Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Jobs

For those of you who have spent a lot of time around me lately, you are probably getting tired of my updates on the Steve Jobs biography.  You could care less that he didn't shower often because he thought his diet of apples and carrots would keep malodor at bay.  The fact that he walked around the office barefoot a good deal of the time simply grosses you out.  And his relationship with Bill Gates and Microsoft is really none of your concern.  From what I've told you, you probably think the guy is an asshole, and quite frankly, he was.  So why do people like him so much?  What has made me continue turning the pages - probably as quickly as any book I've read since the Hunger Games?  It's a perfectly valid question - and one that, as I pass the halfway point, I'm still trying to answer.

Today, I think I got it.

All wrapped up in one person is your best boss, your worst boss, or the crazy hippy friend we all (at one time or another) secretly wish we could be.  At times he is a spiritual guide, at others he is the heart of the soul-less corporation we hate.  He wasn't a particularly good father, son, brother or husband.  He was honest to a fault, a perfectionist to the extreme, and stubborn whether or not he was right.

But in the middle of all those faults is one of the greatest visionaries of our time.  His faults make him human, but his vision makes him a legend.  He was the first one to rid us of those awful black screens with the "C:/" taunting us to just try to tell it what to do.  He brought us Toy Story, leading to the first true competition for Disney animation in more than 60 years.  And I haven't even gotten to the part of the book where he changes the recording, cellular phone or tablet computer industry (I find it fascinating that he was already talking about the tablet PC in the 1980s).

What I found yesterday as a result of this book is this 7 minute long video of Jobs speaking to his employees shortly after coming back to Apple in the mid 90s.  Sorry to those of you that I forced to watch this already today - you don't have to watch it again, though I'm enjoying it for the 6th or 7th time already.

This speech and commercial hits me on multiple levels - and this is the Jobs that I choose to remember (hence "My Jobs").  Not only was he a visionary, but he knew how to build his company.  Don't get me wrong, Jobs failed multiple times and he left Apple a mess in the mid 80s.  During his 11 year hiatus, something must have clicked for him.  Apple is not about "making boxes for people to get their job done."  What Jobs brought back to Apple was a clear vision, a clear set of beliefs that not only drove the employees, but was something that they could easily communicate to customers, who would buy in - not just to the "boxes" but to the beliefs.  As a consumer, I'm there.

As a marketer, Jobs gives us perfect clarity on what we need to accomplish - communicate not what you produce, not what you sell, but rather what you believe.  Unfortunately, it is not as easy as Jobs makes it seem to simply communicate the belief system of a company, the "Why" as Simon Sinek calls it.  It's not even that easy to determine what the belief system of the company is!  For Jobs, profits did not drive decision-making - he filtered everything through two beliefs - 1) to make great products and 2) to build a lasting company - and the profits have come.  And those core beliefs enabled Jobs and his team to focus not on the quick sale, but on the long-term impact they were having.

As an employee, that same clarity of vision makes the job more than a job - it makes it a mission.  One of my favorite anecdotes from the biography was when Jobs returned to Apple in the 90s and found them making a dozen different computers.  It was confusing to customers and more confusing to the engineers who were working on the computers.  When Jobs regained control of the company he started so many years ago, he drew a two by two chart, with "Consumer" and "Pro" at the top and "Desktop" and "Portable" on the side and provided his engineers with clear direction that they were to develop one each of the best product they could to fit in each of the boxes.  He simplified.  It came at a cost in the short-term, could have taken the company in to bankruptcy, but the bold move was one of many decisions that led to Apple's success.  Though it required Jobs to lay off a large number of workers, those that remained were thankful for the clarity and the ability to focus on making 4 great products, as opposed to a dozen decent ones.

And as a dreamer who believes he can make a difference in the world and has a goal, however unreasonable it may seem, to wind up in history books, this clarity gives me some hope that I can be next.  That I can be one of the people who Jobs and company wrote the "Think Different" commercial for.  If you didn't watch the whole video, here is the text.  You've probably seen it before.  I, for one, can't see it enough.
Here's to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The troublemakers.  The round pegs in the sqaure holes.  The ones who see things differently . They're not fond of rules.  And they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  About 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 people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.  
Now, enough of my writing.  Back to my reading.

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