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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

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

More by this author

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 August 19, 2019

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

1. Know Thyself

One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

An unexamined life is not worth living.

I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

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None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

2. Figure out What Matters to You

What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

3. Play to Your Strengths

Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

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If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

4. Listen to Yourself

It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

“If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

6. Make Time for Reflection

It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

  • What went well today
  • Something you’re grateful for
  • What would make tomorrow even better

Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

Arguably the most important step of all:

Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

“I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

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Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

Reference

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