Steve Jobs was a lot of things to a lot of people. Some loved him, some hated him, some followed him like a cult leader, some were family, others were friends. But most of the world knew him as the co-founder of Apple and the CEO who introduced revolutionary products like the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Jobs was notorious for always wearing the same black turtleneck, round glasses, jeans, and New Balance sneakers. He was successful and a perfectionist. Many people go their entire lives wanting to do what he did in just a few decades. In his memory, seven years after his passing, here are 16 important lessons from Jobs that may help you achieve success.
16 Don’t Cut Corners
Jobs liked to talk about his father and his diligent craftsmanship. He believed in doing things right. His father’s focus on aesthetics continued to the back of whatever he was building. He taught Steve that even though the backs of fences and cabinets were hidden, he knew they were there and they needed to be right.
Regarding aesthetics and quality, Jobs once said:
“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back; even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic—the quality—has to be carried all the way through.”
15 Learn What You Love
Although Jobs attended college, he never graduated. His boredom at college drove him to do the things he loved. He began dropping in on courses that he was interested in. Specifically, he found calligraphy fascinating. It was his love for calligraphy that later inspired different fonts for the Mac.
You don’t need to learn something because it will make you wealthy or because other people want you to do it. Do what you love and be so passionate about it that you become an expert in your field.
14 Focus Like a Laser
Jobs knew how to stay focused and not get distracted. He used this focus when working on new products, only working on a limited number of important products at a time. This gave him the ability to pay extra attention to the small details, since he had limited distractions.
Jobs focus didn’t stop at products. When speaking to people he’d often give his undivided attention. But in an eccentric way. He’d stare at people without blinking, wait in an awkward silence, and then proceed to answer in a fast-paced manner. It was this dedication to focus that he often used to persuade people—because it made them uncomfortable.
Keeping your focus on things that matter to you, and being able to speak to someone eye-to-eye, are two things that can help you be your best.
13 Don’t Let People Crash Your Meetings
Ken Segall shared an experience he had with Jobs in his book Insanely Simple. It was during a meeting between the creative agency, Chiat/Day and Apple. The meetings often consisted of their creative people and a few high-level Apple employees including Jobs, Phil Schiller, and Jony Ive.
During this particular meeting there was a woman whom Segall had never seen before. Jobs arrived and began the meeting and then stopped in his tracks. His attention turned to the newcomer in the room. “Who are you?” He bluntly asked. She replied that she had been working on some of the marketing materials and asked to attend. “I don’t think we need you in this meeting.” Came Jobs’ curt reply. Then he continued his meeting without her.
There is a lesson to be learned here. If something isn’t absolutely necessary, it doesn’t belong. Such as headphone jacks on iPhones. Pineapple on pizza. DVD drives on laptops. And non-essential people at meetings.
12 Keep a Healthy Balance
Christie Williams once said that relationships are like bank accounts. “If you allow people to make more withdrawals than deposits in your life, you will be out of balance and in the negative. Know when to close the account.”
Jobs seemed particularly good at understanding how much was in his account and when to close it. If an engineer couldn’t design the mouse he wanted, they were fired and replaced with someone who could.
But that didn’t stop Jobs from realizing when he had a healthy balance with people and keeping that account open and full. This is shown by how many people he worked with are still at Apple today. From Phil Schiller and Jony Ive, to Apple’s recent CEO Tim Cook. Steve made friends with people he knew were capable of moving his dreams forward.
11 Understand Simplicity
Jobs believed in simplicity. But he also understood that simplicity is hard to master. Some people think simplicity means being basic or missing functionality. Others think it means minimalistic design or lacking non-essential parts.
While they’re not wrong, there not entirely right. Jobs idea of simple went further than just cutting out things that weren’t ready or needed. He focused on making products that were quality, both from a functional and design standpoint. Often a product would be designed in advance and engineers were required to figure out how to make it work.
Simplicity is in Apple’s DNA. They don’t work on too many projects at a time. They know when to stop. And they often find ways to make technology disappear into the world around us.
Finding solutions to complex issues isn’t easy. Don’t look for quick fixes, dedicate yourself to finding a simple solution.
10 Try New Things, Have Fun
You probably shouldn’t experiment with drugs, but Jobs claims LSD played an important part in his life. In his biography Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson shares a quote from Jobs:
“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.”
Jobs history with drugs didn’t stop here. It’s rumored that when interviewing potential Apple employees, candidates were asked if they’d ever done drugs.
Steve believed in good, harmless fun as well. Steve Wozniak had made a digital “Blue Box” for making phone calls for free (aka Phreaking). Jobs and Wozniak would use the Blue Box they made to make many prank calls and later sold about a hundred of them.
9 Don’t Say “The Customer Is Always Right”
When the iPhone launched, it took people by surprise. Here was a smartphone unlike any they had ever seen. They had hoped for an iPod that could make and receive phone calls. What they got was so much more: Multitouch, a better mobile browser, widescreen portable videos, and a quality design. It felt like the future.
Steve often quoted what is thought to be a quote by Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
While customer input and experience is important to any company, it isn’t everything. Part of innovation is looking for new angles and seeing things in a new light.
8 Remember Sometimes Appearances Matter
Steve Jobs was all about optics. He regretted the time Bill Gates' face was on a projector screen and larger than he was; saying it made him look small. He hid his Porsche when trying to get a deal with investors. And he rehearsed each keynote until it was perfect.
7 And Sometimes They Don’t
But there were also times where Jobs didn’t care what other people thought. Like when he’d walk around with no shoes and sometimes soak his feet in the toilet. Or when he’d put his feet up on a table during a meeting. Or when he’d beat himself up over his mistakes. Like all of us, Jobs was human.
6 Distort Reality
Perhaps one of Jobs’ most famous attributes was his “Reality Distortion Field.” Basically it’s another way of saying he could be very charismatic and persuasive. Unfortunately so many people think this is a quality that could only be possessed by Jobs.
While Jobs perfected his talent to bend other people’s perception of things (think Antennagate), you can also change how people see you and your aspirations.
Don’t lie to people. But use persuasion to show people why your ideas are great. One of the ways Jobs distorted reality—and kept competitors and investors guessing—was by saying one thing and then doing another. He didn’t necessarily lie, but he misled. For example, he once said Apple would never make a $500 computer. So instead we got iPad. He said large screens on phones are ridiculous. And then introduced a taller screen that later lead to the larger screens we have today.
One thing to keep in mind: Times change. Distorting reality can help you stay ahead—and in control—of the curve.
5 Bring out the Best in People
Steve was often described as mercurial and difficult to get along with. But some might argue he just wanted to see people do their best. It was his goal to create the best products, and to do this you have to have the best people.
There are many methods you can go about to bring out the best in people. Find what works for you and drive people to be their best.
4 Stay Connected Through Music
Music played an important part in Jobs’ and Apple’s DNA. The iPod, iTunes, Apple Music, Beats1, and HomePod are all indicators of how much music means to the company. In fact, some of the music pursuits were failures (like Ping) but they went after them anyway, because music matters.
Jobs especially loved the Beatles. It was a great day for Apple when their music finally became available on iTunes.
3 Love Your Family
Steve wasn’t always a family man. His relationship with his daughter Lisa might be testament to that. While Jobs was often described as temperamental and distant toward people he worked with; his family was a different story.
According to Walter Isaacson’s biography on Jobs, he and his family lived in a relatively normal home. It wasn’t too large and his kids were ironically limited access to electronic devices. Bill Gates once commented on the small size of Jobs’ home wondering how they “all” fit.
2 Don’t Equate Money with Success
Despite being a billionaire, Jobs claims money didn’t motivate him. In Jobs’ official biography he explains that while it’s great to make a profit, “products, not the profits, were the motivation.”
Jobs always said it wasn’t about being the richest guy in the cemetery. Success means more than money. For Jobs, it may have meant always creating new things that made a difference in the world. He possibly understood all good things come to an end; driving Apple to find new ways to stay relevant in an ever-changing world.
Success for everyone is different. Finding out what success means for you can help you figure out what you want to achieve in life and how to get there.
1 Don’t Make Sh*t Products
It’s been said that Apple doesn’t make inexpensive Macs because Windows PCs are available for people who want cheap computers. It’s even been said Apple competitors just add a little color to their products when tying to imitate Apple devices.
Great products aren’t just great because of colors, materials, build quality, components, and software. Great products are made with a lot of thought, painstaking work, and knowing when to quit.
Under Jobs’ direction Apple created products that were the whole package. Products that helped bring out the best in people. Not just another product with a fresh coat of paint.
Jony Ive has often explained that Apple is about making great products.
Even Just a Scratch Can Make a Difference
People like Steve Jobs come around rarely in a lifetime. Sure, people can be focused, driven, or even intelligent. People can have an eye for quality and aspire to put forth great craftsmanship. Some people aren’t motivated by money and understand what’s important life. But very few of us are able to use these qualities to influence the world on the scale Jobs did.
Jobs wasn’t perfect and sometimes miscalculated his intentions. But he left his mark on the universe. By better understanding the way he lived his life, we can attempt to crate another dent. If not, at least try to scratch the universe. After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take so don’t give up. Think different. Do something great.