With the passing of Steve Jobs yesterday, he is going to be in the news quite a bit over the next week. A lot of people who don’t know that much about Mr. Jobs are going to be inundated with new information. I’m not one of those people, because I’m an Apple nerd and I devoured all the books, videos, and articles about Steve Jobs a long time ago. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I’m such an avid fan of Apple. What follows are some random thoughts, quotes, links I wanted to get down while this is fresh. It's not terribly cohesive, and there may be some grammatical errors, get over it.
In the year 2000 my father in law was a big PC user. He is a very successful businessman, and certainly no dummy. However, he bet me that Apple would be out of business by 2010. I laughed at him, and with as much confidence as I have ever had about anything I bet him a steak dinner that he would be wrong. At that time, Apple wasn’t anything like the juggernaut that it is no. In fact, there were monthly articles on the web and in tech magazines about how Apple was on the verge of dying. So how could I be so confident? Is it because I am a gifted business analyst? No way. Did I have insider information? Nope. It’s because I had been following Apple pretty closely since the “internet” became mainstream at the end of the 90’s. In following Apple I had listened to Steve Jobs vision and his philosophy about business, design, and life in general, and I knew that everything he believed was true and would ultimately win out.
If you want to delve into the culture of Apple and how the company came back from the dead and created the most innovative, fun, world changing stuff, then I’d recommend watching the old documentary Triumph of the Nerds on youtube. Link here. I’d also recommend the book, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.
I would read these before the authorized biography of Jobs is released on Oct. 24.
Jobs forced Apple to do things differently, and to live by the principle that Apple didn’t have to be like every other tech company. This was summed up best by the first ad they ran when he returned to Apple in 1997, after having been ousted from the company ten years before.
If you want to be truly great you have to be willing to stand out, to think differently than everyone else. To say no to some things, even though they may be really good ideas. Jobs said it like this….
“The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient.
“But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.
“And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. BusinessWeek, Oct. 12, 2004
More than Money
If you think that this is just about business and money you’d be wrong. There is more to Apple than just a great business that makes money. In fact, it could be argued that that was merely a side product of the real goal, to change the world and do something with your life that matters. Steve said it like this… “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.” The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993
Long before the iPad, iPhone, and iPod was the Macintosh computer. The Mac changed everything. People who are not super nerdy, or who are younger than 35 years old don’t remember what computing was like before the Mac. Before the Mac monitors were black screens with green or slightly orange text on them, and you had to know a computer language to get virtually anything done on a computer. The Mac introduced the idea of a “virtual desktop” with folders and files to the world. The whole idea of how you use a computer is directly traceable to the guys at Apple (lead by Steve Jobs) recognizing that this is what computers needed to become mainstream. Windows is just a cheap, poorly done knockoff of the Macintosh, circa 1984.
When I came on Young Life staff in 1994 we had a computer in our office that 3 of us shared. It was a Compaq Presario and it ran Windows 3.1. I had never owned a computer personally. However I had used my friends Mac in college to write some papers. After using the Windows machine for a few months it was time for me to buy a computer. I bought a Mac, and began to use it at home. After about a week of using both machines I was an Apple snob. My snobbery was not based in a higher view of myself, but it was the supreme confidence that what I had at home (a Mac) was so much better and well thought out than the Windows machine. I was willing to bet the farm on it’s ultimate victory in the computing world. FYI, Apple is by far the most valuable technology company in the world, and depending on the day, they are the most valuable company in the world. They undulate back and forth between number one and two with ExxonMobil.
The reason is because Apple computers just work, you don’t have to be a tech geek to use an Apple, or to keep your Mac running. People often think I’m a technical person because I talk about computers so much. I’m not, I’m an Apple user. The reason I use a Mac is so I don’t have to be a tech geek to keep my computer working. I can focus on what I actually want my life to be about. Two of their past slogans “It just works” and “The computer for the rest of us” illustrate the vision that Jobs and Co. had regarding the future of technology. They wanted to create beautiful, elegant, tools that were a joy to use, so that you could do whatever it is you do faster, easier, and you would enjoy doing it.
What Really Matters
Steve Jobs came to realize that while the things that he and his coworkers accomplished at Apple were amazing, and helped people in their everyday lives, they were ultimately not as important as he might once have thought. He put it this way….
“The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.
“I’m sorry, it’s true. Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Tech- nology is not changing it much — if at all.
“These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with oth- er parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that.
“But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light — that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” Wired, February 1996
From My Perspective
I'll end with this. Serving Jesus is the ultimate experession of many of the things that Steve Jobs believed. Doing things that outlast you, that last forever, is ultimately the most important thing in life. Doing things with excellence and beauty are important. It isn't enough to make a product. It isn't enough to just do a job. It needs to be done with care, with passion, and with much thought. The reason we have different fonts on our computers is because Steve Jobs took a class about caligraphy while he was in school at Reed College (by the way, he never graduated). He thought it was important that the computer have some artistic elegance. He thought it would make a difference. He thought it was important.
The scriptures say it like this....
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters..." Colossians 3:23.
Jesus said it like this....
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-20
I don't think Jobs was a follower of Jesus, but he certainly stumbled upon many ideas that matched up with Jesus very own teachings.
Below is a great article about Jobs, that has a different angle. It also gives some insight into what the guy was like as a person, not just a corporate leader.