• Ong Eng Huat •
Steve Jobs’ recent demise shocked the world as he was considered one of the world’s most innovative men. He was co-founder of the fairy-tale company Apple Computers. He was the visionary that laid significant milestones for the entire personal computer industry. Under his leadership, Apple consistently came up with beautifully designed products to wow the world. Apple has even become the world’s most valuable company (US$341 billion as of 10 August 2011).
Here are some nuggets of wisdom from Jobs himself, that reflect his life principles and led to his success.
‘Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.’
Innovation is limited by only one thing – the lack of imagination. It comes about anytime and anywhere; it ‘comes from people meeting up in the hallways’ as Jobs once said. The challenge is training people to think out of the box and developing these ideas.
Jobs made sure that Apple kept coming up with new products, even rendering its own older products obsolete. He went ahead, anyway, knowing that his $800 iPad threatens the sales of his $1,500 laptops. Usually, most companies wouldn’t.
‘Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.’
Excellence is a mindset and lots of hard work. You have to make excellence your priority and give your best shot in whatever you do. Excellence is going that extra mile. Pay attention to the details, live by a higher standard and you will be amazed with what you can achieve.
‘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. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.’
In a nutshell, do what you love. Find a job or study something that you think is meaningful and gives you satisfaction. Having that sense of purpose will then bring out the best in you. Your health stays better and you feel strong during the difficult times. When you climb out of bed in the morning, do you look forward to your day? Well, do I love what I’m doing, you may ask. Here’s a good gauge.
‘You know, we don’t grow most of the food we eat. We wear clothes other people make. We speak a language that other people developed. We use a mathematics that other people evolved… I mean, we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful, ecstatic feeling to create something that puts it back in the pool of human experience and knowledge.’
Life is not just the pursuit of wealth and material goods. It’s also about giving. What can you contribute that will make a difference to the society? Or at least to a small group of people? Be outright about setting an example, and use opportunities that arise to let others know what and why you are doing it. Working on this higher purpose does more than helping you find success. It redefines the meaning of the word.
5. BEGINNER’S MIND
‘There’s a phrase in Buddhism, “beginner’s mind.” It’s wonderful to have a beginner’s mind.’
The beginner’s mind is not cluttered with preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices. It’s a child’s mind that believes in possibilities, full of curiosity and wonder and imagination. When a very young child draws on a paper or the wall, he never has the intention to create a masterpiece. He is just enjoying a combination of tactile, audio and visual experience.
Jobs was literally kicked out of the company he founded in 1985, two years after recruiting a new CEO for Apple. This was due to clashes in their working relationship and the CEO has the Board on its side. However, Jobs claimed that being fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to him. He said, ‘The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.’
‘We think basically you watch television to turn your brain off, and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on.’
Most people know that watching TV is mind-numbing and time-consuming, yet spend most of their free or not-so-free time in front of the box. As TV and the related video technology moved to the computer, it makes little difference if you spent lots of time with your computer.
Law professor Jamie Raskin warns the public: ‘…television on all over the place is leading to a steady dumbing down of the American public and a corrosion of basic critical thinking in the population.’
‘I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year…. It’s very character-building.’
Making mistakes doesn’t mean you are a failure. All successful people have made some big mistakes in their lives. The next time you make a mistake, you should say something like: ‘Great, now I can learn something’, rather than to be harping and feeling lousy.
8. CONNECT THE DOTS
‘So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.’
Sometimes you wonder why things go wrong in your family, why you chose the wrong course or why you are stuck in a dead-end job. To Jobs, everything happens for a reason. What we need to do is to make sense of these experiences. Don’t be too attached to how you think your life is supposed to work out and instead trust that all the dots will be connected in the future.
‘I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.’
Socrates inspired many thinkers. Yet this is not about Socrates, this is about your willingness to learn from the great minds. Are you willing to climb up the personal mountain to seek the guru?
10. LIFE’S PURPOSE
‘We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?’
We are all born with gifts to offer or a sledgehammer to dent the universe. There are millions of things out there waiting to be discovered, fixed or created. Many of these things can be accomplished by you. We each have a purpose in life. You just need to find it.
‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’
Since his teenage days, Jobs would looked into his mirror everyday and ask, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ If the answer has been negative for too many days in a row, he knew that he needed to change something. Focused on the most important things in your life, the things you want to leave behind when you are gone.
When Jobs returned to Apple, it was very diversified and going bust. One of the first things he did was to cut most of the company’s activities and focus – first on the iMac, then on the iPod.
In 2005, in a speech he gave to students at Stanford, he told them, ‘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.’
12. OWN DREAM
‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.’
We are constantly surrounded by people telling us what to do with our lives. Have we spent time thinking carefully about our own dreams and goals in life? Do that and start heading towards that goal without fear or distraction. As long as you have the passion for something and want it badly enough, you can always find a way to get it done. Stop living someone else’s dream – create your own.