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This Is How Steve Jobs Started and Changed the World

This Is How Steve Jobs Started and Changed the World

For years, Steve Jobs had a larger-than-life impact on the world of technology, design, music and other fields. Unlike some modern technology entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs took an unusual path to business success. Let’s consider some of the highlights of his story. For a more in-depth introduction to Jobs, I highly recommend reading “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. I am currently reading the book and have found it highly engaging (it is also my main source for this article).

Before Apple

In some ways, Jobs started in the right place and time to take best advantage of the digital revolution. Following his adoption by Paul Jobs and Clara Jobs, Steve Jobs grew up in Mountain View. In addition to gaining an appreciation of craftsmanship from his father, Jobs had countless experiences with HP engineers and others who resided in California at that time.

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Jobs had an open mind about new ideas and a willingness to bring ideas together in unusual ways. At times, his experimental outlook frustrated those around him (e.g. his ever-changing and usually very strict diets). However, this approach also shaped his view of products. During his studies at Reed College and beyond, Jobs learned about calligraphy, Eastern religion, design and many other topics. Even though Jobs dropped out of college, he continued seeking out teachers (e.g. his 1974 trip to India) and mentors to help him grow his skills.

During the 1970s, Jobs was one of many people in California interested in designing new technology. While his Jobs’s partner and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak had expertise in engineering, Jobs understood the importance of building a consumer-friendly product. According to Walter Isaacson’s biography, Jobs was keen to build an integrated computer. This consumer-use focus continues to set Apple products apart from other products (e.g. the 1975 Altair device which Isaacson describes as: “just a $495 pile of parts that had to be soldered to a board that would then do little”, pg 59)

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The Early Apple Years

Following some early success with building and selling electronics (e.g. the Blue Box  which made it possible to make free phone calls), Jobs and Wozniak began building computers. In 1975, Jobs presented the first computer to a group of technology hobbyists. It did not go well. As Isaacson puts it: “The audience was not very impressed. The Apple had a cut-rate microprocessor,” (pg 66) when Jobs presented an early computer to the Homebrew Computer Club. That early experience may be one of the reasons that Jobs became skeptical about market research and surveying potential customers.

Fortunately for us, Jobs was determined to sell his product and soon found customers. By the early 1980s, Apple Computer was a growing company. The Apple II computer was starting to sell well. During the 1980s, Jobs’s record was mixed. On the one hand, he was known for his outstanding dedication to product quality and often demanded improvements. Unfortunately, Jobs’s approach to work generated enemies. His erratic approach to work and dedication were major sources of project conflict in building and launching new products.

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Looking back on his early years and return to Apple, Jobs’s excitement for technology changed the world. Apple computers have rightly earned recognition for excellence. The company’s reputation for outstanding design is one of his lasting legacies. In 2015, the newly released Apple Watch has won the 2015 iF Design Awards.

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Steve Jobs Infographic by Anna Vital

    Featured photo credit: How Steve Jobs Started: The Life of Apple’s Founder/Anna Vital via s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

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    Bruce Harpham

    Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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