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What Made Steve Jobs Stand out From Rest of the Entrepreneurs

What Made Steve Jobs Stand out From Rest of the Entrepreneurs
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There is a reason Steve Jobs is a legend and icon in the world of business, tech and entrepreneurship. He built some of the most revolutionary businesses of our time like Pixar film, NeXT and the world’s most valuable company—Apple Inc. And he did all this without having the most resources initially (Jobs cofounded Apple in his parents’ garage in 1976), the most connections or even the most smarts.

So how did he do it?

Jobs had a set of personality traits and success habits that stood out, propelled him forward and ultimately helped him achieve unbelievable success in his career. While you are your own person, and your business journey won’t be the same as his, assuredly you can learn a thing or two about Jobs’ revolutionary ways of building great companies.

Jobs’ unique qualities, including rough edges in his personality, set him apart from other entrepreneurs. His standout qualities are worth noting because they were integral to his success.

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1. Jobs had audacious self-belief and imagination.

Many entrepreneurs envision building a company that grows and takes a sizable market share from competitors. And that’s a great vision. However, Steve Jobs went further than that. He not only envisioned his company taking market share from competitors, but also his company’s products and services revolutionizing the way people work, communicate and live their lives. He was such a strong believer that he built Apple’s products and services under the assumption they would change the world.

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

—Apple’s 1997 ‘Think Different’ commercial

2. Jobs had unwavering focus on products over profits.

While many entrepreneurs today focus more on making their business as profitable as possible, Jobs focused more on creating great products and services. His laser-like focus on products before profits had been honed by his Zen training and was ingrained in his personality—so much so that family members, friends and colleagues would at times be exasperated as they tried to get him to deal with other issues, such as a medical diagnosis or a legal problem they considered important.

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Jobs never spoke of profit maximization or cost trade-offs. “Don’t worry about price,” he told the original team charged with designing the original Macintosh, in the early 1980s, “just specify the computer’s abilities.” His injunction was simple and clear: make it “insanely great.” Jobs didn’t care about the money. He cared about the quality of his products.

3. Jobs had unrelenting fervor for perfect design.

Jobs focused on design and became a master in the concept of innovative and interactive design. He insisted that his company’s designs be absolutely perfect. It was his belief that design is critical to developing next-generation products that people love. And so he pushed his company and employees to the limits—amazingly without going over the edge.

Walter Isaacson, the author of the biography of Steve Jobs, reports having asked Jobs about the Apple CEO’s tendency to be rough on people. “Look at the results,” Jobs replied. “These are all smart people I work with, and any of them could get a top job at another place if they were truly feeling brutalized. But they don’t.” Then he paused for a few seconds and, almost wistfully, said: “And we got some amazing things done.”

Jobs unrelenting fervor for perfect design was central to how he built his businesses. This zeal evolved into Apple’s competitive advantage over competitors and morphed into the company’s distinct brand.

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4. Jobs had deep love for simplicity and a flair for the elegant.

Leonardo da Vinci famously said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Nobody in the tech world took this quote as seriously as Jobs did, it would appear. Jobs learned to admire simplicity when working the night shift at Atari game company as a college dropout. Atari’s games came with no manual and were designed to be so uncomplicated that a “stoned freshman could figure them out.” The only instructions for its Star Trek game, for example, were: “1. Insert quarter. 2. Avoid Klingons.”

Jobs appreciation of simplicity in design grew deeper after attending design conferences at the Aspen Institute in the late 1970s, which highlighted the value of functional design devoid of frills or distractions. So when Jobs was shown a cluttered set of proposed navigation screens for iDVD, which allowed users to burn video onto a disk, he felt compelled to simplify. Jobs promptly stood up, writes Isaacson, and drew a simple rectangle on a whiteboard. “Here’s the new application,” he said. “It’s got one window. You drag your video into the window. Then you click the button that says ‘Burn.’ That’s it. That’s what we’re going to make.”

Jobs aimed for the simplicity that comes from conquering, rather than merely ignoring complexity. “It takes a lot of hard work,” he said, “to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.”

5. Jobs was extremely passionate and fearless when it came to expanding and growing Apple.

In looking for opportunities to exploit and industries ripe for disruption, Jobs was passionate and fearless. Many of his actions and attempts to grow Apple and its products were controversial and at times risked the future of the company. It was this fearless, risky, go-getter attitude that got him fired from Apple, a company he’d founded, and then got him re-hired when the company began to struggle after he’d left.

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Jobs always inquired who was making products that were more complicated than they should be. In 2001, portable music players and viable ways to acquire songs online fit that description, leading to the iPod and the iTunes Store. Mobile phones were next. Jobs would grab a phone at a meeting and emotionally rant that nobody could possibly figure out how to navigate half the features, including the address book. Then he’d push the people working with him for a simplified, more robust smart phone.

If you were an existing customer or a potential one, he made you understand why you had to have Apple’s products or services. He was the ultimate salesperson, as well as a true customer advocate. What a rare combination of attributes for an entrepreneur to possess.

Featured photo credit: Dan Farber via flickr.com

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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