Lessons from the life of Steve Jobs 1

I’m about two thirds of the way through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and it has been a fascinating read. I’m not sure it’s possible that anyone is unfamiliar with this corporate icon who transformed multiple industries. Like him or not, respect him or not, I am seeing some powerful lessons here:

  • Learning is everywhere: Steve Jobs was an avid learner; the stories of his college days are ripe with a wide variety of experiences, which he incorporated into his creative genius over the next 40 years.
  • Integration will breed innovation: Steve was a fanatic about integrating hardware and software, as well as design and engineering. As his teams worked in both of these spheres at the same time (often only by his willpower), they repeatedly developed entirely different ways to look at the same problem and often solutions that would never have been seen otherwise.
  • Intuitive and simple = customer friendly: Having grown up with Apple products since elementary school, I have seen over and over the effort that Jobs and this company put into making products that are designed to work the way people would want them to work. People are willing to pay more, often religiously, for the simplicity that Apple is known for.
  • There is power in rejecting your present reality: Steve is said to have operated in a “reality distortion field” such that he believed things could be accomplished that seemed impossible to the logical eye. He pushed his team to limits that would strain even the most flexible, and broke many. Not every time, but many times, his people surprised even themselves by achieving completely unrealistic goals. This “reality distortion field” has been regarded as one of Jobs’ most significant character flaws, but it also contributed to some of his greatest successes.

SIDEBAR: We may not take the “reality distortion field” to the extreme, but all of us as leaders have to make a decision that there are some things which may not line up with our current reality, that we should work and believe for something greater. In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. called the people of our nation to a new reality, which I considered here. As leaders and people of faith, Hebrews 11 charges us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. Are you working toward a better reality in your world, believing that God will bring it to pass, despite what you see around you?

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