*The following was written before Steve Jobs passed away.
This isn't an easy question, nor does it have an easy answer. Steve Jobs accomplished a lot in his career, but his legacy is quite a bit less tangible. He once said that if he hadn't dropped in on those calligraphy classes at Reed College, "the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them." And this is how it is with legacies. They are unseen, hard to quantify, and often missed because of their vastness. At this very moment, there's a writer somewhere in the world switching back and forth between Calibri and Tahoma, and I guarantee you he isn't thinking, "Wow, if it wasn't for Steve Jobs…"
His story is the dream
Steve Jobs co-founded Apple and bought Pixar Animation Studios from George Lucas in 1986 (many years before Toy Story, the company's first film). These companies will live on for many decades, but surely his legacy cannot stop there. I am fascinated by people's stories; collectively, they weave a mantle of intricate events that literally transforms the world. The story of Steve Jobs is the heart of the American Dream: a young and ambitious dreamer without a wealthy background innovates his way to billionaire status. He takes advantage of opportunity, and he runs with it.
The legacy of Steve Jobs hides in the spirit with which he runs his companies. He's a single-minded dreamer, a stubborn innovator, a visionary, whose vision may or may not be right for its time—but when it is, it's unstoppable. He easily could have been very wrong about a lot of things, and we would never have heard of him. But because he carried with him a relentless willingness to be very wrong, to be on the fringe of the next thing, to go to a new destination we didn't even know we wanted to go to.
Obviously, Steve Jobs has been surrounded by brilliant people who have created and designed most of Apple's products. It is unrealistic to think that the mind of Steve Jobs has produced everything Apple has ever released. Nevertheless, I would argue that it did all come from his mind, or at least, it all started there. It takes a strong mind to inspire others to create their very best. Relentless, fearless innovation is the type of trait that rubs-off on other people. When you believe that your dreams can change the world, no amount of naysaying can stop you from making them real. What's more impressive, is that when you start believing in your dreams, other people start believing in theirs.
His Legacy begs questions
Perhaps the legacy of Steve Jobs is that his story sparks our own questions. Can our dreams really change the world? Can we be relentless and stubborn with our vision? Fearless innovation isn't for everyone, but believing in ourselves is. The legacy of Steve Jobs is filled with financial and cultural success, but regardless of the outward achievements, what remains is a deep belief in a grander vision. What is the legacy of Steve Jobs? I don't know. What I do know is that I now dream bigger and brighter, and as my belief in my dreams grow, so do the dreams of those around me. Thank you Steve, for believing in your dreams, and helping us believe in ours.