What I learned from Isaacson's book...
I spent the past two days devouring Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs. The story of Jobs’ life is, as one would assume, awe-inspiring. His rebellious childhood, his complex relationships, his ingenious creativity and his craving attention to detail, his extremely bipolar view of the world, his magical products… All are weaved into one captivating 500-page volume.
Not everything about Jobs was exemplary – far from it – but as Isaacson highlights in the last few paragraphs, history will place [Jobs] in the Pantheon right next to Edison and Ford. More than anyone else of his time, he made products that were completely innovative, combining the power of poetry and processors. With a ferocity that could make working with him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world’s most creative company (566). What amazes me most, however, is that while others have succeeded in building great companies with great products, Jobs is one of the very rare who created not one, but two leading companies – Apple and Pixar – perhaps the world’s two most creative companies.* In my mind, this achievement places him above even the most successful and emblematic makers of our time. As Isaacson dissects Jobs’ life, a few key lessons come up time and time again, lessons that help explain Jobs’ repeated successes and could serve as valuable guidelines to anyone looking to work in business… 1. deep focus. In one of the many anecdotes, Isaacson recounts how on one of this Top 100 manager retreats, Jobs led a brainstorming session to determine the ten most important things that Apple could do over the next year. Hours of debate and conversation helped the group narrow the list down to 10. He grabbed a pen, crossed out the bottom 7 and proclaimed Apple could only focus on the top 3. As is repeated throughout the volume, his ability to cut out the noise and focus on the essence of what he and Apple were doing was uncanny and undoubtedly provided a basis for success. 2. team A players only. Both at Pixar and at Apple, Jobs made sure he built companies made of team A players only. B players were forced to leave the company as soon as he detected them. He admits this wasn’t easy but, as he explains, a few B team players can corrupt a good company: they attract other B team players, who in turn attract C players, and quickly A players, who only enjoy playing with other A players, start to quit. Bottom line: don’t compromise on the team. 3. do what you love and you will achieve great things. This last statement is cliche but it comes up too often in the book not to underline it. Jobs stood for what he believed was making humanity better. The world, he thought, was a better place for Apple products. Making beautiful products was the end goal; not the bottom line, not the fame, not the impact, but just making great stuff. And applying his laser-like focus to this mission, most of his energy and all the resources at Apple were dedicated to that. I’ve found that #1 and #2 are much harder than they sound… Focusing on a few things – those tasks that truly add value to your company – isn’t easy when you could be doing 100 other things, some of which might add a lot on the short term… Similarly, finding the top A players is a challenge and is extremely time consuming. But these were some of the factors that helped Jobs and his team of visionaries change the world and I’m going to try and spend 2012 much more focused on those two lessons. What other lessons do you take away from Jobs’ leadership?
What's on my Mind...
196 countries. 7 continents. 1 world. Just one world with almost seven billion people. Seven billion people going in seven billion different directions just trying to get by in their lives. Each individual life with their own individual purpose, and I’ve found mine. Over the centuries, our world has gone through so much but I think it’s safe to say that it’s at its lowest. I am so sick and tired of all the suffering and turmoil that is going on in this world when there are so many people that can make an effort to do something about it. According to Poverty Education, every year more than eight million people die because they are simply too poor to live. How messed up is that? What are the other 6,992,000,000 people doing? We’ve become so accustomed to the wrongs in our world that they aren’t even a big deal to most. Sure people die everyday, but these people don’t have to. War, poverty, disease. I’ve had enough, theses aren’t things that we should be okay with. I understand that this will never be a perfect world, but there’s plenty of ways we could improve. People have just sort of accepted the fact that that’s the way it is, but it doesn’t have to be. I am going to do everything in my power to do something about it. I want to make an impact. I want to make a difference.
In my mind, 2012 is the year for changes.
I refuse to believe it’s going to be just any other year. Whether or not you believe in the end of the world, I still believe that the affects of the 2012 prediction will show. People are going to do some crazy things.
That’s not what I’m talking about, though. I think 2012 is going to be the year for some enormous changes in my life as well as around the world in so many others’ lives. They could be good or bad. Frightening or enlightening. There are so many possibilities, and I feel like they’re all just rushing around trying to break into reality.
One thing I know for sure is that I have plans to change. I also know for sure that the fate of my family rests on decisions made this year and depending on those decisions our lives will take one of two drastic turns. For good or for the worse.
I think 2012 is going to be a great year for changes. So, from me to you:
If there’s a change in your life you’ve been wanting to make but just don’t quite know how: just do it. Seriously. If you want to change jobs, start looking for a new one immediately. If you want to go snowboarding, start a farm, learn to shoot a gun, swim with dolphins, visit Australia, move across the country, write a book, just do it. Not because the world might end soon, or because you feel pressured to. Get up and do it because you owe it to yourself to do the things you’ve always wanted to do and to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.
There are always those few special people that everyone loves. The ones whose when names are brought up, people have nothing but good things to say. The ones who excel at everything and are always kind. The ones who are humble yet intensely motivated and driven.
In my past four years of high school and throughout my life, I have had the privilege to meet some of these remarkable human beings. They look just like us, they act just like us. But once you meet them and begin to understand them, you realize that there’s something different about them. Something unique.
The ability to take all the world can give you and still make the most of it. The ability to spread warmth and have a smile wherever you go. The ability to be a genuine, a true, a good person. The ability, or maybe even the gift, to have a pure heart.
Those are the people that inspire me. I hope that one day, I can become even remotely close to what these people now are. And that one day, I can positively impact other people as much as these people have impacted me. Thank you.