Steve Jobs – Today he would have turned 61. The Harvard Business Review called him “the world’s best performing CEO”, the Wall Street Journal praised him as “Person of the Decade” and Fortune magazine proclaimed him as “The CEO of the decade”. He was able to transform seven industries: phones, music, personal computing, tablet computing, animated movies, digital publishing and retail stores. He surely deserves to be added to the list of great innovators, such as Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison etc. He co-founded Apple Inc. in 1976 from his parents’ garage and was kicked out of his own company in 1985. He came back to rescue the same company in 1997 when it was near bankruptcy. By October 2011 (before he died) he was able to turn Apple into the world’s most valuable company. Respect, Mr Jobs! What are the lessons from Steve Jobs that we can learn?
I learnt a lot from Steve Jobs for my own career with regard to holding presentations, motivating employees, hiring the right people and marketing. Let me summarize the most important 61 lessons we can learn from him:
# 1 – MOTIVATION BY PRAISE is not always the most effective way to get the best out of people. I was always a strong believer of MOTIVATION BY PRAISE. In the past I’ve published a book in German about the power of praise as a motivational tool. I must admit that after reading Steve Jobs’ biography I realised that praise is good, but it does not always necessarily bring out THE UNIMAGINABLE from people. There are people who prefer being praised and those who are performing better by being provoked. Knowing who appreciates what method of motivation, is therefore key. The book author Walter Isaacson often mentioned in his Steve Jobs’ biography that Steve Jobs was very critical and often used to say to people’s proposals, suggestions, ideas, performances etc. sentences such as “This is shit!” or “You asshole, you never do anything right” and still people considered themselves as lucky people to have worked with Steve Jobs!! Well, it showed that many people who dealt with Steve Jobs took it as an encouragement to do things they never imagined to be possible, rather than feeling offended by his comments. And often the end result showed that those people were able to think beyond their imagination in order to come up with fantastic solutions, products etc. He called it the Reality Distortion Field. But more about it later….
Allow me to share a personal experience at this point. I was delivering a presentation on “German Business Etiquette” to a well-known Indian Industry Association in New Delhi in 2011. When I forwarded my presentation to the Deputy Director some days before the event – as per her request – the reply I got was “Please make it more meaningful, many of these executives have already dealt with German companies”. Being made aware of that, I decided to restructure my whole presentation since I thought my audience was not much aware of German culture and business etiquette. I kept Steve Jobs’ presentation style in mind…. few slides, few words, more big visuals…. the reaction I got out of it was “Make it more meaningful”. By the way, it was a speech for which I did not get paid for. Well, I was surprised about her comment BUT in hindsight I must say that if she would not have given me that feedback, I would have not presented it the way I did. I had to change my whole strategy but in hindsight it helped me to turn it into one of my best speeches ever, if not the best. I presented my content like a scenario and I was able to involve the audience right from the beginning. The way my audience started leaning forward from their chairs told me everything! In hindsight, I would even say THANK YOU to her. It showed me that YES, if you want to IMPRESS, never be satisfied with the first version of things you do or create! You can indeed do better, if you think harder and push yourself a bit further in your thinking! In the future whenever I work on something challenging, I imagine Steve Jobs whispering into my ear “This is shit!” and I’m going to push myself a bit further in order to present another memorable speech!
# 2 – You are in charge of your own life. Don’t allow the circumstances in which you were born, to limit yourself in what you want to become in life. It’s in your hands. Only you decide on what you want to become one day, don’t make others responsible for it. Steve Jobs has been given away for adoption by his biological parents soon after his birth. Instead of feeling angry, bitter or frustrated about it, he took responsibility and control and achieved big things in life.
# 3 – Use the opportunity to work for other companies. Learn from them and think about how you can do things differently and better and then just do it. Steve Jobs got his inspiration from his dad and made his experiences by working at Hewlett Packard and Atari.
# 4 – College is important, but you don’t necessarily need a degree to make it big in life. Having a degree is good, but it does still not give you any guarantee of succeeding in life. Thus, being a college dropout does not always have to be a bad thing. It might be the best decision you made in your life. For Steve Jobs it was the start of a revolution.
# 5 – You never know what benefit you might get from learning certain things during your education. If Steve Jobs would not have attended the course on calligraphy in college, the Mac computer would have never had multiple typefaces. Don’t limit your learning just to your schooling career, look at life from a holistic perspective and learn from any opportunity that is given to you.
# 6 – You can’t do it all on your own. You need other people, the right sort of people who are smarter than you in achieving what you want to achieve. Getting the right people on board for skills you might be lacking in, is crucial. Steve Wozniak, was just one example. A highly crucial person for Steve Jobs’ professional life.
# 7 – First fake it, then make it. The location of your business can make a difference in how people/other companies perceive you. Steve Jobs started out from a garage but knew that having an address in Silicon Valley made the company look more impressive. What did he do? He rented a post box address in Silicon Valley in order to be associated with the big tech guys.
# 8 – First make your clients happy. If they are happy because you provide them with engaging, useful and beautiful products, they will buy and the money will follow automatically. But don’t always put money first. Focus on the benefits of the products not the profits. If you exceed peoples’ expectations the money will come by itself.
# 9 – Cultivate a great company culture and hire people with real passion. Those people don’t need to be pushed, they are already pushed.
# 10 – There is power in creating your personal brand. His appearance with his black turtleneck sweater and Levi blue jeans that he always used to wear, made him instantly recognizable. Simple and minimalistic, a down to earth guy. Similar with Apple’s logo, it’s simple and instantly recognizable.
# 11 – Don’t always look at ‘being fired’ as negative. It can be the best thing that ever happened to you. You might not realise it at that moment, but later you might be even thankful for it. After getting fired from Apple (the company that he founded!) he felt a sense of freedom to start another company all over again.
# 12 – Don’t settle until you don’t find what you truly love to do. You spend many hours in a day working. Make sure you do something, that you feel truly passionate about and that means something to you. And don’t waste your time in living other people’s lives!
# 13 – Making different life experiences, for example, travelling abroad can make you think more creatively. For Steve Jobs it was his trip to India that was an eye-opening experience that also had an influence on his life. He realised that Indians in the countryside don’t use their intellect like Westerners do. They use instead their intuition, something that he considered as more powerful than intellect.
# 14 – Push yourself and push others if you want to achieve great results. Outstanding results are not always achieved by just being nice to other people. If something doesn’t work as expected, you need to change things. You need to do something about it and work so hard until it’s working, no matter what. Being able to challenge others is a key leadership skill.
# 15 – Demand excellence from your people. Help them to achieve great things that they themselves thought would be impossible to achieve.
# 16 – Have always the big picture in mind, don’t get lost in the small details.
# 17 – In life you need to have trust in something, be it karma, life, destiny or your gut.
# 18 – Don’t think that once you start your own company, you can’t be kicked out from it by others. But you never know in life, it could still turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. You might not realise it at that moment….
# 19 – Think consciously on how you spend your time, because life is limited. If you know you are soon going to die, you look at life differently and want to make sure that every day in your life counts.
# 20 – In business schools they always teach you that you need to listen to what customers want and need. BUT listening to their feedback might not always be the best approach to come up with revolutionary products. Steve Jobs was convinced that customers would tell you the want “a faster horse”. They would talk about already existing products which should just be better, cheaper and/or faster. It requires an open minded and forward thinking person to create products that customers will want to have in the future. By the way, Alexander Graham Bell did not do any research either when he invented the phone!
# 21 – Don’t always rely on the experts. There is no guarantee that the experts are right, all they can do is to give you some advice. Be it consultants, gurus, bankers, analysts, journalists etc. Don’t 100 % rely on them. They are not always right!
# 22 – Design matters and can make a difference, when it comes to packaging, product or retail store design.
# 23 – Use graphics/pictures and big fonts when holding a presentation. Don’t overcrowd your slides with lots of text. Keep it short, simple and visual.
# 24 – Value is not the same as price. If you focus on the real value of a product the price will become irrelevant.
# 25 – Hire the best people you can get. Those that are better than you are, that will help you to grow your company faster. Remember, “A” Players hire “A+” players. Focus straight on the right people and don’t waste your time in getting them to A-Level. You will save resources in the process and gain a competitive edge quicker. Surround yourself with smarter people than yourself.
# 26 – If you are the CEO of the company, hold your own presentations as Steve Jobs did. Show the people that you are very knowledgeable about your own products, not that other staff knows more than you! How pathetic would that be!
# 27 – If you create something that is unique and valuable, you will be able to make history, money and margins.
# 28 – If you want to make a change in the world, you need to find some like-minded people who believe in your vision and make change happen.
# 29 – Don’t focus too much on other people’s opinion. Why listening to people who disable you to listen to your own inner voice? What tells you that they are right? Do you believe more in them than in yourself????
# 30 – Follow your heart and tuition.
# 31 – Nobody is able to escape death. Live every day as if it were your last one.
# 32 – If you have the ability to make your customers commit to quality, you will be able to turn them from ordinary clients to loyal fans for life.
# 33 – Be a left and right brain thinker. In business you need to be both (yes also as a tech company!) Be logical and analytical but also creative in order to come up with great solutions.
# 34 – Think simplicity! Create products/services that are simple, yet have an elegant, sophisticated look. People don’t want complicated items, they want something that can easily be used. The simpler it is, the more people will buy it.
# 35 – No matter what criticism and challenges you face, don’t give the nay-sayers a change to distract and disrupt your way of thinking.
# 36 – It pays off to focus on perfection. Don’t waste your time with mediocre people. Set high expectations and you will be able to get your employees to achieve that greatness.
# 37 – There is nothing wrong in making mistakes as long as you learn from it. Steve Jobs was prepared to acknowledge his mistakes. When he lost a quarter of a billion Dollars in one year, he called it “It was very character-building”.
# 38 – You don’t always have to “fit in”. If you do, you will never stand out and make a difference. You will simply not get noticed. If you copy other people’s products or even their personality, you will never be unique. You were born as a unique creature, do you want to die as a copy?
# 39 – No matter how tech-driven you are, still take your time in building relationships by meeting people face to face. Regardless whether it is over lunch, a walk etc. Spending time with customers, employees and business people can’t be replaced by using technical platforms.
# 40 – Customers want to see what you deliver, they don’t care how much and how hard you tried. Results matter and impress!
# 41 – First focus on the customer experience, then work backwards and think about the technology.
# 42 – Don’t chase what you missed. Ask yourself instead “What is the next big thing?” and focus on that.
# 43 – Simplify the process, simplify the products.
# 44 – Focus first on the customer and then on how you can cut the costs.
# 45 – If you set impossible targets to your employees, your chances of getting your A-Players to achieve them are high.
# 46 – Make use of the technology available to you by creating new markets that nobody ever thought before where possible.
# 47 – Hold presentations a la Steve Jobs. Use slides by limiting your words to a minimum and use big visual pictures. It makes it easier for the audience to follow and remember. Focus on how you sell your message to your audience so that it is memorable and meaningful.
# 48 – Think beyond of what is possible, no matter what it takes and what other people are saying. Steve Jobs was known for this “reality distortion field” in making people believe that they are able to do impossible things. The way he got people to accomplish certain tasks and products in short periods of time is truly amazing. Embrace the impossible!
# 49 – Less is definitely more (for many things in life). Keep it simple, easy, minimalistic, user-friendly, elegant. In other words “Simple is better”, or in Apple words “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
# 50 – If you dream big and you have a concrete vision, you don’t need a flashy office to get started. Steve Jobs started basically from his parents’ garage.
# 51 – Learn the art of “Event Marketing”. Don’t provide all the relevant information all upfront when announcing a new product launch. Keep it a bit more secretive and mysterious. Create an experience for consumers for which people are prepared to line up for hours in order to attend your event. Steve Jobs was a master in creating suspense and excitement about his products. Thus, holding back information instead of boosting about it at an early stage (as many other companies would do), might be the better strategy in order to keep people excited. Do you remember what he did before every presentation was almost over? He added “oh, one more thing…..” and it was always something impressive and unexpected that he mentioned.
# 52 – When you need to create an ad, you can make it more effective and powerful by using pictures rather than lots of words. If you look at several ads that Apple created in the past, you don’t always see the product featured, but instead people. It tries to reflect the personality of different users (do you remember the ads of the Mac guy vs. the Microsoft guy?).
# 53 – If you consider of making a demo, make it meaningful. Remember when Steve Jobs introduced the new MacBook Air? Steve Jobs presented it by taking the slim laptop out of a yellowish envelope. He knew exactly how to convey his message in a more memorable way. This simple gesture can tell more than 1000s of words ever could.
# 54 – Keep it one more time short and simple. Another example, when the iPhone camera has been introduced, the ad was just focused on one aspect of the iPhone, and that was the camera. In the 60 second ad the only thing you hear comes at the end. 13 words saying EVERY DAY, MORE PHOTOS ARE TAKEN WITH THE IPHONE THAN ANY OTHER CAMERA.” No lengthy sentences, just the core message at the end. It said it all.
# 55 – A company’s name doesn’t always have to be instantly recognizable as to what it sells. If you are thinking of running your own business and are still unsure what name to give it, keep it mind that it should be short. But it can still be unrelated to the core idea of your business. Think of Apple, Google, Amazon. Do they tell you straight away what they are? No, those companies worked hard to get the status that they achieved so far.
# 56 – People do judge books by its cover. Steve Jobs spent a considerable amount of time in designing and redesigning the boxes (for iPod and iPhone) by listing himself on the patents for them, too. Unpacking the boxes was perceived as a ritual comparable to a theatre which then showed the glory of the product. (If you look on YouTube you would be surprised on how many videos you can find of people who show their “unpacking” of several Apple products). Making the packaging of your product feel special to the consumer is another way of setting the tone for how the product should be perceived.
# 57 – The moment you know that you are not going to live for long, you will start focusing on the really relevant things in your life. Life is limited, do things that matter.
# 58 – You can’t develop creative ideas via iChat or by email. Spontaneous meetings, random discussions and conversations can help and lead to truly exciting, innovative ideas. Believe in the power of meeting people face to face, that’s the place where magic can happen.
# 59 – Learn the art of effective persuasion. Steve Jobs used to ask former PepsiCo executive John Sculley “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” I found this a very good example.
# 60 – You live only once, make it a great, meaningful life. I love this quote from Steve Jobs when he compares himself with Bill Gates and Microsoft “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful – that’s what matters to me.”
# 61 – Last but not least, “Stay hungry, stay foolish!”
Ah, one more thing… now from my side….
I love reading biographies and back in January 2012 I never thought that I would be reading a 600 pages biography, about an IT/marketing high calibre professional such as Steve Jobs. It took me only one month to read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs which I found truly exciting.
It’s a fascinating book that gives so many different insights into Steve Jobs’ personal as well as professional life. It talks about his adoption, his college experiences, his emotional and family life, his music heroes, his trip to India, the way how he set up and run different companies, how certain corporate issues have been solved, how meetings have been conducted, how different people got the idea for creating certain revolutionary products, how much planning went into building Apple stores the way he liked it, what he was looking for in new hires, how he prepared his New Product Release Presentations, his relationship with business partners, employees, friends etc., dealing with advertising agencies, negotiating with competitors, how it felt being kicked out of his own company and then being taken on board again and, last but not least his health problems. Another interesting aspect was the comparison between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates by highlighting what makes them different. One day I would love to read that kind of book too!
How did people perceive Steve Jobs? In Walter Isaacson’s book I would say that people considered him as: passionate, brutally honest, definitely persuasive, manipulative, creative, innovative, different, focused, detail-oriented, results-driven, stubborn, obsessed, intuitive, straightforward, charming with women, very sensitive, ambitious, demanding, rude, impatient, with a sense of aesthetic, hardworking, design loving, simple, minimalistic, modest, visionary, strategic, optimistic, egotistical, spiritual, rebellious, risk-taking, fruit fanatic, dictatorial, critical, smart, charismatic, controlling, quality-conscious and dedicated.
Happy Birthday Steve! The world will always remember people like you. Thanks!
What was your biggest takeaway today from Steve Jobs? Which lesson are you most excited to use in your own career? I would appreciate it if you could leave a comment and let me know. If you know anyone who could benefit from this article, make sure you share it. You will be helping them out and me too! Thanks!
Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at www.Careerheads.com. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” (http://careerheads.com/product/ebook-44-tips-for-a-successful-video-interview/). She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.