Martin Verbic @marteensart
Medical student / Blogger
/ 5 min read

Steve Jobs: Greatest Lessons From The Man Behind Apple


Steve Jobs: Greatest Lessons From The Man Behind Apple

Being an Apple fan these days isn't easy. It's much better to be a Steve Jobs fan. A perfectionist visionary that constructed the life of technology we know today. But I won't write about the features and failures of the latest iPhone. I'll write about Steve Jobs and what you can learn from his life, style of thinking and work. Apple fan or not, everyone should consider the Jobs' lessons described in this article.

It All Starts With A Dot

Jobs never graduated from college, even though this was made possible to him by his foster parents. He chose Reed college, one of the most expensive ones, and dropped out just 6 months into starting it.

From many standpoints, it was a selfish move. His parents paid the tuition from their life's savings, but he simply decided that this was not what he wanted. Instead, he chose which courses to listen to and meanwhile slept on dorm room's floors. Reed college coincidentally had the best calligraphy class in the country. They learned how to make beautiful typography and Jobs was amazed. He was inspired by the beauty of calligraphy and learned everything about it.

Ten years later, when designing the Macintosh, the first computer for the masse. All of this unexpectedly came very useful. It was the first computer to feature fonts we know today. They live until this day because he dropped-out and listened to the calligraphy courses. During his Stanford Commencement speech he said [1]:

"If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them."

This is the first lesson to learn from him - do things that interest you and all will crystallize latter on. It didn't make sense to him at the time of dropping out of college. But it did 10 years later.

"It was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very very clear looking backwards 10 years later."

Trusting our gut, following our heart and believing the dots will all connect will make all the difference. Whichever books we read, activities we do and whatever we study will once come together and shape a new idea or opportunity. It's this mindset that I think Jobs wishes we adopt.

There's a Reason For Everything

Ironically, Jobs was fired from Apple, a company that he created. It forced him to start from scratch. He had to return to the basics, adopting a beginner's mindset. That's when he entered the most productive period of his life. In an effort to do what he loves, which Apple at the time didn't offer, he created 2 companies that are still very much alive these days.

The first one was called NeXT. This was a computer company that focused on education. Jobs wanted students to have the ability to look into the processes in life with computer simulation. This was much cheaper and faster than for example installing an LHC (large hadron collider) at every university there is. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple ended up buying NeXT, whose technology to this day remains the core of Apple's devices. And Jobs was back.

The second company he founded and that also remains distinguished to this day is Pixar. Yes, he isn't only the puppetmaster of your life on smartphones, but also the creator of a great part of our childhood. In 1995, that's when computers had about 8 megabytes of working memory (in comparison to today's 8 gigabytes), they created Toy Story. It was the first fully animated movie that inspires children to this day.

Being fired from Apple turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to Jobs and to us. Were it not for that, we would've never had the iPhone, nor the Pixar movies. Imagine the devastation.

This is also a valuable tool for dealing with bad experiences and failures. Instead of focusing on the failure or bad experience itself, focus on the opportunities and benefits that become available. For me personally, the easiest way to deal with failure is asking myself "what have I learned?" and "in which ways is it positive?". I even wrote a whole article about how failure actually sparks improvement.

Having a Clear Sense of Why

Apple has been notoriously good at selling their products. That's why they became the most valuable brand in the world. And Steve Jobs has the most props for that. During Apple's history, he mainly did this by having a clear sense of "why". Simon Sinek captured Apple's sense of "why" in his book "Start With Why":

Everything Apple does, they believe in challenging the status quo. They believe in thinking differently. The way they challenge the status quo is by making their products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. And they happen to make great computers.

This has been visible since Apple's early days. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple in a garage where they built the first Apple computers. They wanted something new. A beautiful design, simplicity and user-friendliness. In other words, we can say they bred a culture of challenging the status quo. Their focus was never on money or on being madly successful. They became successful because of their sense of "why". Because people were able to identify with their products. This was the core of Apple's early success.

When Jobs was fired from Apple, this culture was no longer there. They lost focus and at some point started producing printers and cameras (yes, there was such a time) [2]. But upon his return, the culture of challenging the status quo emerged again. Because changing the culture is the only true way of transforming a successful group of people into a successful group of people with a purpose.

Again and again, having a clear sense of "why" improves the quality of what we do and the chances we have of succeeding.

His Legacy

Steve Jobs passed away on October 5th 2011, almost exactly 8 years ago at the time of writing this article. Many say that with Jobs' passing Apple lost what it once had. I'm not the right person to judge this, because I still think they make great, simple to use and user-friendly products. What has changed is their business model. Jobs wanted to make great devices and challenge the status quo. Under today's leadership (Tim Cook), Apple mainly sells a status symbol. This is their business model and why they became the most valuable brand in the world.

Jobs' legacy won't and shouldn't be forgotten. If you're not into buying today's Apple products, think about and remember his legacy. Then let it inspire you to make great things.

Footnotes

  1. Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address - probably one of the greatest speeches in modern history. I suggest you take 15 minutes out of your day and listen to every word he has to say.
  2. Have a look at their printers and cameras. If that's not enough, check their personal digital assistants. Or their whole history.
  3. Featured image source

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter