change the world your way

Two people who changed the world died within days of each other last week.

One you know, the other you don’t.

Both lost valiant battles with pancreatic cancer.

Both died at nearly the same age and far too young (at least from where I’m sitting now they died too young).

Both were about changing the world.

Both were great leaders.

Both left behind organizations grieving the loss of great leadership.

Literally the whole world spent last week thinking about Steve Jobs’ contribution to the world. You’ve probably read a ton about his life and death. The other great leader who died…there wasn’t that much out there about him.

A couple of things that stand out to me about Steve Jobs:

Apple finally outran Microsoft as the world’s most valuable technology company (he’d love that).

Jobs celebrated the rebel, the artist, the quirky genius. He made each of us feel like we could create. And he put technology at our fingertips that worked and was nice to look at.
He put songs in our pockets. He put movies on our tablets. He connected technology with our lives.

He made us feel cooler than we had any real reason to feel (at least that’s the way he made me feel at times).

Here are some things you might not have known about Jobs.

When I think of Jobs, this video is what I think of: celebrating the rebels and the dreamers. Jobs does the narration. The commercial that aired had Richard Dreyfuss doing the voiceover. Jobs’ version is better.

Jobs wasn’t universally loved (and not just by the PC die-hard crowd). Many point out his less than pleasant side.

Steve Jobs changed the world, no question about it.

The other man who died last week changed the world, too.

You won’t know him, but he was a great leader. His name is Bob Heerspink. Bob led a ministry devoted to telling the world about the love of God: Back to God Ministries International. Some years ago I had the pleasure of helping them with strategy, some branding and fundraising.

I got to know Bob while serving him as my client. You learn a lot about a guy when you work for him:

Bob changed the world through making sure that Good News was heard in places that were desperate for good news—China, India, the Middle East and even the US.

Bob was passionate and focused, but never scary. He was thoughtful and wise. He built a team with love and service, not demands. He cared deeply about everyone around him. He was a joy to work with and work for.

No one would have much negative to say about his leadership.

I’ve been thinking about Bob’s death since he died a week or so ago.

Candidly, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. His battle with cancer lasted only 3 months.

Far too fast. Far too a good a man to lose. And knowing Bob, he wasn’t done changing the world.

I read about Steve Jobs’ death coming home on a plane from the East coast. It was fascinating to see the social media and web-world light up with the news. And I thought about how news of Bob’s death came to me via email but there wasn’t a lot of hoopla on the web.

It occurs to me that both Bob and Steve did what they could where they were.

They led teams.

They created with what they had.

They made the most of what opportunities they were given.

And life ended too soon for both of them.

It seems like the whole world grieved Steve Jobs’ passing. I felt the loss, too.

A smaller, less visible portion of the world celebrated Bob’s life. Even though he wasn’t profiled in Wired or FastCompany, he made many people’s lives better, fuller and most importantly, he helped them know they’re loved by the One who created them. Bob gave many, many people the gift of knowing Jesus. I have to say, as much as I believe Apple has changed the world, it’s nothing compared with what Bob did.

Here’s my bottom-line: I’m pretty sure neither Steve nor Bob were finished with what they were doing here on planet earth. They ran out of time. It’ll happen to all of us, which has me thinking about leading, purpose and what you and I spend our time on. We have to recognize that at some point it’ll be over.

And rather than wait for the opportunity to run Pixar or develop the next new Apple product, I think we oughta decide to change the world we can get our hands on.

Me? I’m thinking I want to be like my friend Bob.

What about you? Are you finished with what you’re doing? If it had to end in 3 months, would you be satisfied? If not, so what are we going to do about it?

I’d love to know what you think.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: *Nicci*)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

6 thoughts on “change the world your way”

  1. What a wonderful tribute to your friend Bob. And what an honor for Steve Jobs to be included in such stellar company. I wish I knew Bob. But I have known men like him and they have helped shape my life. The three-months-to-live question is a doozie! I think it’s time to get my rear in gear and do some of those things that mean the most.

  2. @Al–you’re a guy people love to know. I know I could write similar words about you (let’s hold off on the dying thing for now, though). You’ve got that fire and passion.

    So you’re just like Bob. But that 3-month thing…what to do? It is a doozie.

  3. I have just turned 41. I know. I know. I am still young and over the hill depending on who you talk to. Either way I find myself asking what impact have I made, what impact do I want to make. I realize that my youthful passion sometimes has been quenched by life’s reality. I hope hard-earned wisdom makes up the difference. If I had three months, mmm…

    Let my hands work the wonders God has created me to make…

    I want to be a person who refuses to shrink back though I feel nervous often
    I want to be a person who makes that extra effort though I long to be done
    I want to be a person who smiles a little longer and brighter though it seems put on
    I want to be a person who shines even though it is easier to stay hidden

    Let me be His person, doing His things, enjoying His creation and love His ever-increasing family.

    Let me be spent.

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