Steve Jobs

You heard these before.

Old maxims such as following your passion, having faith in yourself, surrounding yourself with the best.

In Steve Job’s story you see all these in action.

His story is inspiring not only because of the scale of what he achieved but because he faithfully applied the above success fundamentals.

Strength of conviction

Have you ever tested your convictions?

If you are like most of us your convictions would melt in a few minutes when confronted with your boss’s.

The story of Steve Jobs is in essence the story of his convictions. How he believed in them consistently and persisted despite tremendous opposition.

Not once, not twice but innumerable times.

Steve Jobs was a game changer.

And you need his strength of conviction to change the game.

Steve was very different from his peers. In his temperament, in his utter disregard to corporate sacred cows such as profit margins etc.

To him design mattered more than anything else. When he came back to Apple for his second act he changed the pecking order. Previously it was engineers that dictated terms and the designers were constrained by them. Steve changed that. Form followed design even when that meant expensive investments in building screws that could not be opened by consumers.

For most others design was a superficial issue that only mattered on the surface. But for Steve it mattered all the way from how it looked outside to how the circuit boards were designed inside the machine to even the factories that built them and the stores that sold them.

Steve believed in the maxim “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

It reflected in every aspect of his life. After I read his book I took a second look at the cover.

The cover had just one line at the top “Steve Jobs. By Walter Isaacson”. No blurbs no screaming testimonials no sub headings nothing. Just the one liner and Steve’s face.

Steve’s design philosophy reflected even in his biography.

For his beliefs Steve met with criticism from many people, from his own teams, his board of directors, Bill Gates and even people he respected and looked up.

While he experienced severe pangs of anxiety and self doubt he continued to believe in himself and held together.


Steve had the ability to get extremely focused. A fact his friends and family experienced first hand. At times he could make them feel the center of his universe and and at other times abandoned.

On his second act at Apple Steve reduced the number of product lines by more than 70% and laid off thousands. He got his company to focus on just four products.

The results were spectacular. Despite the layoffs employee morale surged as the best engineers worked on the best products leading the G4 etc.


His sense of belief was so strong that those who met with him ended up believing in him even when they did not want to.

People used to joke about it and call it Steve’s reality distortion field.

When Steve was discussing building a supply of a new glass product for the iPhone with Corning’s CEO Wendell Weeks he was told that it was not possible to deliver the required quantities in 6 months.  Corning did not even have a factory to build it. It was still a laboratory product. “Don’t be afraid” said Steve with an unblinking stare, “you can do it”.

Corning delivered the glass…in time.


Steve was first and foremost about products. They were his passion.  They were his strength. In fact near the end of his life Steve received a handsome compliment from Bill Gates about his intuitive strength in building products that people loved.

It was why he insisted on total control from end to end of his products. It was why he followed his intuition and not market research.

His passion meant that he did not hesitate to pull the plug and start again from scratch if there was even a hint of the product missing a design cue.

The predecessor to the iPhone was the clunky ROKR designed by a committee involving Apple, Motorola and Cingular. It ended up violating everything Steve stood for and he pulled the plug on it.

When the iPhone was ready after months and months of grueling effort  Steve woke up one day and decided that the glass on the surface of the phone was being overshadowed by the case. He wanted the glass surface to stretch all the way to the edge.

The result,  6 more months of effort in redesigning the surface and re-engineering all the internal components.


Steve Jobs had terrible people skills.

He yelled and swore at his people, insulted them, humiliated them and stole their ideas from them.

And yet he had the wisdom of associating with the right people.

Early on in his career he realized the importance of keeping Steve Wozniak his partner. Steve Wozniak was a tremendously gifted engineer that Steve Jobs realized he could never be. When Steve Wozniak decided to walk out of the partnership Steve Jobs convinced Wozniak’s father, never a fan of Jobs to begin with, to convince him to stay back.

Steve Jobs classified people into ‘A’ players and the rest. He believed his attitude while grating on others served to weed out anyone but the A players from his team.

From Steve Wozniak to Jonathan Ive (designer of iPhones to iPads) to John Lasseter (the genius behind the Pixar movies) to Ron Johnson (the man the Apple stores) Steve Jobs showed his genius of associating with the right people.

Detail Orientedness

Steve was worried about details other CEOs would never even dream of. The order of icons on the Macs, their colors, how they would interact were all important.

He stressed about design details inside the box!

Heck he was even concerned about how the machines and factories in California that built his early products. They had to be white, remain spotlessly clean and have a floor imported from Europe.

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