We have seen many great CEOs and leaders – Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company), Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com), Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), Ted Turner (CNN), Meg Whitman (eBay), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jack Welch (GE) and the list goes on and on and on.
However, none of these leaders evoked the type of respect, love, reactions and admiration, that Steve Jobs did. Why?
Everyone will have their own answer to this question. I think that we are not reacting to Steve Job’s management or leadership capabilities but the way he lived his life.
Steve Jobs lived life in a way that many of us dream of but aren’t able to turn into reality. The vast majority of us are tied-down by the restrictions and norms, imposed on us by society and the people around us. We take the easy way out and stay close to what is expected and familiar. We continuously avoid the risk of following our heart, doing what we really want and expressing our thoughts/ideas to the fullest extent.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the area of work. Instead of being excited to go to work each morning and spend the day doing things we enjoy, most of us would prefer to be anywhere other than the office. Quite a sad state of affairs I think, given the amount of time we spend at the workplace.
But not Steve Jobs. Oh no. He dropped out of college, experimented with LSD, bounced back from huge career setbacks (and how!), loved whatever work he did, battled cancer and gave the world some amazing technological gadgets and animated films.
Steve Jobs gave us hope. He made us believe it’s possible to live the life you want and be successful, in the traditional sense of having fame and riches, at the same time. We felt a little closer to our own dreams and ideal life, by watching and talking about Steve’s life, decisions, values, successes and failures.
Great reward only comes with some amount of risk and by doing things differently. Jobs took these risks, without worrying too much about the rewards. He just wanted to enjoy the ride. Very hard to do but I think that’s what we all need to strive for.
In 2005 Steve Jobs gave a great speech at Stanford University. Here are some of the highlights:
—- I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.
—- I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. And then I got fired. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and devastating.
I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over. I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. 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. During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife.
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And 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. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
—- 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.
—- 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 others’ 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.
—- Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
RIP Mr. Jobs – You were and will continue to be a great inspiration. We can’t live our dreams through you any more but hopefully many of us will have the courage to start living our own lives now. I’m sure you would like that.