By the Way, What Have You Done That’s So Great?

By Jason Calacanis

1. Unrelenting attention to detail.

2. Impeccable taste.

3. Indefatigable passion.

4. Absolute conviction.

5. Unwavering vision.

6. Boundless curiosity.

7. Mercurial motivator.

One or two of these will help you make a living.

Three or four of these will make you successful.

Four of five of these will make you a legend.

Five or six of these will make you iconic for all time.

All seven will make you Steve Jobs.

What Steve taught us was that all of the world's problems, and all the problems that lie within us, are surmountable. All we have to do is find something we love doing each day, surround ourselves with like-minded people and put all of our effort into that one thing at all times.

For Steve, "do what you love" seemingly came easy, but we all know that was not the case. We'll obsess about the insurmountable challenges Steve fought through as we try to resolve who this person was and why he meant so much to us.

Critics will obsess over his flaws as a way to reconcile the loss, saying he didn't give enough to charity. Or that he was abrasive, or perhaps even abusive, in some personal interactions.

Perhaps he made someone cry.

Who among these critics, and among us, hasn't been abrasive or made someone else cry, I wonder?

These issues are only mentioned because they allow our feeble brains to reconcile that one person could so handily outproduce, outclass and outlive -- in 56 short and epic years -- all of us.

Of all the amazing things Steve said, the one that will always stick with me, was a quip in a 2 a.m. email to one of the meaningless critics, from one of the many meaningless publications that traffic in cynicism, criticism and hate in the name of pageview growth -- and that most of us subject ourselves to daily.

"By the way, what have you done that’s so great?
Do you create anything, or just criticize other's work
and belittle their motivations?”
-- Steve Jobs

When I read that quote, it immediately reminded me of my favorite speech from any film I've ever seen:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.

But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.

The world is often unkind to new talents, new creations. The new needs friends.

Last night, I experienced something new; an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking, is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto, 'Anyone can cook.'

But I realize — only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau's, who is, in this critic's opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau's soon, hungry for more."

-- Anton Ego, "Ratatouille"

I'm absolutely convinced that Steve wrote that speech as a subversive eff-you to the critics whom he knew would have to sit there with their kids and realize that their careers were, in fact, meaningless when compared to those of the creators. That the only hope critics have in salvaging their disposable careers is to "support the new."

"Here's to the crazy ones," the best commercial he ever produced -- and yes, infinitely more important than "1984," the "greatest commercial of all time" -- is the bookend to Anton's speech.

In this unaired version, Steve does the narration.

In his reading, we feel his unrelenting attention to detail, impeccable taste, indefatigable passion, absolute conviction, unwavering vision, boundless curiosity and, yes, his mercurial motivation tactics.

Steve challenged us to think different and to create.

When all the iPads and iPhones pile up in the garbage heaps, as he predicated in "Wall-E," and when all the innovations are no longer innovative, and when all the criticism is long forgotten, that is what we will remember.

To think different.

To support the new.

To be crazy.

To never accept the status quo.

And to push the human race forward.

We love you, Steve.



Other notable remembrances: 

The Steve Jobs I Knew by Walt Mossberg

What We've Lost And What We've Gained by Fred Wilson

Universe Dented, Grass Underfoot by John Gruber