The Most Important Thing to Remember on Apple's 40th Birthday

Apple's 40th BirthdayApple turned 40 years old today. Yep. 40. It was April 1st, 1976, when Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ron Wayne formed Apple Computer. This is the stuff of technology legend, and the story has been told, retold, and then told again.

But forget about that. In fact, if you want to wish Apple a happy birthday, forget about every awesome (and awful) thing the company did in its first 40 years. Forget about the legacy of Steve Wozniak. Of Steve Jobs. Forget about the Apple I, ][, and ///. Forget about the Mac, and desktop publishing, the Newton, and the embarrassment that was the Performa line.

Forget about the iPod and how the iTunes Store disrupted music sales. Forget about iPhone and iPad. About the App Store. And Apple TV. Forget about the Apple Watch.

One of the most important lessons the late Steve Jobs taught us is about dwelling on the past. Or not dwelling, rather.

"I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good," Mr. Jobs said, "then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next."

And Mr. Jobs was famous, if not infamous, for ruthlessly applying this concept...all of the times, to people and products alike. Steve Jobs couldn't care less about yesterday, as he was usually focused on tomorrow.

To be fair, Steve Jobs was kind of a weirdo in this way, at least as measured by the rest of us. Normal folks are nostalgic. Normal folks like to hold on to favorite things. Normal folks not only want to stick with the tried and true, they are actively resistant to change.

We like to look back. We love things like Apple's 40 Years in 40 Seconds video.

I wonder what Mr. Jobs would have thought about that video? It's hard to say, but I suspect it wouldn't have been produced on his watch.

And that's where we enter some kind time paradox, because my whole point here is that if you want to honor the legacy of Steve Jobs, start by not worrying about what Steve would have done. Don't look back. Steve Jobs is gone, and what he did and what he might have done no longer matter. The only thing that matters is what Apple does next.

So give Apple the perfect present for its 40th birthday by forgetting about the first 40 years. This doesn't mean we shouldn't honor the amazing accomplishments of the many people who have contributed to Apple's tale, it just means we shouldn't fixate on that tale, cling to it, or otherwise enshrine the past in a way that inhibits progress to something new.

After all, it's what Steve Jobs would have done*.

*The irony of this thought is both unavoidable and intended.