A couple of years ago I read the excellent biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Mr. Isaacson does not sugarcoat Mr. Jobs’s personality. Steve Jobs would have been an awful person to work for as he could either profusely praise his employees or call them a piece of sh**, sometimes on the very same day. To say the least, Jobs was a very difficult person to be around.
That said, 100 years from now I believe he will be remembered as one of the great men of our era, held in the same high esteem as Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.
So what can we learn from Steve Jobs? What made him unique? What made him highly successful? There were many traits that made him successful, far too many to list in a short blog post, but I would like to mention three:
1. He had an absolute passion for his work. It was never about getting rich; it was all about making something he believed in. He passionately believed in the Macintosh computer, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad to name just a few of the products Apple developed. A recent survey indicated that 80% of Americans are not passionate about ANYTHING! What are you passionate about? Are you passionate about your work? Do you find excuses to work late or come in over the weekend because what you do excites you? Or do you even know what passion feels like?
2. He had an obsessive attention to detail. There was a book written a few years back titled, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff.” Jobs would have vomited his scorn on the author of that book. Jobs was all about the small stuff. “Good enough” was never good enough for Jobs. Jobs was all about hiring the most gifted people he could find and then working them to their extreme limit. Conversely he would also not hesitate to ridicule and quickly fire those who did not meet his high standards. He pushed and prodded his talented minions to perform at higher levels than they thought possible resulting in many technological breakthroughs that Apple is now known for. He was absolutely ruthless on his employees but afterward they grudgingly loved and worshiped him for it. How often do you settle for results that are less than your very, absolute best?
3. He was a “value creator.” He didn’t invent many things outright, but he was a master at putting together ideas, art and technology in ways that superseded what had come before. Jobs once said, “Picasso had a saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal” and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Regardless of what we do for a living, our job boils down to adding value in the form of a product or service, for either our boss, if we have one, or our clients who are our ultimate bosses. When we stop adding value, watch out, we’re expendable! What can you do today to add additional value to your work so that your boss or client without hesitation realizes your importance in making them more successful?
I have heard people say, “Well I’m not Steve Jobs.” Or they might insert another celebrity entrepreneur in that statement, like Richard Branson or Donald Trump. Deep down what they are saying is that they don’t have the courage to try to be exceptional. And I ask, “Why not?” Being average is certainly not the road to success. Yes, it is highly unlikely that we will ever be remotely as successful as Steve Jobs but should that stop us from living by the business principles that led to his great success? I think not.