Monday, October 8, 2012

Neighborly Influence

Steve Jobs was my neighbor.  I didn’t know him personally, but often saw him walking on my block in his his usual uniform, the utilitarian, yet totally signature combination of black mock turtleneck, jeans and sneakers.  While we never spoke, I often felt grateful to have a personal hero in such close proximity to my daily life.  I can’t exactly put a finger on it, but there is evidence that human behavior tends to cluster, and so without even knowing him I felt that he had a palpable influence in my life.

It turns out, I wasn’t the only one.

If you live in Palo Alto, you can see this tribute for yourself at the corner of Lowell and Tennyson.

Photo credit goes to Linda Spencer

For over a year now, a few neighbors have made the pair of trees at our dead end their canvas for public art and celebration.  Whenever a new display appears, people stop to enjoy our dead end.  They take pictures, leave notes and linger just a little longer.  This neighborhood passion has delivered delight to many people, including myself.  Two of my favorites have been Easter and Chinese New Year.

And while, it may not seem that there is much in common between these displays, and the iconic influence of Steve Jobs, in a way, they have influenced me similarly.  Here are some things that I’ve learned from my neighbors:

1.  Adopt a uniform:  it saves a lot of time and frees up creative energy for other uses.

2.  Make your passion public:  no one said it better than Steve Jobs “You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart.” You never know, it might just delight your neighbors.

3.  Start in your own neighborhood:  one of my favorite moments of the steve jobs biography was reading about how he peddled his first computer door to door down El Camino Real, right in my very own neighborhood. And, I am deeply grateful to my neighbors, who have made such a local impact with their loving attention to two trees.

How about you? How do your neighbors influence you? And do you ever think about what you do to influence the culture of your neighborhood?


  1. Thank you so much for your kind and insightful words. Though these trees are stationary, they have sent messages around the world from those like yourself who have extended their branches beyond their physical reach. Thank you for sharing. It's why we do what we do.

  2. I love the idea of an ongoing collaborative neighborhood project, like the trees on your street. I do think such projects can change and improve the feeling in a neighborhood and bring neighbors together even if it is only through the separate but shared experience of the project. Makes me want to start something in my neighborhood....