I was going through some old files, looking for pictures of my mom today, and I found this 2011 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. While this magazine has been in my possession for five years, I never noticed the cover story subtitle: “How an Insecure Hippie Kid Reinvented Himself- and Changed the World.”
They’re talking about Steve Jobs, of course, but the sequence of the words #insecure #kid #reinvent #changetheworld feels relevant to me right now.
As the proverb goes, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear,” and I guess this “student” is ready. I don’t believe in coincidences.
On October 26th, 2011 my stepfather Robert Hunt passed away unexpectedly, the magazine came out the day after. It was published in 2011 along with Steve Job’s biography (his came out in October, mine in August). That biography, my first book Nothing to Lose, was written with deep gratitude for Bob’s mentorship and dedicated to my mother who was one year into a two-year coma.
My mom came home from the hospital on Easter 2013, and since then she has fought back from the brink again and again. I’ve been to the I.C.U. so many times I quit updating my friends because I didn’t want them on this rollercoaster with me and our family. This year she is in hospice, and my family is at peace with her decision. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about her eulogy. (That’s why I was looking for photos of her.)
I wrote my stepfather’s eulogy October of 2011—and I still consider Bob’s eulogy the best “speech” I’ve ever given. I was at such a loss, it was a true rock bottom for me to lose the man who had helped me turn my life around, and rescued my mother and I out of poverty, he was my first real mentor. While researching eulogies, I came across a mock eulogy written by Norman Mailer (for himself), and I drew inspiration from it. I wanted desperately to bring some humor to the situation, in the spirit of my stepfather, who was a well known prankster with a great sense of fun. (Go watch it on my YouTube channel if you’d like a laugh, as ironic as that sounds.)
Reflecting on the month of October, I now realize the transformation it represents to me, both as an entrepreneur, and personally. I started my first company (24×7 Tech) in October of 1999, we closed our ViSalus sale to NYSE:BTH in October 2008, canceled our IPO in October 2012, and the list of significant events in October rolls on and on.
This year I launched my latest book Rock Bottom to Rock Star on the 4th of October and made the decision that I would fight great headwinds to be a messenger of hope, with my mom on hospice, and the election noise raging in the background.
And now, on this day, October 27th, 2016, with this magazine in my hand, the reminder of Steve Jobs’ reinvention serves as a much needed reminder to me. I learned a powerful lesson from Steve.
That’s the beauty of mentors. Unlike my stepfather, I didn’t know Steve personally, but I learned from him by observing him, by reading all that I could about him, and from those that worked with him. I’ve watched countless speeches, bought old documentaries, rebooted my Next, and have even hired his former colleagues to help me better understand how such a complex man came to the virtue of simplicity, with a belief in magic.
And maybe Steve has helped me write my mother’s eulogy, too, the way Norman Mailer inspired my stepfather’s, because two traits I covet most of my mother’s are: she believes in the magic that “I could do anything I set my mind to,” and she is simple, yet complex. She puts “love” first.
I’ll leave you with some more words of wisdom from Steve, and thank you for being here for me.
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
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 the Stanford University commencement address in 2005