Remembering Steve Jobs
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on October 21st, 2011

I was a late convert to the Apple ecosystem — and still have a foot in the Windows world, the desktop computer I most often use for emails and writing about swimming. But I’ve long fancied–perhaps flattered myself–that I saw striking resonance between Apple and Total Immersion.  As early as 1998–long before the advent of ipod, iphone and ipad–I saw traditional swimming as analogous to Microsoft and the PC.  Everyone swam the traditional way; no one was terribly excited by it. Ditto for PCs. Apple devotees were few in number but reliably passionate. TI has always been a niche pursuit, but always had raving fans.

That comparison may seem less apt today when Apple is as recognized a brand as Coca Cola, and for half a day in August, even surpassed Exxon as the world’s most valuable company. But, nearly all the articles about Steve Jobs  and Apple in the two weeks since his death have mentioned things which I think validate the comparison and  inspire optimism about the future possibilities for TI.

Computing for Everyman Apple’s first breakthrough product–the Apple II computer introduced in 1977–was designed by his cofounder Steve Wozniak, but inspired by Jobs’ vision that personal computer use would one day far outnumber business applications. This conviction drove a relentless pursuit of greater accessibility that took us from the abstruse MSDOS commands (do you remember typing chdir\ to open a different directory) to point-and-click, screen-swiping and — with the iPhone 4s and the Siri digital assistant — voice commands in plain language. The original TI book–the world’s most popular book on swimming since its release in 1996–was devoted to making swimming improvement methods simple enough to allow anyone to ‘be their own best coach’ and describing swimming principles in simple, non-technical language. TI has continued to strive tirelessly to make the drills and skills ever more fool-proof and to explain the process for swimming farther or faster as simply as we’d already explained the process for improving your stroke.

Do What You Want – Despite their ease-of-use  Apple’s computers remained niche products 10 years ago, mainly because of Jobs’ obstinacy in keeping the ecosystem pure — Apple machines and PC’s spoke different languages and Apple’s user base was too small to be attractive to software developers. Graphic designers were its most ardent fans. Businesses had no use for it.

The world began to change on Oct 23, 2001 when Apple released the first ipod. Jobs and Apple staffers knew that their job wasn’t to make devices or code software; it was to craft quality experiences by making it easy, seamless and enjoyable for people to do the things they wanted to do. The parallel with TI is that we’ve changed the focus of swimming from “getting in the yards . . . getting in shape . . . even working on technique” to gaining a sense of satisfaction and empowerment–and potentially transformation or transcendence–from swimming. That may come from completing your first lap or first mile, being complimented on the grace of your stroke, finishing an Ironman or simply having a healthful activity you do passionately. In every instance, it comes from doing those things with a sense of purpose, mastery and self-reliance, turning the focus from the destination to the journey.

I’ve used a macbook to write and do email while on the road for several years. During my current visits to Turkey and Israel, I plan to use an ipad for the first time to review video with our students. And by next month I expect I’ll also be using an iphone to shoot that video. My conversion to using those as coaching tools is due in part to how well they can perform those functions, and in part by my desire to pay tribute to Steve Jobs’ vision.

Think Different. Swim Different too.

One Response to “Remembering Steve Jobs”

  1. Steve Howard says:


    I enjoyed your article about Steve Jobs and Apple. As an engineer, I have been involved with the development of many innovative designs. In my world, the Apple iPhone is one the most amazing and useful computer systems I have ever used. It allows me to type emails, look at Word documents, spreadsheets and even engineering drawings. It is an engineering calculator, a IPod, provides weather, the phases of the moon, a ramp to the internet, a GPS navigation device, a camera and movie recorder and even allows me to track my swimming workouts. I could go on forever but my wife Debbie would say “We get the Idea – don’t be so wordy!!”. I have recently installed two Apple Mac computers at our Engineering Office, which has a sophisticated 20 + computer Microsoft based server/network. In the scientific world Apple computers have always been very useful. I see even greater potential for Apple computers based on the ever expanding capabilities of Apple iPhone.

    For me, Like the Apple iPhone – Total Immersion is highly innovative – cutting edge technology. There are numerous Total Immersion advantages and benefits both in the water swimming and also out of the water. As you mentioned, TI has helped many (such as myself), first to get across the pool, then swim a mile and then swim 2.4 miles and beyond. Total Immersion has given me the skill and confidence to complete a 6 miles and 6.25 mile swims and most recently complete a full 140.6 Ironman. Most importantly, the Total Immersion drills help me to engage my brain to control the complex balance requirements of my body in the water and timing motions with my legs and arms. The continued brain development helps me to function better at the office. So when I practice TI drills, I feel that the drills are as much or more mental engineering exercises, as they are physical training. I look forward to many years of practice and incremental improvement for the rest of my life!

    Respectfully – Steve Howard

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