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22 Things That Steve Jobs Told Me

steve jobs

Steve Jobs.

That son-of-a-bitch.

I just finished his biography. Why didn’t I do that a year ago when I started it? Anyway, it rocked. This is news, right?

For a while after he died everybody wrote stories about him. I read as many words in those stories as were in the entire biography (I should have just finished the biography!). They were all trying to sell me on, “Hey, you’re a little like him, too. Maybe you’ll make the next Apple.” And so we all bought the magazines and said, “YES! Tell me how much like Steve Jobs I can be and why I will make the next Apple!

They forgot something, though.

The next Steve Jobs isn’t going to act like Steve Jobs. He/she is going to be completely unpredictable. (Also, the next Mark Zuckerberg will probably not wear a hoodie everywhere.)

Anyway. Here are some of my favorite bits from the bio:

[All quotes are Steve.]

steve jobs young apple

1. Respect your experience.

“When you have feelings like sadness or anger about your cancer or your plight, to mask them is to lead an artificial life.”

Nothing should be thrown out. Everything that’s happened to you in your life adds to it. The good and the bad inform the future. Go in with everything you’ve got (or don’t).

2. Don’t fear pissing people off.

“I’m disappointed in Obama. He’s having trouble leading because he’s reluctant to offend people or piss them off… Yes, that’s not a problem I ever had.”

Boldness that’s likely to piss people off isn’t usually smart for an intern. But maybe it is. The thing you’re afraid to say is usually the idea that needs to be heard. Not everyone is going to like you all the time. They’re certainly not going to like everything you do. Boldness is more forgivable than weakness. If you go big and it works, people will forget how upset they were.

3. Be grateful for those that came before you and add something to flow.

“What drove me? I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that’s been done by others before us. I didn’t invent the language or mathematics I use. I make little of my own food, none of my own clothes. Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on. And a lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow. It’s about trying to express something in the only way that most of us know how – because we can’t write Bob Dylan songs or Tom Stoppard plays. We try to use the talent we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contribution that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.”

Stand on the shoulders of giants, but once you’re there you’ve got to move! Do a dance or climb up higher or find more shoulders or make some new shoulders. Whatever you can do, do it. It will lead you to whatever you will be able to do. Add something to the world, dent the universe in your own way – don’t worry about the dent you “should” be making.

4. Make a better TV.

“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

This is direct advice. Better TVs are coming, maybe you can be a part of that.

steve jobd love your work

5. Get into biotech.

Speaking of his son, Reed,

“[Reed's] enthusiasm for [cancer research] is exactly how I felt about computers when I was his age. I think the biggest innovations of the twenty-first century will be the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning, just like the digital one was when I was his age.”

Steve Jobs sees biotech as being in a similar place that tech was when he was coming up. If you want to be involved in the next big wave it would be worth checking it out.

6. Think long-term.

“Living with a disease like this, and all the pain, constantly reminds you of your own mortality, and that can do strange things to your brain if you’re not careful. You don’t make plans more than a year out, and that’s bad. You need to force yourself to plan as if you will live for many years.

Carl Jung said that you should think as if you would live for 100 more years. (At 3:00 in the video below.)

There are many other ways to consider the End but this seemed to be most effective for Jobs. He stayed at Apple and helped with product development and launches. He also kept designing his yacht in order to stay in the long-term mindset.

Long-term

Long-term

7. Do business with good people.

He constantly talked about doing business with people who he liked, because he thought they were good guys. The biography is full of examples of him remarking that they should do business with one company or another just because of the people there making decisions. Disney and Pixar (Jobs’ other company) had a terrible relationship for a couple years. Disney switched out an executive and their relationship was restored.

8. Listen to Bob Dylan.

At the famous “1984″ launch, Jobs Quote’s Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’”,

Jobs constantly groups Dylan in with other great artists in history. Apple even helped produce “No Direction Home”, a documentary of Bob Dylan’s life directed by Martin Scorsese.

This is really on the list because I’m in love with Bob Dylan. Especially “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

9. Motivation Matters.

“The older I get, the more I see how much motivation matters. The Zune was crappy because the people at Microsoft don’t really love music or art the way we do. We won because we personally love music.”

Jobs considered himself an artist. He had a laser focus on making a better product. Sometimes to the detriment of immediate profit. When you let yourself focus on what you love, you have to make something great.

Buckminster Fuller nearly committed suicide because he kept trying to throw himself into business instead of following his passion for inventing and failing. Then a voice came to him right before he followed through with it and told him that he didn’t have the right to kill himself. “You do not belong to you. You belong to Universe.” On the way home he realized his mistake and committed himself to following his inclinations.

steve jobs painting

9.5 Do it for the ones you love.

“We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out. If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”

It’s easy to get lost in the idea of Apple and forget what they actually do: focus on making one beautiful product, then another. Steve Jobs was the hardest customer to please in the world. He constantly sent food back at restaurants. In his hospital bed, he hated the design of the oxygen mask and demanded that five other options be brought to him. He was just as hard to please when designing his own products. He didn’t let anything out until it was as close to perfect as it could be.

10. Use small words.

“You make some of the best products in the world — but you also make a lot of crap. Get rid of the crappy stuff.” to Nike
—As said to Mark Parker, The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs

He calls things crappy all the time. For years he’s been calling crappy things crappy. Simple.

He realized that intelligence doesn’t come with how complex you make things. It’s how simple you can make them.

11. Use your intuition.

“Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a culture shock than going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.

Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’ the power of intuition and experiential wisdom.”

Later he says, “I began to realize that an intuitive understanding and consciousness was more significant than abstract thinking and intellectual logical analysis.”

Steve jobs what can i do with it

12. Meditate, don’t be a monk, and take a leap of faith.

Continuing from the above quote, “Coming back after seven months in Indian villages, I saw the craziness of the Western world as well as its capacity for rational thought. If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.

Zen has been a deep influence in my life ever since. At one point I was thinking about going to Japan and trying to get into the Eihei-ji monastery, but my spiritual advisor urged me to stay here. He said there is nothing over there that isn’t here, and he was correct. I learned the truth of the Zen saying that if you are willing to travel round the world to meet a teacher, one will appear next door.”

13. Feel like you’re special. And independent.

“Knowing I was adopted may have made me feel more independent, but I have never felt abandoned. I’ve always felt special. My parents made me feel special.”

This feeling let him try to do things that others wouldn’t. It gave him the confidence (ie arrogance) to have a deep trust in his intuition. And to tell other people their work was shit. He was special, he knew what was right. (Again, these aren’t “lessons”… just interesting things about the man.)

14. Cry for purity.

“It choked me up, and it still makes me cry to think about it, both the fact that Lee cares so much and also how brilliant his “Think Different” idea was. Every once in a while, I find myself in the presence of purity – purity of spirit and love – and I always cry. It always just reaches out and grabs me. That was one of those moments. There was a purity about that I will never forget. I cried in my office as he was showing me the idea, and I still cry when I think about it.”

He cared so much about somebody caring that he cried about it. He loved purity to the extent that it brought him to tears. Are you in love with anything as deeply as that?

steve jobs oldy

15. Don’t settle.

“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. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

After his bouts of his cancer he still spent the vast majority of his time working on Apple products. His family didn’t get any increased attention from him. His priority was obvious.

16. Run away.

“If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.

The more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to say, “Bye. I have to go. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.” And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently.”

I think Jay-Z echoes this sentiment well in, “On To The Next One”

Sometimes you’ve got to abandon the path you’ve been on. Maybe even backtrack a little bit. You’ve got to go and clear your head and come back and do it like you want to.

17. Be willing to lose it all (and have nothing).

“We had nothing to lose, and we had everything to gain. And we figured even if we crash and burn, and lose everything, the experience will have been worth ten time the cost.”

What’s the worst that could happen? It’s usually not nearly as bad as you think.

18. Do (psychedelic) drugs.

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important – creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”

19.  Connect things.

“Creativity is connecting thing.”

Apple was never way ahead of the curve tech-wise, their genius laid in connecting and simplifying. The iPhone simplified our life by putting all our devices into one.

20. Steal (from the shoulders of giants).

“It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done. And then try to bring those things in to what you’re doing.”

He didn’t like it when people stole from him, though. He pretty much sued everyone that tried.

20.5 Be a hypocrite.

Like Emerson said, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Jobs didn’t think twice about going after the people who stole from him. He seemed to put zero mental effort into staying consistent with that particular belief in order to keep is focus available for other things.

steve jobs wired

Wired Coveer

21. Be Paranoid.

Jobs was scared about the mobile phone market cutting into iPod sales. Voila! The iPhone was born. Jim Collins wrote in “Choosing To Be Great” that Productive Paranoia was a key to any great leadership. Instead of sitting back pleased with himself for revolutionizing the music industry, Jobs was scared he was going to lose it. Talk about vigilant.

22. Be Crazy.

 

And?

What’s your favorite Jobs quote or story? What do you think about him being a jerk? Genius?

Was he overrated?

Comment below and let’s chat.

by Kyle Eschenroeder

Thanks for taking the time to read this! Let me know what you think - the good, the bad, the ugly - in the comments below. I'm an entrepreneur (more in the StartupBros About Page) in St. Petersburg, FL but this World Wide Web let's us connect from anywhere in the world: Facebook Google+ Twitter Or email me any time (you can get my email by signing up on the form below)

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19 comments… add one

  1. Ha! Interesting timing Kyle – I just finished the Steve Jobs biography yesterday.

    I liked that Obama quote too… about him being scared to piss people off. I highlighted a few of these actually (and a lot more!)

    I also thought it was a very good book about business strategy though. One of the important lessons I got from it was: “don’t be afraid to cannibalize yourself…. because if the technology is there and you don’t do it. Somebody else will”. I probably don’t have the quote perfect – but I thought that was a really good one.

    Reply
    1. Interesting timing, indeed!

      That’s a great point. It seems like sacrifice is required any time you want to leap ahead.

      Reply
  2. I think you should keep in mind that not everything Steve Jobs did differently helped cause his success. In fact, some of those thing probably limited him.

    The benefits of using small words is clear – more people will understand what you’re saying, which is good. But psychedelic drugs? Most of history’s notable people never used psychoactives, and most people who use them will not go on to do great things. There’s no connection.

    Or take the fact that he was a hypocrite – stealing ideas but getting mad when others did it. That’s not a trait to admire. Steve Jobs wasn’t perfect, and we need to keep enough emotional distance to recognize which of his traits should be emulated, and which shoudn’t

    Reply
    1. Hi Odai,

      Up top I purposely said that the next Steve Jobs will NOT act like Steve Jobs. In #13 I wrote, “Again, these aren’t “lessons”… just interesting things about the man.”

      My big takeaway is that things that look like rules usually aren’t. If Jobs did so much despite his massive flaws, maybe we can too.

      Reply
      1. Fair enough. Admittedly, I skimmed the intro to get to the list – didn’t get it on my first read. Thanks for your response!

        Reply
        1. Sure! I should make that point skimmable… it’s an important one! That guy was a jerk in a lot of ways lol

          Reply
  3. Love this post Kyle! I’ve never been too into Steve Jobs, even though you can’t help but see his name thrown about every which way.

    But this post was interesting . . .

    It wasn’t just another “How to be Like Steve” post or some “Great Lessons We Can Learn from Apple” kinda thing. Just straight up here’s-some-food-for-thought. I like it. It doesn’t try to sway one way or the other.

    So with that said, I’m actually far more interested in the man than before. I didn’t know most of the things you wrote. He definitely seems like a complex and contradictory figure — the type that always makes for good reading.

    Plus, I dug all the quotes . . . he definitely put thought into his words, and I can appreciate that.

    Good shit man!

    Cheers!

    Reply
    1. Thanks Trevor!

      I’m glad the article came off like that. I think there’s a huge problem that we can have with the “halo effect”. We build these myths around certain people and then ignore the other sides of them. I think most people we end up talking about are contradictory. And that is something that we should try to lose. Consistency for it’s own sake is dangerous. Emerson said that, “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” and I think he’s right. It’s losing the fear of being wrong or contradicting ourselves that let’s us fear. (Or leaning into the fear, anyway.)

      Honored to have a great blogger like yourself in this neck o’ the woods.

      Prost!

      Reply
  4. Heh… glad you posted this one ‘warts and all’.

    I have to say that my OWN experienced with hallucinogenics was not as enlightening as it was for Steve; I yelled at my roomies to shut up, shut up and get me a pen and paper.

    I looked later on at the the ‘key to the Universe’ revelation I had while tripping:

    “A shoe is good to have on.”

    Man.

    My English teacher mother would have been mortified not only that her son had tried hallucinogens in search of deeper meaning, but also that that deep meaning ends in a preposition. ;-)

    Loved the post Kyle.

    Keep Stepping,

    Kurt

    Reply
    1. Thank you Kurt!
      Keep that shoe on :)

      Reply
    2. Ironically, Steve Jobs was against wearing shoes… :)

      Reply
  5. Good stuff Kyle, thanks for the post.

    Many of my heroes come in the form of athletes, musicians and other artists so I have trouble putting a computer nerd on the same pedestal as Michael Jordan and Bob Dylan, but I think if any nerd deserves it its Steve Jobs. Like Jordan and Dylan, Jobs was an artist unlike most that came before and totally recreated their respective genres. Rock N Roll hasn’t been the same since the opening chords of Like a Rolling Stone, the basketball court hasn’t been the same since the Air Jordan dunk and technology hasn’t been the same since the ipod and iphone.

    Who are we to say what art is or is not? And if that is true then who are we to say who is an artist and who is not? Something being coined a work of art can only be done by the artist who made it, not the consumer.

    Do you think Bob Dylan has an iphone or ipod?

    “All you can do is do what ya must, you do what you must do and… ya do it well”- Buckets of Rain, Bob Dylan

    Reply
    1. Thanks for commenting. I think it’s great to have heroes that come from all sorts of other disciplines. I think it makes taking their lessons easier. The difference in activity makes the essential stuff pop out. We even (if sometimes unknowingly) use characters in movies or books as heroes. Or at least scenes of them.

      It’s interesting how everybody needs a human to put their ideals on and wonder, “What would X do?” There is a story of Julius Casesar at 40, shortly becoming emperor, complaining about how he had not achieved as much as Alexander the Great. No matter what someone’s ambition is, they need a hero to guide them (or at least an idea of one).

      Amen on the art! That’s an interesting topic to do a deep dive into. I don’t think that claiming “I am an artist!” makes you so. There is something else. There is a deep honesty that you have to share, too. That’s the struggle for a lot of artists – they can be creating honest, bloody art and people might ignore it.

      Have you read Seth Godin’s Linchpin? It’s a great challenge to become an artist.

      I love that line! Do the thing you can’t not do and get damn good at it…

      “It’s alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” is my favorite song/poem ever

      “For them that must obey authority
      That they do not respect in any degree
      Who despise their jobs, their destinies
      Speak jealously of them that are free
      Cultivate their flowers to be
      Nothing more than something they invest in”

      Reply
      1. Thanks for the reply Kyle, I love the quote. There are several interviews where Bob Dylan has been asked why he keeps doing what he does. The endless tours, the albums, the writing, etc etc. He usually answers with something that I think basically means “because its my job and I’m happy to have it and do it, I enjoy it”. He has no other reason to at this point.

        I agree on the Art and honesty as well. I heard Steve Blank say that Entrepreneurship isn’t a job, career or even choice, its a calling. And I think being an artist is the same. Artists have something in them they need to get out. I think entrepreneurs have the same feeling. Both create things in their own image that were not their before.

        Do you consider yourself an artist?

        Thanks again!

        Reply
  6. nice one kyle…
    i thought the most important lesson that i learnt from steve was that:
    “if u don’t have what u need demand and if u still don’t get one then BUILD ONE”…
    looking forward for u r future posts… :)

    Reply
    1. amen! scratch your own itch!

      Reply
  7. Love your site, first time viewer. In 16. Run away, you could have also selected Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me Lyrics” – She’s got everything she needs
    She’s an artist, she don’t look back…

    Reply
  8. Great points, i had just finished his book and you have pointed out some quotes i have missed. None the less, they are so inspiring.

    Reply
  9. this post is very inspirational :) thanks for this post :) best of luck

    Reply

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