil.
    The first computer my family ever owned was an Apple IIe. I learned word processing on it, played games, and learned how to program in BASIC. Every paper I wrote in middle and high school was typed on it. I still have it, and at more than 25 years old, it still runs.
    Though the only Apple products I use today are my iPod and iTunes, Steve Jobs work has still been a major influence on my life. His work meshing technology and higher education was (and still is) revolutionary. He is going to be missed.

  16. Well said Wil.
    First played with Apple computers in the late 70s/early 80s, neighbors were teachers and had a II at home, they let us kids play Miner 2049 and Lode Runner to no end. Used a 128k Mac to help lay out the school newspaper in graphic arts and journalism class, MacPaint was beyond anything I could have ever dreamed.
    His return to right the Apple ship in 1997 not only helped bring about USB but color to a world of beige. That concept took root outside of technology (and in part because of Johnathan Ive’s designs but not without Steve’s drive) and you can get even the most mundane of household items in colors other than ‘white’ or ‘beige’.
    I work on PCs for a living but without Apple’s influence on me I would not have grasped technology like I do. I too feel like I’ve lost a family member. Thank you Steve.

  17. Jobs was a man so genius, so brilliant, that he knew exactly when to hand off Apple so that he can be a full time family man. I so wish I got the honor of meeting and learning from such a visionary.

  18. Don’t forget he was the financial visionary behind Pixar. Funding it for years at a loss only to become the industry standard in Computer generated 3d movies and ultimately to merge with Disney.

  19. Yeah.. who’d have thought you’d actually be holding a PADD in your hand Wil? Just add an “i” and drop a D.
    I cut my teeth on an Apple II computer.
    Everyone should realize that without Jobs and Wozniak toiling away in that garage, we wouldn’t be using any personal computer today. Before the Apple computer, nobody had them in their homes. Nobody thought you could, or even why you would.
    daVinci, Edison and now Jobs.

  20. It’s Thursday at 10am. I am ten years old at elementary school. I am being led with my classmates to a bungalow behind the rest of the school, and led to a seat in front of a beige box with a warmly beeping screen. There are words on that box: “Apple IIgs”. There are words on the screen: “Oregon Trail.”
    Thirty minutes later, I have died of dysentery after depopulating most of the prarie of buffalo (that’s what happens when you kill ten buffalo, two bears, and a scattering of rabbits, taking back 100 pounds of meat and leaving 5000 to rot on the prarie.) I don’t want to leave, but the next class is coming in, and my teacher tells me it’s time to go and let some other kid try to reach Oregon.

  21. He will certainly be missed. He changed the world for the better, that’s for sure. The obit that I read on NPR talked about how he put the tools for content creation in to everyone’s hands, definitely true.
    I just hope Apple can maintain their trajectory with him gone.

  22. I too had a TI-99/4A followed by a first gen 128K Mac…and it’s what got me into computers. I don’t think I would have wanted to work for the man, but there’s no denying the incredible impact he’s had on both the technology field and in making that technology accessible to more and more people.

  23. Well put Wil.
    The only Apple product I own is an Ipod (old one at that). I have always been a “PC.” Despite that, I was incredibly sad last night over a man I’ve never known or even met. The world lost a true visionary and by all accounts a good man, and we should all mourn that.

  24. I had a TI-99/4A! I learned BASIC on it (wrote my first GOTO at 6). Then I had an Apple IIe to code and play games on. And later, my first graphical interface was on a Mac. My first Internet experience and learning to write HTML code was on a Mac.
    After that, I went primarily Windows, and I may have never owned an iPod or bought an iPhone, but Apple is still a piece of my roots. Goodbye, Steve. :(

  25. Nicely written. The first machine that made me love computers was an Apple II running “Cranston Manor” at the Minitronics store in our local mall.
    I never did have a 128 as I went Commodore after that. But on the topic of 128 I think you meant MacBASIC and not Visual Basic as Visual Basic 1.0 wasn’t released until 1991 :)

  26. Well said Wil.
    Steve Jobs was an amazing guy. Our lives wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for the amazing things he gave us. I will think about him when I use my iPod. I’m sad he is gone.
    RIP Steve Jobs

  27. I agree with the others here. Well said. I don’t like the positions Apple took and through extension him wrt personal rights but he was a innovator like very few the world has ever had.
    I found his Stanford speech interesting when he said M$ copied Apple. Seeing as they both copied Xerox PARC it was a bit one sided and self serving. I guess I should expect nothing less from any uber business person. But machts nichts. It seems at home, once he settled down, he was pretty much just like any other person and it would have been fun to have a beer or two (or whatever) with him. Sorta like you.

  28. Exactly.
    This comment brought to you by my white 13″ macbook.
    Previously owned a mac mini, graphite iMac and even a tangerine iMac, still floating around my brother’s apartment in NYC. And of course many iPods, iPhones and an iPad, too.
    Husband is a borderline mac cultist, his best friend is a die-hard mac cultist.
    I can’t properly express my feelings in words. Sad for my husband, who it affected much more than myself. Sad for Steve’s family. Definitely the same kinds of feelings you mentioned.
    I feel like I need to go to the “church of steve” to mourn… (that would be an apple store, of course).
    The world lost a great man far too soon.

  29. Well said, I grew up with DOS and Windows and didn’t experience until the mid 0’s. Now I use a MacBook, iMac and iPhone daily and with great pleasure. Sure they cost a pretty penny but I’ve never seen notebooks stand the test of time like my aging MacBook.
    Apple affection aside; Steve and the Woz really made the digital revolution possible and too few people truly realize that.
    Like I said on the Twitters: Thank you Steve Jobs for letting us live in the future. The world has lost a great person, much too soon

  30. I am not a Mac fanboy either, but I’m not ignorant. Steve Jobs changed the world and shaped it into what it is today. Even if he didn’t directly create everything; nearly every bit of technology, lately, has been built to compete with Steve’s vision(s).
    Though I may use a Windows laptop, an iPhone, a Linux desktop, and an Android tablet (okay, it’s a Nook Color, but still..) I will forever respect, admire, and miss Steve Jobs.

  31. OMFG the TI-99/4a! We would play Tunnels of Doom as a family (although as the youngest, I totally got stuck with the crappiest weapon) and I still occasionally sing the theme song from Hunt the Wumpus to myself when I’m trying to fix something/lift something heavy/do something dangerous/hide from my boss. Ok, sometimes that also happens out loud.
    Point is, I have an iPADD now (oh yeah, I went there!). It feels like the future when I use it, and I still can’t get my head around the fact that it’s really just the present. I still remember how sad I was as a kid when we lost Jim Henson [tears]. This kind of feels like that. Real life really, really needs an AutoSave.

  32. Amazing. I cannot recall seeing anyone else mention the Atari 400 before. (We had the 400, and the 800. The 800 lasted longer though.) We too used that BASIC cartridge, and saved our programs on cassette tapes. Then it finally died, and my next computer, almost a decade later, was an IBM (I only had $2k and had to purchase a desk too.) I have had passing experience with Apple products. Friends in Elementary school had an AppleII at their house, but they weren’t allowed on it, we had Macs in the computer rooms of my dorm during my first attempt at college in the early 90’s, but I spent more time on the VAX machines in the computer lab. My sister loves her macbook. (I DJ’d her wedding/reception on it. And by DJ’d, I adjusted the volume and paused the music as necessary during the ceremony, then set it on shuffle for the reception.)
    Yet, despite having limited experience with Apple products, the ideal that Jobs promoted strikes a chord with me. When I look at the posts people put up in his memory, with various quotes, it’s the ones that have nothing to do with electronics, and everything to do with actually Living that people are sharing. Considering he stayed doing what he apparently loved for so long, despite his health deteriorating, speaks volumes about priorities. I hope, one day in the very far future, to be remembered similarly (albeit by far fewer people.)
    Thank you for the memorial. And for sharing so much of your life with us strangers.
    I quote you all the time. It’s awesome living in the future.

  33. Agree totally. It’s been nice knowing and being @evilwilhweaton and hopefully @evilwilw will pick up the slack and start tweeting again. Love that dude!

  34. Wow, a 4800 baud modem?! I’ve heard of them but haven’t ever laid eyes on one.
    Congrats, you just out-geeked a guy that got his first paying computer gig at about age 12!

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