There’s a person at the other end.

Last summer, Charlie Rose hosted a short segment on 60 Minutes about David Kelley. It covered a short history of IDEO through the lens of David Kelley’s unique approach to the creative process. At the end, there was this exchange:

“My theory is that sometimes life squeezes out the best of us.”
“I’ve never heard that but that really resonates with me.”
“So if I could write the first line of your epitaph, it might be, ’David Kelley: Help people find the confidence in their creativity…”
“That would be lovely.”
“..and change the world.”

It’s a beautiful moment. When Charlie Rose says “epitaph,” the camera cuts to Kelley. There’s this look he has in that moment — this ever-so-subtle look of recognition and surprise. He didn’t expect to talk about legacy in this way, and yet there’s an obvious acquaintance with it. Kelley, a cancer survivor himself who spent more than a few minutes of this interview reflecting upon his friendship with Steve Jobs, has clearly done some end-thinking, too.

Rose’s words wash over Kelley and it’s clear that Kelley finds peace, and joy, and gratitude in hearing his time on this Earth summed up in this way. I don’t know him, but his reaction seems earnest and true. This is not an epitaph he feels entitled to, but one that pleases him. Kelly is content to be — in Rose’s estimation — the means, not the end.

I’ve watched this exchange several times over and it’s working on me. It reminds me that in this world of technological entanglement, what really matters is that at the end of every wire and screen is a person who, in their intrinsic value, can be a means to many good ends.

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