One More Thing…

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Success is about progress, and progress at its core is about advancement. No one achieves goals by standing still. Whether it’s technology, relationships, or social justice, we move things forward by wanting more, by making things better. This year, I experienced the benefits of constantly improving... one more thing.

Every year I work to improve some aspect of the ThankingSteve experience. From new button designs, upgrading to prescription “Steve Jobs” glasses, to building and improving the website—each year some detail gets added, polished, or elevated. After several years without a refresh, it was time for a whole new vision for the MacBox, one we could almost call the Power MacBox.

Again I turned to my one friend, both an artist and furniture-maker, to construct a precision-crafted box with an open screen front and an intricate method of assembly. Uniquely-designed joints allow the six sides of this new MacBox to simply slide apart, revealing a grooved ledge to mount a full-sized iPad and resulting in completely hardware-free disassembly. I hoped everyone would love it as much as I did.

On a perfect sunny day, I started my yearly trip. Over the years, I’ve made good friends at each store and the new MacBox was an added treat. Employees gathered ‘round and customers asked if they could take photos of it too. You see, my MacBox’s new iPad screen revealed a mini-slideshow of key moments from years past. To my glee, each store recognized everyone else in the photos from previous years. My 30-second ThankingSteve elevator pitch was both a surprise and a delight.

As I moved from store to store, the reactions were continuous. I listened in while one employee explained to a customer that he’d worked at Apple for six years and had seen ThankingSteve every year. Others recounted how many years and how many visits they could remember. Managers stepped forward to engage stronger than ever before. One employee was straight-forward. “You know you’re famous here, right?” she effused. “We talk about you every year. We talked about you in our meeting this morning! ‘I wonder if the Steve Jobs guy will be around today.’“

The day turned into evening and at my last stores I found clusters of employees glancing at their phones and watches, placing bets on what time ThankingSteve would visit. But at each stop, others were meeting ThankingSteve for the first time and, with howls of laughter, hoped it wouldn’t be the last. Making new friends while keeping the old—this is an experience that won’t be ending soon.

But there is one more thing...


“Oh my God, you did bring it.”

Because the MacBox was engineered to slide apart, it easily flat-packed for the 15-hour flight to southeast China and was reassembled in an instant. I stepped out of the elevator with my new MacBox to join my colleague in a car we’d arranged for the afternoon. We were taking members of our team into downtown Shenzhen. And we were taking them to experience ThankingSteve.

Since the start of ThankingSteve, I’ve traveled from store to store on my own, making it highly personal while reinforcing the power of one individual to affect their surroundings. Now, with a close colleague and our team of Chinese locals at hand, I was giving others an inside peek to my store visits and creating a bonding experience for the team unlike any other.

The Shenzhen Apple Store was packed as we pulled into Holiday Plaza mall. With my crew behind me, I swung open the giant glass door and stepped inside.

“Here we go!”

From the beginning, ThankingSteve piggybacked on Halloween and built every year on the repetition of familiarity. Without either of these tricks, the first visit to a foreign store could have fallen flat. Shenzhen was anything but. A great conversation with the manager led to laughs and even more conversations. As I explained my yearly ritual of visiting Chicago’s nine stores, one employee spoke up. “That means we’re store number 10? That’s good luck. Then you’ll come back next year?”

I chuckled. Shenzhen had ended my year on the highest note. But there is…

One more thing…

Every year I try to do something better or add something more. As the new year started, I took the broad view, looking at the big picture. What could I do more? How could I elevate the ThankingSteve experience? Every year I visit the Chicagoland stores at Halloween. The next progression was only logical: visit other stores—at other times of year. I’d already begun in Shenzhen.

Spring rolled around and I was planning my first travel vacation in as long as I could remember. I chose to spend the week of Memorial Day in Philadelphia, where I had moved after college and started my adult life exactly 30 years ago. In the spirit of giving thanks, I would bring ThankingSteve to another city.

Arriving Sunday night, I decided to stroll the neighborhoods I’d been so familiar with years before. Wandering down South Street in a cool rainy mist, the only thing on my agenda was finding someplace for dinner. I turned north and sauntered towards Center City, pausing while reading on my phone to avoid the scattered raindrops.

As I approached one intersection, in a flash, a shiny black Accord jumped the curb on the opposite side of the street and raced down the sidewalk to the end of the block, vanishing as quickly as it had appeared. I stood stunned. No one had been hurt. But it was only sheer luck that I was walking on the left side of the street and the car had jumped onto the sidewalk on the right.

Shaken, but none the worse for wear, I decided to grab a cheesesteak and retreat to the house for the night. Through the fog I could hear the Memorial Day fireworks from Penn’s Landing. As I turned back, I recognized a nearby subway placard. Thirty years earlier I had been mugged, breaking my jaw in three places, on this very night. I noticed the street sign at the corner and shuddered. I had been mugged on this block.

The following morning my heart was overflowing with gratitude as I awoke early to make my rounds with surprise visits to Apple Stores scattered throughout the Philadelphia area. Willow Grove, King of Prussia, Ardmore—all greeted me cheerfully and enthusiastically. I cautiously ended with a visit to the Walnut Street store, a bustling Center City location just off Rittenhouse Square. I’m always aware that I am visiting during business hours and work to make my appearance the least disruptive. At this store, my welcome was even greater than the others. Philadelphia is one of the friendliest cities around but it wasn’t just my memories working. Here, in person, everyone at Apple was proving it to me.

I paused to pull my iPhone from my pocket. I had received a message from a friend who had recently moved to Louisiana so she and her husband could be closer to their grandchildren:

“David and I just updated our phones to Apple iPhone 7. David also just got new hearing aids that thanks to the visionary Mr. Jobs, the iPhone streams phone calls right into the hearing aids. Thought you would like to know. 😉

I put my phone away and looked up. Employees were calling me to take one last group photo. I smiled. Thank you, Mr. Jobs, indeed.

IMG_2179Read about 2017