Make Something Wonderful – Steve Jobs In His Own Words

The new Steve Jobs book called “Make Something Wonderful – Steve Jobs In His Own Words” was dropped last week. The book is a wonderful collection of photos of the man as well as emails, quotes and speeches that he delivered over the years, all nicely assembled and delivered by the Steve Jobs Archive. Interested readers can order for free on iBooks or head to

I am always a fan of Steve Jobs for what he achieved, his wisdom and the clarity of his thinking. As a businessman, he founded Apple with Steve Wozniak and achieved incredible success together before Jobs got fired from his own company. Undeterred, he founded Next and Pixar. These companies’ own triumph fatefully led to Steve returning to the top job at Apple. At the time, Apple was on the brink of collapse. Steve not only saved the company, but also laid a foundation for the unprecedented success that Apple would have, even after his death. Some of the business lessons mentioned in the book are:

  • Hire people that are smarter than you. In fact, the higher up you are on a corporate ladder, the more important this task is.
  • Manage by values. In other words, surround yourself with people who want to achieve the same thing as you and get the hell out of their way. Otherwise, why would you hire smart people?
  • Be relentless about making products as good as they can be.
  • Even in the corporate setting, communicate from the inside out. Communicate your values

I know that some folks decried his decision to abandon one of his children earlier in her life. He deserved the criticism. But nobody is perfect and even if he made a horrible mistake, we can still take lessons from one of the best thinkers and businessmen in history. Here are a few excerpts that stood out to me:

“Just a bunch of little things: wine labels, paintings in galleries. Just simple things. Not anything real profound, just lots and lots of little things. I don’t think my taste in aesthetics is that much different than a lot of other people’s. The difference is that I just get to be really stubborn about making things as good as we all know they can be. That’s the only difference.”

“Well, things get more refined as you make mistakes. I’ve had a chance to make a lot of mistakes. Your aesthetics get better as you make mistakes. But the real big thing is: if you’re going to make something, it doesn’t take any more energy—and rarely does it take more money—to make it really great. All it takes is a little more time. Not that much more. And a willingness to do so, a willingness to persevere until it’s really great.”

“So to be a creative person, you need to “feed” or “invest” in yourself by exploring uncharted paths that are outside the realm of your past experience. Seek out new dimensions of yourself—especially those that carry a romantic scent.

But one has no way of knowing which of these paths will lead anywhere in advance. That’s the wonderful thing about it, in a way. The only thing one can do is to believe that some of what you follow with your heart will indeed come back to make your life much richer. And it will. And you will gain an ever firmer trust in your instincts and intuition.”

“Think of your life as a rainbow arcing across the horizon of this world. You appear, have a chance to blaze in the sky, then you disappear.

The two endpoints of everyone’s rainbow are birth and death. We all experience both completely alone. And yet, most people of your age have not thought about these events very much, much less even seen them in others. How many of you have seen the birth of another human? It is a miracle. And how many of you have witnessed the death of a human? It is a mystery beyond our comprehension. No human alive knows what happens to “us” upon or after our death. Some believe this, others that, but no one really knows at all.

Again, most people of your age have not thought about these events very much, and it’s as if we shelter you from them, afraid that the thought of mortality will somehow wound you. For me it’s the opposite: to know my arc will fall makes me want to blaze while I am in the sky. Not for others, but for myself, for the trail I know I am leaving.”

“I grow little of the food I eat, and of the little I do grow I did not breed or perfect the seeds.

I do not make any of my own clothing.

I speak a language I did not invent or refine.

I did not discover the mathematics I use.

I am protected by freedoms and laws I did not conceive of or legislate, and do not enforce or adjudicate.

I am moved by music I did not create myself.

When I needed medical attention, I was helpless to help myself survive.

I did not invent the transistor, the microprocessor, object oriented programming, or most of the technology I work with.

I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am totally dependent on them for my life and well being.”

“He called it management by values. What that means is you find people that want the same things you want, and then just get the hell out of their way. The way I describe it is, let’s say we’re all going to take a trip together. The first thing is to figure out where we all want to go. The worst thing is if we all decide we want to go to different places. You can never manage it. [Pointing] You want to go to New Orleans. You want to go somewhere else. I want to go to San Francisco. You want to go to San Diego.”

“And so, what happened at Apple was that Apple’s goals used to be to make the best personal computers in the world. And then the second goal was to make a profit so we could keep on doing number one. Right?

What happened was that, for a time, those got reversed: “We want to make a bunch of money, and so, OK, to do that, we’re going to have to make some good personal computers.” But it didn’t work. It never works. And so things start to fall apart.

Those subtle changes in values can mean everything. The higher up in the organization they are, the more pervasive influence they have. So if you want to preserve something, what you want to do is have a good enough place to go, that’s got a long enough focal length that it will survive over time, that everybody agrees on—and not codify how you’re going to get there. So that each generation can argue anew about the best way to get to San Diego, and they’re not just taking your footsteps on how you got there. You see what I’m saying? But all the people want to go to the[…]”

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference.”

“You never achieve what you want without falling on your face a few times.”

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle”

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