Steve Jobs, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of a little company called Apple Inc., was a jerk. But really, who among us isn’t at least occasionally unreasonable, petty, and petulant for a few minutes out of every workday? What’s more interesting is what Jobs learned over time as a result of the trauma some say he brought upon himself. That trauma? Getting fired from the very company he founded in 1985 before returning to it in 1997 to save it from financial ruin.
Fast Company published excerpts from a series of interviews Jobs did during his “hiatus” from Apple, and they offer some life lessons for anyone who has found themselves unemployed and wondering what exactly the future may hold.
Here are eight things Jobs learned after getting fired by Apple:
Stop being a jerk:
Well, OK. By all accounts, Jobs never stopped being a jerk. His management style was closer to that of a marine drill sergeant than a Cub Scouts pack leader. However, Jobs became less of a jerk after three children by his second wife came into his life between the years of 1991 and 1998. And having children certainly gave him a perspective on storytelling that would serve him as CEO of the computer animation company Pixar.
Don’t let money ruin your life:
Make no mistake, Jobs made a ton of money in his short life. But he saw more than one of his well-funded ventures fall apart before Apple created and released the iPrometheus gifts to man that are the iPod, iPad, and iPhone. Despite being worth billions of dollars, Jobs was determined that money would not change him. “A few people went out and bought Rolls-Royces and their wives got plastic surgery,” Jobs once said when describing the success of Apple. “I saw these people who were really nice turn into these bizarro people. I said: ‘I’m not going to let this money ruin my life.’”
Great management is like The Beatles:
Although Jobs will forever be cursed with his reputation for being a tyrant, over time he learned to trust the input of other innovators in his industry. And with Pixar, Jobs went so far as to compare his management team with the Beatles. Jobs believed the personal “chemistry” of the Beatles was as valuable as John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s ability to keep each other’s “bad tendencies” in check. Although strangely, Jobs is quoted as saying, “I don’t know what Ringo did.” Apparently “A Little Help From My Friends” was never on his iPod.
Learn to adapt:
As stubborn as he was, Jobs embraced and cultivated an attitude where failure is understood to be an opportunity to learn and adapt. His concepts, ventures, and inventions, including the NeXTcube and the Pixar Image computer, were hit or miss. But the now ubiquitous Apple products came out of that period of technological and marketing missteps. Author Howard Gardner has written that what separates creative innovators from others is their ability to recover from failure, rather than some kind of “intrinsic infallibility.”
Technology should be invisible:
When Pixar released Toy Story in 1995, Jobs understood that audiences weren’t interested in the process or technological tools that make up the Pixar animation system. Audiences only cared about the end result, that is, whether they would be able to enjoy a good story. Apple technology is recognized for its “invisibility,” meaning, it is technology that we don’t have to fight on a daily basis (i.e. How do you turn this on? Why am I being prompted to do a reboot?). Jobs grew to love creating devices that a user would appreciate “without having to understand what went into it.”
Pay your employees:
The cliche goes, “you get what you pay for,” and in the field of computer software, Jobs believed this was absolutely true when it came to who he hired and kept on at his companies. “The secret to my success,” Jobs said in 1995, “is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.” Perhaps this attitude could be expanded to include the factory workers in China who make Apple products? There are some encouraging steps being taken in that direction.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint:
For a man who found he had to face down his own mortality at a relatively young age, and who purportedly told people he never expected to live past the age of 45, Jobs actually thought in “units of time that are measured in several years.” Another cliche, “life is a marathon, not a sprint,” applied to Jobs and the amount of months, even years of work necessary to conceive and build a great product.
People remember stories, not products:
When it comes to the end of the line, or even end of this year, current iPods, iPads, and iPhones will, unfortunately, become part of what Jobs referred to as “the sedimentary layer,” or more accurately, an e-waste dump site in China. Jobs understood the value of those products in comparison to a great story by the time he was ready to go back to Apple, as well as later, toward the end of his life, when he collaborated with author Walter Isaacson to write down the the story of his own life and creations.
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