Make something wonderful

I’m a sucker for an Apple product announcement. Yesterday’s event inaugurated the Steve Jobs Theater at the new Apple campus. The theater looks stunningly gorgeous, as you would expect from the world’s most prominent design-centric company.

The products announced were almost overshadowed by the venue and by the touching tribute that opened the keynote. The first voice heard as the event began was that of Steve Jobs himself. It was a recording of what I’m assuming was an internal speech Jobs gave to Apple employees years ago. It’s worth watching just the first five minutes of the keynote to appreciate this moment.

Here’s the text of that opening message:

“There’s lots of ways to be, as a person. And some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there. And you never meet the people. You never shake their hands.You never hear their story or tell yours. But somehow in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love something’s transmitted there. And it’s a way of expressing to the rest of our species our deep appreciation.” –Steve Jobs

A lovely thought. To express your appreciation for all you’ve been given by others, “make something wonderful, and put it out there.”

Do your part for humanity. Make good art. Be a craftsman of your work. Give your full attention and your best effort to whatever has been entrusted to you.

Shine where you can. Be awesome.

It’s a small price to pay in gratitude to those who’ve given their best art, who’ve made something wonderful and put it out there for us.

Ten years later: iPhone’s impact

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Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone on this day ten years ago during his 2007 Macworld keynote.

I remember watching the recorded keynote later at home on my beloved first Mac (the adorable white iMac G4*). I sat enthralled watching Jobs masterfully and with obvious glee unveil the never-before-seen features of this new device. I gasped along with the audience at touchscreen scrolling and pinch-to-zoom. I recognized immediately that this device was indeed the breakthrough device Jobs was pitching it to be.

The video of that keynote is worth rewatching even if you’ve seen it before, and it’s definitely worth seeing if you’ve never seen it. It’s embedded here along with a fascinating oral history of what led to the moment.

That moment is a turning point in technology, but also, in many ways, in our culture. We take it for granted now that a powerful computer with access to all the world’s knowledge and all of our most treasured photos and favorite songs can fit in your pocket. Before January 9, 2007 that possibility would have seemed far fetched. 

But Jobs’s keynote was remarkable as a form of presentation art as well. That moment was peak-Steve Jobs. The preparation for and execution of that keynote has become legendary. Jobs was in his element. He knew he had the substance—a once-in-a-generation product that he knew would change everything**—and he brought all the powers of his charismatic style to the moment.

The change sparked by the iPhone is remarkable, and its influence on its competitors and on technology and culture at large is undeniable. The world viewed through the prism of the iPhone generation looks different now than it did ten years ago. Better in many ways. Worse in some. 

It was a triumph of engineering and design. And a triumph of imagination. 

What could appear—what can even you bring to life—that might alter the way we can improve the human experience over the next ten years?

Think different, indeed.  

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*I still have this Mac tucked away on a little used desk in my home. I don’t power it on. But it’s still beautiful to look at.

**January 9, 2007 was also the day that Apple officially dropped the word “Computer” from the name of the company. Jobs knew Apple would never be the same after that day, too. It went from being an iconic, but second-tier computer maker to the most valuable and influential company in the world. 

Streaks App

Earlier today I downloaded Streaks, an app to track habits you want to keep.

My habit-keeping habit has been abysmal this year, and I needed a fresh approach.

I have used Habit List to good effect in the past, but I’m thinking a shiny new tool might rejuvenate my commitment to routines that make my life better. 

John Gruber of Daring Fireball recommended Streaks recently. I took a look, and it looks ideal for what I want to do—track my follow through on just a few key daily habits. It has a gorgeous and simple design and looks like a fun app to use. 

Not an hour after I purchased Streaks, I saw on Twitter that the app just won a design award from Apple today as one of the best apps of the year. 

I’ll give Streaks a go and try to revitalize some habits and revitalize my commitment to living a more excellent life. 

My next computer: iPad Pro

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I’ve been an iPad guy since the first version was announced in 2010. I loved it immediately and used it mostly for reading, but also for writing.

It was just supplemental, though, to my iPhone and the two iMacs I had—one at the office and the other at home.

The home iMac is old now and sits unused. I use my iPad mini for most of my computer tasks away from the office. It’s a great device for reading, and it’s so good as my presentation device. I use the iOS Keynote app and a VGA adapter to connect the iPad to a projector, and I use my iPhone as the remote. It’s a lightweight, minimal, and rock solid presentation setup.

The iPad mini is also the device that I do a lot of writing on. But that’s where the mini falls short for me. The screen is just too small. I pair the iPad with an external Bluetooth keyboard, but the canvas I’m writing on seems too constricting. The screen is too small for me to write comfortably. Inserting a cursor in the right location and highlighting text can be frustrating. I find myself writing less away from my office iMac just because it’s not as enjoyable to write on the tiny iPad mini screen.

I was intrigued when Apple introduced the new, very lightweight Macbook last year. The form factor is gorgeous. The screen looks impressive, and I was eager to try the new keyboard design. But the computer seemed a bit underpowered. However, I imagined its second iteration might be my dream writing machine.

When Apple introduced the 12.9 inch iPad Pro last fall, it seemed almost comically large to me. “Who is going to want that?” I wondered.

Now, I want that.

I keep hearing about people who have replaced their laptop (or even their desktop) with this new iPad. Federico Vittici, Jason Snell, CGP Grey and Myke Hurley, Serenity Caldwell… All are iPad-Pro-as-laptop-replacement evangelists. 

And now, even Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s former head of its Windows division, has written that the iPad Pro has become his primary computer.

I appreciate the simple elegance of iOS versus OS X. There’s less to fiddle and fuss with. There’s less distraction and a more focused environment. It’s a truly modern and mature operating system. 

And now, with the most powerful computing power ever in an iOS device and a screen bigger than the entry level Mac laptops, the iPad Pro may be my ultimate computing device so far. It’s at the top of my wish list. 

 

Beautifully empty

Our living room right now: IMG_7017We are not moving. We just had our floors repaired after our water heater died and tried taking as much of the rest of the house with it as it could.

We’ve been in this house for thirteen years. In spite of the hassle of fixing the floors, it’s worth it for the delight of seeing this floor look like new again.

But now I’m loving the stark emptiness. I’m not eager to have our furniture and stuff returned to where it was.

Of course, it’s not a museum piece. We live here and need somewhere to sit. 

Or do we?

The photo above reminded me of this famous photo below of a young and newly rich Steve Jobs, who was so loath to possess anything of merely average beauty that for a while he lived with just this Tiffany lamp and his stereo in his living room:

WOODSIDE, CA - DECEMBER 15: CEO of Apple Steve Jobs sits at his home in Woodside, CA on December 15, 1982. IMAGE PREVIOUSLY A TIME & LIFE IMAGE. (Photo by Diana Walker/SJ/Contour by Getty Images)
WOODSIDE, CA – DECEMBER 15: CEO of Apple Steve Jobs sits at his home in Woodside, CA on December 15, 1982. IMAGE PREVIOUSLY A TIME & LIFE IMAGE. (Photo by Diana Walker/SJ/Contour by Getty Images)
No worries. We will not be living like Steve. But we will use this opportunity to rethink what goes back in. If it’s not useful or beautiful to us, it really shouldn’t make the cut.

Apple’s new iPhone dock

A dock came with the first couple of iPhones. There was one in the box with my iPhone 3G in 2008. 

It was a nice touch and gave the phone a home, a more definite sense of place. And it was more of an incentive to just put it away when you got home. 

But docks went away as an Apple option eventually. Third party solutions have been available, but there’s been nothing from Apple in the Lightning connector era. 

But last week Apple announced a new dock to fit all the Lightning connector devices. That’s the iPhone 5, 5s, 6, and 6 Plus. Apparently, even iPads will fit. 

I ordered a couple as soon as I saw them available and got them this weekend. 

Here’s my wife’s iPhone 6 (sporting the new red Apple leather case I just got her for Mother’s Day) in the new Apple dock:  

The dock is very simple and offers a minimalist, elegant alternative to just laying the phone on a nightstand or desk. Even with the case on the phone fits perfectly onto the dock. It’s easy to connect one-handed, but it’s not so easy to disconnect without using two hands. 

 
The dock itself is barely there, with just enough of a form to fulfill its function. No flourishes. Nothing unnecessary. Classic Apple design for even a lowly phone dock. 

“A place for everything, and everything in its place.” This new dock is a simple way to fulfill that declutterer’s mantra and give your iPhone a place to call home. 

Becoming Steve Jobs: Adversity and failure before triumph

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The new, much-hyped biography, Becoming Steve Jobs, was released yesterday, and my pre-ordered copy was on my porch when I got home last night. This is the rare book that I’m choosing to purchase as a physical book instead of an ebook. The advance praise was sufficient enough and the topic is one I find fascinating. I’m thinking it will be a keeper.

The book explores how someone who seemed so insensitive and reckless at the beginning of his career could end up as THE visionary business leader of our time. I just started reading it and came to this passage in the prologue:

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“We can learn as much, if not more, from failure, from promising paths that turn into dead ends. The vision, understanding, patience, and wisdom that informed Steve’s last decade were forged in the trials of these intervening years.”

The greatness of the company that Steve Jobs fashioned in his last decade would not have been possible without the failures and shortcomings of his first couple of decades.

I’ve been fascinated recently by those who have turned adversity and failure to their advantage. We all seem to know that facing difficulties and enduring setbacks make us stronger and better. Yet we resist even the thought of coming up short or of taking on hardship.

Maybe we all should regularly and intentionally fling ourselves into the teeth of surefire heartbreak and dismal failure just so we can grow and learn faster.