Lessons from Steve Jobs

November 2011

“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.”

Stanford commencement speech, June 2005
(The following commentary was supplied by a colleague, Greg Guettler, after I shared the above quote with him.)

Although there have been plenty of laudatory comments made about Steve Jobs in the last month (I’m among them), I can’t help but think that Steve would be reprimanding us for our shortsightedness. Was he visionary? Of course. Did he have a profound impact on technology? Probably more so than any other individual of our time. But, he did not hit a home run every time at bat. Rather, what Steve Jobs exemplified was an unrelenting ability to use failure as a way to define success. Need proof? After leaving Apple in 1985, he spent the next 11 years trying to recreate success through the launch of NeXT computer hardware, then in the transformational launch of NeXT software, and then in the acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. During that 11-year period, he spent most of his Apple fortune trying to build the next great thing – and failed at nearly all of them. But then, through a bit of serendipity, Apple purchased NeXT for its Operating System and the rest is history.

But here’s where it gets interesting. When Jobs went back to Apple they had some 350 R&D projects underway (typical, I think for managers who don’t understand the market and value everything equally as a result). Steve came in, interviewed the managers and reduced that list to 10. What made him so good at whittling down the project list? Failure. Newton, Apple III, Lisa, the Puck mouse, the G4 Cube, NeXT. He had plenty of mistakes. Some might characterize Jobs as being too visionary or ahead of his time. But the end result is – he learned from them all. So, here’s the point of the Steve Jobs legacy: You can’t hit a home run if you’re afraid to take a swing. If you miss, don’t underestimate the power of what you’ve just learned. Do what you love. Love what you do. Never give up.

Click here to view the entire speech www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd_ptbiPoXM