Seven Steve Jobs Quotes

“Seven Steve Jobs Quotes that Could Change Your Life”

My friend Don Eitel posted a piece by Jeff Haden with this title that was published on LinkedIn.

Steve Jobs

Steven P. Jobs

He chose great quotes from Steve Jobs, but drew the worst conclusions he could have from them. You can read his article at the link above, and I won’t critique it, but here is my analysis of the quotes.

1. “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

It’s difficult to take an idea from birth to maturity. How many times have you said, “someone should do…” whatever? What Jobs is talking about is having the guts, temerity and wherewithal to be the “someone.”

Not every idea is great, or marketable, but many are. New ideas are often greeted with confusion, ridicule or outright hostility. It takes guts to persevere in the face of those naysayers. It takes temerity to listen past the negativity of the naysayers to find the kernels of truth in what they’re saying that can improve your idea. And it takes wherewithal to wrangle the resources necessary to bring the idea to fruition.

These are the components of perseverance that Jobs is talking about. There is still an enormous potential for failure, but those who move through successive rounds of guts, temerity and wherewithal are those who succeed. Most give up along the way.

Success belongs to those who persevere.
2. “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”

Success in business does not constitute success in life. As I wrote in my essay on sabbatical, burning the candle at both ends benefits neither your work life or your home life. As busy as Steve Jobs was in the last decade of his life–as CEO of both Apple and Pixar–he worked to arrange his life so he could have dinner at home with his family every night.

We work to live, not the other way around. Even if we have jobs or careers that we love, if we don’t take the time to live outside work, we may as well be Sisyphus pushing the rock up the mountain.

3. “My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”

The Beatles were four kids from Liverpool who happened to change the world because they believed they could. Harebrained, drug-addled ideas were forged in the crucible of the studio to create Strawberry Fields Forever, Hey Jude, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps and so much more.

Sometimes the ideas were there, but the technical ability to achieve them was not. The Beatles’ genius lived in part in trusting the engineers, producers and others on the team to enable the full realization of the vision. In the case of While My Guitar and the Let It Be sessions, George’s genius was the realization that adding Eric Clapton or Billy Preston to the team would diffuse the tension among the team to let greater creativity flow.

In the business case, it means recognizing that the core group of decision-makers may not have all the answers, and that adding trusted experts to the team as needed will provide better solutions and perspectives that will help give a fuller picture of a situation than a closed loop of deciders would have otherwise.

The end result may well be due to the vision of the core group, but it is made more robust and richer with the addition of the outside input.

4. “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

No new idea arrives full-formed and ready to fly. You may know what your vision and ultimate goals are, but the path to get there is fraught with false steps and dead ends. The worst thing to do is to continue to run down a blind alley and waste time and resources on something that may have seemed like a good idea, but leads you away from your goal.

Cut your losses. Find another path that will lead you to greater fulfillment of your vision.

5. “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.”

Honestly, this one needs no explanation from me. Clear, concise, on point.

6. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

The work of a leader is difficult and requires perseverance, analysis, and a leap of faith that an untested vision will be accepted and fruitful.

The work of a follower is simply to scan the field for someone else’s innovations and co-opt them for yourself or your organization. The risk is taken by others. The field has been tilled.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a follower. It’s a hell of a lot safer than being a leader and innovator. But don’t mistake one for the other.

7. “Bottom line is, I didn’t return to Apple to make a fortune. I’ve been very lucky in my life and already have one. When I was 25, my net worth was $100 million or so. I decided then that I wasn’t going to let it ruin my life. There’s no way you could ever spend it all, and I don’t view wealth as something that validates my intelligence.”

See #2 above.

I said that I wasn’t going to critique the original author’s essay, but I lied. His analysis was essentially a paean to working harder, not smarter. Essentially the opposite of what Steve Jobs was saying in these particular quotes. His B-school platitudes about choosing your customers and working through lunch are completely at odds with the quotes.

If you read or listen to Jobs’s stunning Stanford commencement speech, you’ll find a philosophy very different from Haden’s: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” Do what brings you joy. Delight your customers/clients/patrons. Surprise yourself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *