Lessons Learned From Steve Jobs

Back in 1976, when 20-year-old Steve Jobs co-founded Apple computer in his parents’ garage, he could not have imagined in his wildest dreams the global impact the brand would one day have. Yet 35 years later, at the time of Jobs’ October 2011 passing, Apple was the world’s largest technology company, with a worldwide following bordering on the cult, and a corporate worth of roughly $40 billion. And although it was neither wealth nor notoriety that Jobs set out for all those years ago, he did know one thing – that he wanted to make an impact. After all, it was during those early years that Jobs, in courting then-Pepsi CEO John Sculley to come and work for him, said, “Do you really want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” And change the world, Jobs did. 

Well known for his innovation, his entrepreneurial spirit, and his eccentric style, the reclusive Jobs was largely an enigma to the public and the media. He was not particularly known for his philanthropic efforts, and was maligned by many as a temperamental egomaniac. Yes, Steve Jobs was a fallen human, just like the rest of us. Yet now, in a posthumous reflection on his life, there are principles to be gleaned from Jobs’ life that transcend his shortcomings; principles that give a roadmap for successfully attaining one’s goals, no matter what the venue.

It’s Okay to be Different
In the following quote, widely circulated since his passing, Jobs had this to say: “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.” One needs merely to compare a Mac to a PC to see how Jobs’ concept for the computer was a vast departure from the mundane industry standard. The colors are brighter, the controls sharper, and the aesthetics more simple and beautiful; overall, Apple products are just plain different. Jobs embraced the different, plugged his ears to the voices of the naysayers, and forged ahead with confidence that his “different” vision would become a successful reality. 

Perhaps God is calling you to do the same; to start looking at your “differences” as a blessing rather than a curse, and to use the unique makeup of gifts, talents, struggles and shortcomings He has given you to go out and change the world for Him!

Success is a Team Effort
Jobs said, “My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum parts. And that’s how I see business. Great things in business are never done by one person; they are done by a team of people.” Although Jobs was reportedly a staunch perfectionist and regularly embroiled in conflict with various members of his staff, he absolutely valued his employees.

He hired people who were as passionate as he was, allowed employees on the front-lines to make crucial decisions (at times overriding their own managers), and fostered a culture of keeping work in balance with home and family commitments. 
In stepping out into your own vision, it is important to remember that your support system (of employees, volunteers, or friends) is just as important, if not more so, than you yourself are. Surround yourself with people who share your passion, and then resolve to always treat them with the love and respect commanded to us in scripture. 

Live Like You Were Dying
In his 2005 commencement address to a class of Stanford University students, Jobs shared this about death and about truly living: “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important thing I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. 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.”

Keep doing what you’ve always done, and you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten. If you see something that needs to change–a shortcoming in your own life, a social injustice, a person who needs ministering to–then get up and do something about it! None of us are promised tomorrow. Don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a zombie-like state of routine and status-quo. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into action, and get ready for the ride of your life!

When it came to his own views on death, dying, and spiritual things, Jobs appeared to vacillate between atheism, agnosticism, and his self-proclaimed adherence to Buddhism (or some combination of the three). However, things seemed to become clearer for him as he realized his pancreatic cancer was terminal and would soon claim his life. In an interview for his biography, not long before his passing, Jobs is quoted as saying, “Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t.

I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of – maybe it’s cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on.” One can only hope and speculate as to whether Jobs did finally make peace with the true and living God before his death. However, his last words, as told by his sister Mona, are perhaps most telling. They were, simply, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

Justin can be reached at [email protected]

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