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I just finished reading “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, the only authorized biography of one of the most creative minds of all time. I watched the movie based on the book and his other biopic — simply titled “Jobs” — last year.
Combining all that knowledge gave me a broader perspective of Steve Jobs success throughout his stellar career at Apple, Pixar, NeXT, and the famous return to his first company.
In less than 40 years in business, he revolutionized 6(!) different industries — personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, computing, digital publishing.
Now, Jobs was obviously a smarter than average individual with enormous creativity, ambition, and drive. But I think that us–mere mortals–can incorporate some of his productivity secrets into our daily lives.
Here are the top 10 Steve Jobs success secrets and how you can apply them:
#1 Focus On What Matters: Prioritize Ruthlessly
Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 with a daunting mission, to say the least.
The company had lost $1.04 billion in the fiscal year of 1997. Sales plummeted by 30 percent in the last Quarter of 1996. On the product line, it was producing a random array of computers and peripherals, including multiple versions of the same product.
After a few weeks of product review sessions, Jobs had enough. On a product meeting, he decided to reduce the number of products by 70%. Apple was to produce only four products: one desktop and one portable device aimed at both consumers and professionals. The job of his team members was to focus on building four great products, one for each quadrant. All other products should be canceled. There was a stunned silence…
But by getting Apple to focus on making just four computers, he saved the company.
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. It’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”
But Jobs didn’t just do this with Apple. He’d pass along the advice to just about anyone who asked. Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike, asked Steve if he had any advice. Jobs replied in a similar fashion:
“Well, just one thing… Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
A relentless focus was ingrained in Jobs personality and had been honed by his Zen training. He relentlessly filtered out what he considered distractions. His move to a smaller product line and a greater focus on quality and innovation paid off.
One year later, the company turned a $309 million profit.
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We often fall into the trap of trying to do it all. But in work, as in life, less is more. The 80/20 rule (also known as “The Pareto Principle”) is a great mental model to help you focus. It states that:
80% of the output or results will come from 20% of the input or action.
In other words: little things account for the majority of the results.
Here’s an exercise you can do right now:
- Start with the end goal: What are you trying to achieve? Write it down. Be specific by using metrics and a timeline to achieve them. E.g. Acquire 3 new clients this Quarter
- Break it down: divide the goal into specific actions you need to take to get there. Think in terms of systems: actions that you can do repeatedly. E.g. Make 100 phone calls to new leads
- Order tasks: list all your tasks and rank them according to two criteria: effort and impact. For effort: 1 is easy, 10 is hard to do. For impact: 1 is minimal impact, 10 is a high-leverage activity
- Prioritize: Divide the potential results by the amount of effort to get a “priority” ranking. Do the item with the lowest resulting priority number first. This is your most important task. Schedule it on your calendar, blocking out time to perform Deep Work that moves the needle on your goals
- Rinse and repeat: until you achieve your goal
Sounds too simple to be true. But while most people can state what they want, many won’t put in the work needed to achieve it.
#2 Seek Simplicity
Jobs simplified products by focusing on their essence and eliminating unnecessary components. Machines should be elegant solutions that enabled users in a friendly way, rather than challenging them. It was such an important value for Apple that an early Mac manual opened with a Leonardo da Vinci quote: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Jobs learned to admire simplicity while working at Atari. Games needed no manual and could be easily understood in seconds. The only instructions for its Star Trek game? “1. Insert quarter. 2. Avoid Klingons.”
Jobs aimed for the simplicity that comes from conquering, rather than merely ignoring, complexity. In Jony Ive, Apple’s industrial designer, Jobs met his soul mate in the quest for deep rather than superficial simplicity. They knew that simplicity is not merely a minimalist style or the removal of clutter. In order to eliminate screws, buttons, or excess navigational screens, it was necessary to understand profoundly the role each element played.
“Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
But Jobs didn’t only seek simplicity in products, but also in work. Here’s his vision on programmer productivity in 1997:
“The way you get programmer productivity is not by increasing the lines of code per programmer per day. That doesn’t work. The way you get programmer productivity is by eliminating lines of code you have to write.
The line of code that’s the fastest to write, that never breaks, that doesn’t need maintenance, is the line you never had to write.”
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Here’s how to come up with simple solutions:
- Is this a problem? Sometimes we fixate on things that are outside our control. When we can’t do anything about it, it’s not a problem
- Why does the problem exist? Take a step back and examine why you are even tackling the problem. You might discover simpler and better alternatives to the problem just by thinking about the why
- Is there an obvious solution to this problem? When we think that our problem is complex, we believe that it needs a complex solution too. But most complex problems have simple solutions. Instead, reason from first principles. A first principle is a basic assumption that can’t be deduced from any other proposition. It’s the only sure thing in a complex problem. Take productivity as an example, where the goal is to get more done. The biggest reason you don’t get things done is that you’re doing other things. If you remove the ability to do other things — either by designing your environment or using better defaults — you’ll focus on the what you are trying to be productive on
- What’s the least I can do to solve this problem? List all possible solutions to the problem and focus on the one the one you consider the best. Now remove everything that doesn’t add value to the solution. While this is hard, it’s also the key to keeping it simple. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”
By asking yourself these 4 powerful questions, you will force yourself to find better and simpler solutions. Doing less frees up your mind, letting it focus on the things that matter.
#3 Say No To a Thousand Things
The design ethic that Jobs instilled at Apple was completely different at the time. The process to design products was to figure out what was important, simplify how it was delivered and get rid of everything else. That meant saying “no” to lots of things which could distract, even if it meant to anger some customers and partners.
In the words of John Sculley, former Apple CEO:
“What makes Steve’s methodology different from everybody else’s is that he always believed that the most important decisions you make are not the things that you do, but the things you decide not to do.”
Take the iPod as an example. MP3 players were fiddly with lots of buttons and dials and you had to invest time figuring out how everything worked. The iPod, on the other hand, had a scroll wheel allowing users to load and then access at least a thousand songs with just a couple of clicks of the navigational wheel. This was a major breakthrough in design which would go on to revolutionize the entire product category.
“I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”
Apple products are designed to be used without user manuals. Many designers try to make their products stand out by integrating more and more features but Apple moves in the opposite direction. The iPod is designed to help people listen to music and anything which detracts from that goal is aggressively eliminated.
Great companies like Apple typically focus on the one thing the product is made to do and design a simple solution to perform that task which ends up being elegant because of its simplicity.
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Saying no is its own skill. We start with limited experience but can get better at it over time. In Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown offers seven effective ways to say no:
- The awkward pause. When a request comes to you in person, pause and count to three before delivering your decision. Or simply wait for the other person to fill the void
- The soft “no” (or the “no but”). Explain that you are focused on other things right now but would love to get together once you’re done with them
- “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” This will give you time to pause and assess your priorities. Take back control of your own decisions rather than be rushed into a “yes”
- Use e-mail bouncebacks. Why limit email auto-responses to holidays? Train other people to respect your productivity, work, and time by using an automatic response
- Say, “Yes. What should I deprioritize?” Remind your superiors what you would be neglecting if you said yes and force them deal with the trade-off
- State what you are willing to do: for example: “You are welcome to borrow my car. I am willing to make sure the keys are here for you.” By doing this you are also saying that you won’t be able to drive the person but instead you frame it in terms of what you willing to do
- “I can’t do it, but X might be interested.” It is tempting to think that our help is uniquely invaluable, but often people requesting something don’t really care if we’re the ones who help them — as long as they get the help
#4 Find and Do What You Love
We have all been told to “follow our passion”. But that’s easily one of the worst advice you could ever get.
Steve Jobs wasn’t passionate about computers. But he was passionate about creating devices that helped people unleash their true potential. Walter Isaacson recalls a conversation he had with Jobs shortly before he passed:
“Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion, but we’re all part of the flow of history. You’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people so that 20, 30, 40 years from now people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.”
Steve Jobs success and Apple’s was not because he suddenly realized that personal computers were his true passion. Instead, he knew personal computers could change the world — and he wanted to be a part of that transformation.
Don’t follow your passion, let it follow you. Work passionately toward the hard but worthy goal of making an impact. Follow your efforts.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it”.
Don’t see your life as separate from the course of society but rather as a part of it — and do great work from there.
Aristotle said it best: “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.”
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Doing what you love lives at the intersection of two diagrams: the things you love to do and what people pay you to do.
Most of us spend time in each one but rarely at the intersection: we do what we love without proper compensation or work on something we don’t enjoy that gives us plenty of other benefits, such as money and flexibility.
So how can you work on something you enjoy that also has enough demand to make a living from it? Here’s what I propose:
- Give It Time: find if you enjoy the process of doing something, rather than the idea of it. George R. R. Martin claims he doesn’t enjoy writing but rather “Enjoy having written.” Test your assumption while keeping your day job. There’s less risk and if you don’t enjoy it as much as you thought you can keep it as a hobby or move on to something else
- Test Demand: if you’re starting out with a new type of work, share your progress and any work you’re really proud of. It could be a portfolio, a public showing of your work, or even case studies. Give other people a chance to see what you do to help you develop your skills in public as well as in private
- Find Your Unique Angle: this will help you carve out your own niche in terms of what you love doing and expand demand for your work. Find the gaps in existing solutions and focus on what you do that is different and unique
When you find a career that you love that loves you back, work energizes you. You feel refreshed after a day’s work because, in your own definition, you have contributed something to make the world a better place. You’ve become a maker.
I also highly recommend that you read Cal Newport’s excellent book So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love on this very subject.
#5 Assess Your Life Daily
In 2005, Steve Jobs delivered Stanford Commencement Speech. In it, he outlined his biggest motivation in life: death. He went on to explain how death kept him interested in the world:
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
We all have days filled with things we don’t want to do — but when those days outnumber the good ones, it’s time to reassess. If things aren’t looking so good, it’s probably time to switch careers.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
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The question “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” is very powerful. It forces you to focus and ponder about what you do on a daily basis.
There are two benefits that arise when you start a habit of asking yourself this question each morning:
- Knowing the essentials: this question makes it easy to say “no” to opportunities and tasks that don’t contribute toward your goals. By saying “no” more often you focus on the essential Deep Work and high-valued relationships that have an impact. Seneca, a Stoic, said it best: “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”
- Worrying less about what people think: the biggest barrier to pursuing our dreams and passions lies in the of what others will think or say. But this doesn’t serve you. When you place a priority other’s opinions, you relinquish power and cap your potential in business and the impact that you could create in the world. Quit worrying what others think of you to create extra space for creativity and energy to.If today is, in fact, your last day, would you really be concerned about outside opinions? Probably not. You would be focused on making the most out of the day along with leaving the biggest impact possible.
Asking this question each morning instills a laser-focused mentality to the day. There’s no worrying about a future filled with “what ifs” nor is there worrying about a past filled with “what ifs”. There’s only a focus on the present moment, which is fully under your control.
Adopting this mentality engineers you to operate from a state of purpose and drive.
#6 Master the Message
Jobs was the world’s greatest corporate storyteller.
There are countless memorable moments from his keynotes. The most iconic came when he pretended the presentation was over, turned as if to make a false exit from the stage, only to turn back and say “But there’s one more thing…” (he used it 31 times!) before revealing the newest innovations.
Steve Jobs success came from building an expectation in the audience before the grand finale. As magician David Blaine puts it: “Steve Jobs is the ultimate showman who keeps the audience excited the whole way leading up to the reveal.”
Jobs turned product launches into an art form. People would queue overnight just for the opportunity to attend one of his product launches in the flesh.
“Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of wondering about what happened yesterday.”
It doesn’t matter if you have the most innovative product in the world, you must get people excited about it. For every idea that turns into a successful innovation, thousands of others never gain traction because they failed to tell a compelling story.
Stories were also an important part of Apple’s internal culture. Jobs was a man driven by passion and made sure that his employees were too.
He banned slideshows during his weekly agenda-less meetings to making his team debate, question and think critically without depending on technology.
“People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”
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Steve Jobs was in a league of his own in mastering the message. But you can learn how to tell great stories by deconstructing the magic behind his presentation skills.
You’ll discover that Jobs used the same key presentation elements again and again:
- Have a strong catchphrase: come up with a short headline that encapsulates the message you’re trying to get across in a few words. iPad: “Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.” iPod: “One thousand songs in your pocket.” Always provide a concise one-sentence description which sizzles
- Introduce an antagonist: position yourself as a revolutionary out to beat the entrenched enemy who wants to maintain the status quo and oppress right-thinking people everywhere despite all its obvious inadequacies. In the 1980s, IBM was the villain. Today, watches are boring. Jobs positioned Apple as the people’s champions, heroically fighting the big enshrined entities for the rights of creative people everywhere
- Live by the rule of three: focus on three key points and no more. This is the maximum amount of information people can retain in their short-term memories so always use the rule of three
- Keep your slides and visual aids simple: lots of pictures, a few words and no bullet points. Replace text with photos and images whenever possible. Strive to follow the “40–10” rule: no more than forty words in the first ten slides of your presentation. Remember: “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”
- Use emotive words: like “gorgeous”, “advanced”, “a dream” and “awesome”. This connects to the audience and helps them use all their senses
- Practice, practice, practice: your presentation should come across as a casual chat. People love that presentation style and respond with enthusiasm
#7 Think Different
The goal of any product or service is to create memorable experiences for customers. You must enrich their lives in tangible and real ways they value.
Jobs didn’t sell products. He sold dreams. The future.
He gave customers new and better ways to think about problems and how to solve them, often time before they realize it by themselves.
A great example is the iPod. Before its launch in 2001, people struggled with organizing their digital music collections. So Apple built an entire system:
- It gave you “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
- You could download an entire CD onto an iPod in five to ten seconds
- Launched iTunes in 2003, where you can buy a legal digital version of songs delivered seamlessly to your device
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
Jobs applied the same “Think Different” mentality to retail. He knew people don’t want to buy a personal computer:
“People don’t want to just buy personal computers anymore. They want to know what they can do with them, and we’re going to show people exactly that.”
So in 2001 Apple innovated and completely re-engineered the retail experience to deliver a distinctive customer experience:
- Customers are encouraged to test-drive all the products
- There are no salespeople but rather experts who you can talk to about a particular solution
- In stores, 25% of the space is to show products and the rest showing solutions
- You get free one-to-one training with all purchases
- Employees are on salary and not commission. This makes staff approach potential customers differently
Compare this with the dreaded consumer experience of buying a computer from giant electronic retailers.
Five years after the first store, Apple reached $1 billion in annual sales — faster than any other retailer in history.
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“Think Different” is a skill we once had but lost. Just watch almost every six-year-old who always takes his chances to think different.
But because most of us got punished — at home and school — for thinking different growing up, we stopped practicing the skill. That’s why when adults must connect the unconnected through associational thinking, it wears them out. Most of our innovation capacity is not driven by genetics but rather by the environment.
The good news? You can still retrain yourself to think differently. Here’s how:
- Just Do It: do it by frequently forcing associations or connections across different ideas when they don’t naturally emerge. Use role-playing to help you see problems and solutions from different angles. Place yourself in the shoes of someone else
- Shake it up: When associations don’t come naturally, try forcing them to surface unnaturally — by shaking things up randomly. Find random idea generators (here’s one for blog post ideas) to help your brain get started
- Repeat over and over again: if you practice associational thinking long enough, the task no longer exhausts but energizes you. Practice every day and the task becomes not life taking but life-giving. And that’s where most creative ideas live
Thinking differently is easier said than done. But when it’s done frequently enough by just about anyone, it can transform good ideas (and not so good ones) into great ones that might even disrupt the world.
Most people can actually do this reasonably well if they choose to put in the time and effort that’s required to think different. That’s what disruptive innovators do, day after day. Do you? Can you? Will you?
#8 Delegate Responsibilities and Accountability
Focusing on what matters is easier said than done.
Jobs created an accountability system to make sure everyone could do their best work on what they should be doing and nothing else.
In meetings, Jobs create an “action list” and next to each task he would assign one “DRI” (Directly Responsible Individual). DRIs were responsible for the task and had to ensure it was accomplished.
This simple system ensures that every person leaves the meeting with a clear understanding of where things are headed and what they have to do. Marking responsibility also clarifies communication protocols. Finally, it removes all room for excuses and makes everybody more productive.
Another example is the launch of Apple’s MobileMe web service in 2008. It was a subpar product and created an embarrassing email blackout for thousands of customers. Jobs was outraged.
After the launch, he asked the MobileMe team: “Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” After receiving a reply, he continued, “So why doesn’t it do that?”
But he didn’t stop there: “You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation. You should hate each other for having let each other down.”
Jobs immediately named a new executive to run MobileMe, and shortly after the meeting, most of the team was disbanded.
“Quality if much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”
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The more you delegate, the more you optimize productivity. You create more time you have for work that matters. Delegate everything that you’re not world class at or someone can do better for a fraction of the time or cost.
This also rings true in your personal life: trade money when the time it takes you to complete a task is more expensive than paying someone. Think cleaning your house, ironing your clothes, or even driving/transportation. Work on developing the skills you value — like cooking or learning to code — and seek help for the rest.
But delegation can be a frustrating experience. You end up with sloppy work and missing deadlines.
Here are what I learned throughout the years about efficient delegation:
- Delegate to the right person: make sure that person that you delegate the task to has all the necessary skills and is capable of doing the job
- Provide clear instructions: write down a step-by-step manual of the task at hand and be as specific as possible; for some tasks, like data-entry, I normally record a video of my screen doing a couple of entries as an example using Recordit
- Define outcomes: you should be specific about the output of the tasks, the metric of success, and the deadline
- Ask for Clarifications: once your team member knows your specifications, ask if any clarification is needed; add detail where necessary
- Have the task explained to you: ask the person to explain the task in their own words; offer clarification about anything wrong or not precisely the way what you want/need
Focus on doing what moves the needle. Delegate the rest.
#9 Embrace Life-Learning to Connect Dots
Artists constantly search for sources of inspiration. They look within their field of expertise but outside as well. The best innovators take ideas from different fields and apply them to the product or service they’re currently working on. By merging fields, they create something unique. As Jobs put it:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”
Steve Jobs consistently merged areas of interest. He dropped out of college but continued taking courses for no credit: “The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.” It’s good to look around sometimes to broaden your skillset.
One of those courses was calligraphy. Jobs learned about serif and san serif typefaces, varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, and what makes great typography great.
He later used this knowledge in the Mac:“If I had never dropped in on that single college course, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces…and since Windows just copied Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
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Here’s how to install the habit of lifelong learning and develop a growth mindset:
- Always have a book: take it with you so you can read it when you have time. Pick it up in-between activities and read a few pages. You’ll easily read a book per week (that’s at least fifty per year!)
- Create a “To-Learn” List: write ideas for new areas of study, such as to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down
- Get more intellectual friends: spend more time with not only smarter people but those who think and invest much of their time in learning new skills. They share their knowledge and their habits will rub off on you
- Guided Thinking: simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough. You have to think through ideas yourself. Journal, meditate or take time to contemplate ideas you have learned. Albert Einstein once said: “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”
- Put it Into Practice: reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush. Skills and knowledge are useless if don’t put them into practice
- Teach Others: teaching forces you to look at a concept with a beginner’s mind, providing the clarity and insight you lacked. Find an outlet for communicating ideas to others — a blog, mentoring someone or even discussing ideas with a friend — to solidify that learning
- Unlearn Assumptions: you can’t add water to a full cup. Too many convictions mean fewer paths for new ideas. Maintain a distance from ideas and actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview
#10 Live in the Future
Steve Jobs lived in the future. Here’s his explanation of Apple’s success during the iPhone launch in 2007:
“There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very beginning. And we always will.”
Jobs had to convince everyone else at Apple to live in the future too. His (in)famous ability to push people to do the impossible was dubbed by colleagues his Reality Distortion Field, after an episode of Star Trek which aliens create a convincing alternative reality through sheer mental force.
One day Jobs complained to Larry Kenyon (the engineer of the Macintosh OS) that it was taking too long to boot up. Kenyon explained why reducing the boot-up time wasn’t possible, but Jobs cut him off: “If it would save a person’s life, could you find a way to shave 10 seconds off the boot time?”. He then showed on a whiteboard that if the Mac had five million users and it took 10 seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to 300 million or so hours a year — the equivalent of at least 100 lifetimes a year. After a few weeks, Kenyon had the machine booting up 28 seconds faster.
When designing the iPhone, Jobs decided he wanted a tough, scratch-proof glass instead of plastic. He met with Wendell Weeks, the CEO of Corning, who told him that his company had developed a chemical exchange process in the 1960s that led to what it dubbed “Gorilla glass.” Jobs was sold and ordered a major shipment of Gorilla glass to be delivered in six months. But Corning was not making the glass and didn’t have that capacity. “Don’t be afraid,” Jobs replied. He stared unblinkingly at Weeks. “Yes, you can do it,” he said. “Get your mind around it. You can do it.”
Weeks recalls that he shook his head in astonishment and then called the managers of the facility which had been making LCD displays and told them to convert immediately to making Gorilla glass full-time. They did it in under six months.
Jobs always inspired employees to see themselves as revolutionaries — to take computers to the masses, to unlock the potential of smartphones for everyone — basically and fundamentally to make the world a better place. By putting that overriding vision out there, Jobs attracts others who want to do meaningful things and who will walk through fire to make it happen.
“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?”
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To live in the future, you must anticipate it.
The good news is that anticipation is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Here are 4 simple ways to practice this skill:
- Start with what you know: the more you know, the better you can predict and respond. Spend the time educating yourself and getting to know more about who and what is around you. The ability to anticipate is birthed out of knowledge and the skill of leveraging that knowledge towards the desired result
- Think in “what if’s”: consider the relationship of cause and effect in every decision you make and how each choice impacts the next one. You can use prompts such as “What if we did ___” or “What if we responded like ____” and then consider the effect each might bring. This gives a great perspective that enables future anticipation to become more automatic as similar scenarios unfold
- Think it through: too often we are busy and trying to move fast that we miss the ability to capitalize on a strategic choice. Slow down and consider all options. Think it through to anticipate the next best move to make
- Be Aware: observe what’s around you, evaluate choices and act. If you were sitting at a 4-way intersection and saw someone else approaching at a rapid speed, you would likely anticipate that the other driver isn’t about to stop. If your eyes were closed or you were distracted, you might just roll through the intersection and get t-boned.
Practice living in the future. As Woody Allen said: “We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.”
The World According to Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs changed the world. The products Apple launched while he was at the helm of Apple continue to impact millions of people.
I’ll end with two of my favorite moments of Job’s career.
The text of the “Think Different” commercial of 1997:
“Here’s to the crazy ones.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them,
glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
While some may see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
And my favorite Steve Jobs quote from this interview:
“When you grow up you, tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
Stay hungry, stay foolish!