Steve Jobs biography: Lessons for all would be ‘entrepreneurs’

Steve Jobs biography: Lessons for all would be ‘entrepreneurs’
31 July 2013

There are many great messages in the book Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson for anyone wanting to either start or run a successful business.

Based on more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs over the last two years of his life  -- as well as interviews with more than a hundred others, including family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues -- Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and intense personality of a creative genius whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

The book is an encyclopedic study of all that Steve Jobs accomplished, replete with the passion and excitement that he got from doing what he loved, and many of us can learn from it.

If you won’t use it how can you expect anyone else too?

Speaking about Zune, the failed music device made by Microsoft, he goes to straight to the heart of the matter:

“The older I get, the more I see how much motivations matter. The Zune was crappy because the people at Microsoft don’t really love music or art the way we do. We won because we personally love music. We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you are doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out. If you don’t love something, you are not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”

Built to last

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products.

Everything else was secondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that was what allowed you to make great products. But the products, not the profits, where the motivation is… it’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything: the people you hire, who gets promoted, what you discuss in meetings.”

Have faith

Jobs was obsessed with the product and the customer in a manner strikingly different to what is generally taught in business schools and marketing books. He understood the fundamental role of the customer as the ultimate judge of enduring success:

“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they are going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research.”

Money is an outcome not the aim

Steve understood that value is not merely in things one can measure and that money is the result of doing something well -- it should never be the first goal.

“I hate it when people call themselves “entrepreneurs” when what they’re really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on. They are unwilling to do the work it takes to build a real company, which is the hardest work in business. That’s how you really make a contribution and add to the legacy of those who went before. You build a company that will stand for something a generation or two from now. That’s what Walt Disney did, and Hewlett and Packard, and the people who built Intel. They created a company to last, not just to make money.”

And as a very important reminder, he emphasized that we are not alone: “Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on.”

There is so much we can learn from this book, money is an outcome of delivering a great product and doing what you love. Have you read Steve Jobs and found any inspiration that you have applied into your own life?


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Head of Behavioral Finance
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