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22 Things That Steve Jobs Told Me

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.



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.



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.

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