Steve Jobs: Life and leadership lessons

Steve Jobs was a unique creative genius whose life was far too brief.

Steve Jobs has passed away. The man was a unique genius who transformed the world because he believed he could.

I never met him. I never saw him in person. I never spoke to him on the phone. I have never owned a Mac. In fact, I never owned any Apple product until I got the iPhone 3GS a couple years ago. Yet, I respected the man and his genius, and I am deeply saddened by the loss.

Compared with other writers like Walt Mossberg or Brian Lam, I feel a bit unworthy to even write about Steve Jobs. Imagine being the relative new kid on the block among entertainment writers when Michael Jackson died.

The reality is that even if you have never owned an Apple product, Steve Jobs has impacted your life. In tribute, here are some lessons I think we can all learn from Steve Jobs brief, but brilliant life:

Think Different

"Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently--they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things--they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

"A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets."

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

"Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it."

Lead from the Front

"You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new."

"It's not about pop culture, and it's not about fooling people, and it's not about convincing people that they want something they don't. We figure out what we want. And I think we're pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That's what we get paid to do."

Strive for Perfection

"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."

Love What You Do

"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."

Take these lessons and apply them to your life--personally and professionally. Play to win. Playing not to lose is a poor strategy that generally backfires. Once you stop setting new goals to strive for, and instead just try to protect your lead, your strategy becomes too timid and leads to stagnation and decline.

You still have today. What will your legacy be?

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