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Steve Jobs

| October 11, 2011

by Jim Bruce

Steve Jobs died last Wednesday.

Since then, tens of thousands of words of tribute and remembrance have been written along with other similar expressions for this man who on one hand was very human – “much more … a real person than most people knew” (Dr. Dean Ornish) – with a tremendous love for his wife and children, and on the other was an innovator, likely the greatest innovator who has lived or will live in our time.

Steve didn’t just lead the development of revolutionary products that changed multiple industries, he also left us many lessons about life and work.  In 2005, in his address at Stanford’s 2005 June graduation exercises, he stepped out of his role as Apple’s chief executive and delivered a mediation on his life and his, and our, mortality.  There he said:

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?’  And, whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know to change something.”

“…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.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

(If you haven’t either read or watched this speech, I urge you to take the time now.  You can find the text at <> and the video at <> or <>.)

Richard Branson captured the feel of Jobs comments in a tribute reported in “The Wizard and the Mortal“:  “So many people drew courage from Steve and related to his life story:  adoptees, college dropouts, struggling entrepreneurs, ousted business leaders figuring out how to make a difference in the world, and people fighting a debilitating illness.  We have all been there in some way and can see a bit of ourselves in his personal and professional successes and struggles.”

And, innumerable others have also talked about the lessons they learned from him:  

“You do not cut corners.  You make sure the customer gets an experience that is an absolute delight.”  (Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive who led the iPod and iPhone development teams from 2001 to 2009)

“When Steve believed in an idea, he was both passionate and patient, scratching away over the years until he got it right.”  (Michael Hawley, former faculty member at MIT’s Media Laboratory, and concert pianist)

“Don’t dwell on your mistakes.”  (Michael Capps, software designer for the 1984 Macintosh)

“Always follow your heart.  He [Steve] believed that the only way to do truly great work is to adore what you are doing.”  (Andy Hertzfield, member of the original Macintosh team, now an engineer at Google)

(See “The Power of Taking the Big Chance” by Steve Lohr, who regularly reports on technology, business, and economics for the New York Times, in the Sunday, October 8, 2011 New York Times.)

In the October 5, 2011 issue of Forbes, Eric Jackson, Forbes contributor who covers technology, published a piece “The Top Ten Lessons Steve Jobs Taught Us“.  The lessons he singles out are worth all of us considering:

1.  The most enduring innovations marry art and science.

2.  To create the future, you can’t do it through focus groups.  Customers don’t know what they want if it’s something they’ve never seen, heard, or touched before.

3.  Never fear failure.

4.  You can’t connect the dots forward only backward.  As much as we plan our lives, there is always something that is totally unexpected.

5.  Listen to that voice in the back of your head that tells you if you’re on the right track or not.

6.  Expect a lot from yourself and others.

7.  Don’t care about being right.  Care about succeeding.  It is not important that the approach you advocate is right or wrong.  If it is wrong change it, and succeed for your client.

8.  Find the most talented people and surround yourself with them.

9.  Stay hungry, stay foolish.  Don’t become so comfortable with your status quo that you are not willing to take risks.

10.  Anything is possible through hard work, determination, and a sense of vision.

And finally from the current Bloomberg BusinessWeek <> (the print version has a beautiful photo essay that I did not find online), which was devoted in its entirety to Steve and to Apple, without any advertising:

“Simple can be harder than complex.  You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

Whether we knew Steve Jobs personally, worked with him, or only experienced him through the products he guided into existence, we will miss him and his innovative presence.  As Randy Krotowski, CIO of Global Upstream, Chevron Corporation put it:  “He drove innovation to deliver brilliant and elegant solutions that captured the hearts (and wallets) of consumers and set the standard for what the CIO will have to deliver in the future.”  Harry McCracken, creator of Technologizer and columnist for, adds to this by telling us that the durability and consistency of his vision, more so than the specific blockbusters of his career, were what was really astonishing.  

So, no matter how we remember him, he would want us to go forward, working hard, succeeding for our customers, making it simple, and, at least as important, deeply caring about those close to us.


.  .  .  .     jim