Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

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15 lessons

Steve Jobs

– by Walter Isaacson –


1) Don’t get stuck in ways of thinking

“Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them.”

2) Reflect on your mortality

“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.”

3) Figure out what customers want before they do

“Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do…People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

4) Start with the right intentions

“You should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.”

5) Motivations matter

“We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out. If you don’t love something, you’re not going to cheese out. If you don’t love something, you’re not going to cheese out. If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”

6) Focus on what is essential

Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time. There is no one better at turning off the noise that is going on around him…That allows him to focus on a few things and say no to many things.

7) Create a “reality distortion field”

Steve’s reality distortion field was a confounding mix of a charismatic rhetorical style, indomitable will, and eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand…In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything.

8) Always prioritize the product

“I have my own theory about why decline happens at companies like IBM or Microsoft. The company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and then the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesmen, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues, not the product engineers and designers. So the salespeople end up running the company.”

9) Value craftsmanship

“I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it. When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

10) Be direct and honest

“Most people have a regulator between their mind and mouth that modulates their brutish sentiments and spikiest impulses. Not Jobs. He made a point of being brutally honest.” My job is to say when something sucks rather than sugar coat it,” he said. This made him charismatic and inspiring, yet also, to use the technical term, an asshole at times.”

11) Challenge others

“…if you didn’t voice your opinion, Steve would mow you down,” said Cook. “He takes contrary positions to create more discussion, because it may lead to a better result. So if you don’t feel comfortable disagreeing, then you’ll never survive.” 

12) Never be afraid of cannibalizing yourself

“If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will,” he said. So even though an iPhone might cannibalize sales of an iPod, or an iPad might cannibalize sales of a laptop, that did not deter him.”

13) Slow down your mind

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things—that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”

14) Ideas come from discussion and interaction

“Despite being a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew all too well its isolating potential, Jobs was a strong believer in face to face meetings.” “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat,” he said. “That’s crazy, creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘ Wow, and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

15) Find the intersection of humanities and science

“Edwin Land of Polaroid talked about the intersection of the humanities and science. I like that intersection. There’s something magical about that place. There are a lot of people innovating, and that’s not the main distinction of my career. The reason Apple resonates with people is that there’s a deep current of humanity in our innovation. I think great artists and great engineers are similar in that they both have a desire to express themselves. In fact some of the best people working on the original Mac were poets and musicians on the side. In the seventies computers became a way for people to express their creativity. Great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were also great art science. Michelangelo knew a lot about how to quarry stone, not just how to be a sculptor.”