Lessons learnt from Steve Jobs

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Reflecting on Steve Jobs' biography, these are some of my takeaway lessons about great products, entrepreneurship and how organizations can strive.

As a person, Steve Jobs was far from being perfect. Nevertheless, there are lots of things I learnt reading about his life.

Focus

One of Job's great strengths was knowing how to focus. Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That's true for companies, and it's true for products.

The world is full of distractions. To strive to be the best version of myself, I need to focus and filter out all the noise.

What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. They’re turning you into Microsoft. They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great.

Focusing on the most important 3-5 “things” is true for both companies and people. To create something truly great takes a lot of effort and time. A YES to something is a NO for something else, whether I like it or not.

Lesson number one

I must focus on my top priorities and learn to say “NO” more often.

Reality Distortion Field

The reality distortion field was a confounding mélange of a charismatic rhetorical style, indomitable will, and eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand.

Through his reality distortion field, Steve created his version of reality. This didn’t only affect him but also the people he worked with.

In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he’s not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules.

This, in particular, is important to everyone who is on a mission to create something that is great and could take our world from zero to one.

I find working on something new often daunting and overwhelming. Immediately my mind thinks of a hundred reason why my ideas won’t be possible. That is when reality distortion field comes in handy. Often, it is impossible only in my head!

If you act like you can do something, then it will work.

Lesson number two

It is only impossible in my head.

Art & Technology

It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.

Steve has been lucky enough to be in the intersection between art and technology. He really understood design, technology and business. Since technology is often used by people, a cooperation between technologist, artists and designers is necessary to create something great.

Lessons number three

I need to broaden my knowledge in other fields outside technology as well.

In addition, I must acknowledge the role of design in creating great products.

Control

He wants to control his environment, and he sees the product as an extension of himself.

Being in control, I think, has been one of the main factors why Apple has been able to produce great products.

Steve didn’t want to risk having a crappy software running on their hardware so he couldn’t help it but to produce both the hardware and the software. Apple extended its control afterwards by Apple Stores, iTunes, and the App Store.

Now I understand why it is not as easy to publish apps on iOS App Store compared to Android store. That is due to the fact that Apple wants to be still in control and review what apps get to run on their devices.

Allowing 3rd party apps running on Apple's devices was a compromise from Steve that he initially didn’t want any 3rd party apps to run on their products.

Lesson number four

Relinquishing control increases the risk of things going wrong without me being able to affect them directly. I should understand the risk and the cost of relinquishing control both on a professional and personal level.

"A" players

For most things in life, the range between best and average is 30% or so. The best airplane flight, the best meal, they may be 30% better than your average one. What I saw with Woz was somebody who was fifty times better than the average engineer. He could have meetings in his head. The Mac team was an attempt to build a whole team like that, A players. People said they wouldn’t get along, they’d hate working with each other. But I realized that A players like to work with A players, they just didn’t like working with C players.

Steve saw the world in binary terms. Either somebody was a bozo or a genius. He saw the necessity to work only with A players. He believed that B players drag the A players down and create a toxic environment.

Lesson number five

I'm affected by the environment around me. I'm the average of the 5 people I spend most time with.

I must strive to be an A player and aim to work with more A players.

Memento Mori

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.

Long before he was diagnosed by cancer, Steve had had throughout his life a “feeling” that he will die young. That motivated him to find a mission and try to stay focused on what mattered the most. In his case that was building great products and great companies that would outlive him.

Lesson number six

Remember you will die.