I was watching a movie, and Carolyn and the kids were in Little Rock when she texted me a picture of a TV with Fox News’ “breaking news” headline of “Apple confirms that Steve Jobs has died.”
I was stunned. I turned the TV to Fox News and watched a wonderful tribute and highlight of Steve’s life and contributions to the world in technology and generosity. He was a vivid personality but an incredibly private person.
It was just recently that I wrote an entry called Ode to Steve upon Jobs’ resignation as CEO of Apple. As I reread it this evening, it really sums up my personal history with Apple and Steve.
Profoundly, in Steve’s 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, Steve said:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. (Watch below)
One of the things that I’m reminded of is one of Steve’s most quoted contributions to leadership, called Steve’s 12 Rules of Success:
- Do what you love to do. Find your true passion. Do what you love to do a make a difference! The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
- Be different. Think different. “Better be a pirate than to join the navy.”
- Do your best. Do your best at every job. No sleep! Success generates more success. So be hungry for it. Hire good people with passion for excellence.
- Make SWOT analysis. As soon as you join/start a company, make a list of strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your company on a piece of paper. Don’t hesitate in throwing bad apples out of the company.
- Be entrepreneurial. Look for the next big thing. Find a set of ideas that need to be quickly and decisively acted upon and jump through that window. Sometimes the first step is the hardest one. Just take it! Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
- Start small, think big. Don’t worry about too many things at once. Take a handful of simple things to begin with, and then progress to more complex ones. Think about not just tomorrow, but the future. “I want to put a ding in the universe,” reveals Steve Jobs his dream.
- Strive to become a market leader. Own and control the primary technology in everything you do. If there’s a better technology available, use it no matter if anyone else is not using it. Be the first, and make it an industry standard.
- Focus on the outcome. People judge you by your performance, so focus on the outcome. Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. Advertise. If they don’t know it, they won’t buy your product.
- Ask for feedback. Ask for feedback from people with diverse backgrounds. Each one will tell you one useful thing. If you’re at the top of the chain, sometimes people won’t give you honest feedback because they’re afraid. In this case, disguise yourself, or get feedback from other sources. Focus on those who will use your product – listen to your customers first.
- Innovate. Innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower. Delegate, let other top executives do 50% of your routine work to be able to spend 50% your time on the new stuff. Say no to 1,000 things to make sure you don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. Concentrate on really important creations and radical innovation. Hire people who want to make the best things in the world. You need a very product-oriented culture, even in a technology company. Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together.
- Learn from failures. Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
- Learn continually. There’s always “one more thing” to learn! Cross-pollinate ideas with others both within and outside your company. Learn from customers, competitors and partners. If you partner with someone whom you don’t like, learn to like them – praise them and benefit from them. Learn to criticize your enemies openly, but honestly.
One thing we can all take away is one of Steve’s pithy contributions to Apple’s culture: Think Different.
My prayers are with the Jobs’ family and friends and the employees of Apple.
Here’s the Stanford commencement speech: