Great Lessons from Steve Jobs



“It better be worth it.” – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs lifts us.  He leads by example and challenges us to see a better world and lead a better life.

He has an aura and a way of engaging you in an inspiring way.

Whether it’s on the stage or in the halls of Apple, people feel Steve Job’s presence.

Through a blend of beauty and engineering, Steve Jobs changes the way technology changes our lives.

Simplicity, Excellence, and Passion

In a relentless pursuit of simplicity, excellence, and passion, Steve Jobs is Arete in action.   He lives his values, and he lives life on his terms, and he challenges us to do the same.

When it comes to innovation and excellence, Steve Jobs raises the bar for himself and for others, while pushing the envelope of what’s possible.

He moves the ball forward by asking the tough questions,  exercising extreme focus, and baking brilliance and beauty into a way of living and leading.

Steve Jobs has continuously blurred the lines between work and life, just the same way he’s blurred the line between art and engineering.

25 Best Lessons from Steve Jobs

Jobs has paved a powerful path of innovation, excellence, passion, and prosperity and has modeled a way of leadership that’s all his own.

Here are some of the key lessons we learn from his journey:

1. Beginners don’t have baggage.

The lightness of a beginner frees up creativity.  Steve says, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

2. Be bold.

Life’s brief, then you’re gone.  Steve says, “Life is brief, and then you die, you know?”

3. Be what’s next.

Don’t chase after what you missed.  Instead, figure out what the next big thing.

Steve says, “If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth — and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago.”

4. Design by committee doesn’t work.

You can’t arbitrate your way into a great design.  Take it from Jobs, “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups.

A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

5. Design is more than veneer.

Design is a multi-layered thing.  It’s a lot more than just veneer.  Steve says, “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa.”

But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design.

Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

6. Don’t live someone else’s life.

Live YOUR life.  Steve says, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.

Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

7. Drive to do great things.

It’s your ambition, passion, and drive that will take you places you never dreamed possible.

Don’t worry about impressing others.  Impress yourself.

8. Excellence is a way of life.

Steve finds the art in life and the beauty in engineering.  He sets a higher bar.

Steve says, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

Jobs also says, “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.”

9. Get out of the way for the moving force.

The ones doing the work are the moving force.  Get out of their way.

Steve says, “The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.”

10. If they fall in love with the company, everything else takes care of itself.

The real secret to taking care of the company is hiring people that fall in love with the company.

Steve says, “When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart.

But the real issue for me is, are they going to fall in love with Apple?

Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.”

11. It better be worth it.

If you’re going to put your life force into it, then the journey has to be worth it.

Steve says, “And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”

12. It’s not the money.  It’s the impact.

Make people’s lives better.  Leave the world a better place.

Steve says, “I was worth over $1,000,000 when I was 23, and over $10,000,000 when I was 24, and over $100,000,000 when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”

Jobs also says, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

13. It’s the crazy ones who change the world.

Think differently.  Don’t be afraid to be different.

It’s the crazy ones who change the world.

But it’s not crazy, it’s genius.

While the words are from Apple’s “Think Different” ad campaign, people usually associate them with Steve Jobs because of how he embraced the crazy ones.

14. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

You don’t buy your way through innovation.  Innovation is a by-product of leading great people.

Steve says, “Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have.

When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money.

It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

15. Make people great.

It’s tough love.  Steve says, “My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”

16. Perseverance pays off.

What’s the difference between those that succeed and those that don’t?

They stick with it.  They have grit.

Steve says, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

17. Put your heart and soul into it.

Don’t just go through the motions.  If it’s really worth doing, then it’s worth doing really well.

Steve says, “I think the key thing is that we’re not all terrified at the same time. I mean, we do put our heart and soul into these things.”

18. Pick your priorities carefully.

Say no to the hundred other good ideas.

Spend your precious life force and resources on your vital few bets — and go big.

Steve says, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

19. Present powerful things in a simple way.

It’s about packaging powerful capabilities in simple ways.

Steve says, ““We’ve gone through the operating system and looked at everything and asked how can we simplify this and make it more powerful at the same time.”

20. Talent is a huge multiplier.

In the book, The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation, Jay Elliot and William Simon write that Steve Jobs would say, “great engineers are a huge multiplier.”

They also write that a lesson they learned from Steve is, “One of the greatest things about finding good people is that they become your best recruiters. They are the people most likely to know others who have the same values and sense of style that you and they themselves do.”

21. Take responsibility for the complete user experience.

Don’t take a piecemeal approach to user experience.  It’s not about a bunch of beautiful parts …it’s about the end-to-end experience.

Steve says, “Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply.”

22. What you don’t do defines you as much as what you do.

Part of your greatness will come from what you choose not to do.

Steve says, “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

In the article, “Think Different”: The Ad Campaign that Restored Apple’s Reputation, Tom Hormby writes, “Amelio had reduced 350 projects to 50, and Jobs cut that number down to 10. He turned Apple’s convoluted (and often overlapping) product line into a simple product matrix.”

23. You have nothing to lose.

Follow your heart.   Avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

Steve says, “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.”

24. You just might be right, even if nobody listens to you.

Just because nobody listens to you doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

Steve says, “You know, I’ve got a plan that could rescue Apple. I can’t say any more than that it’s the perfect product and the perfect strategy for Apple. But nobody there will listen to me.”

25. Your brand is your most valuable asset.

It’s what you stand for.  It’s the attributes that people think of or feel when they think of you.

It’s the perception and the aura.  Steve says, “Our brand is the most – or at least one of the most – valuable things we have going for us now.”

The “Think Different” Ad Campaign

Steve Jobs is often associated with quotes from the free-verse poem, Heres’ to the Crazy Ones, by Craig Tanimoto.

The poem was narrated by Richard Dreyfus as part of an ad campaign to revive Apple’s reputation.

It goes like this …

“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. 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 invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.”

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  1. Hi JD,

    Wonderful lessons for Jobs. I like what he said, ” Drive to do great things.” We all can achieve wonders and we can master everything we want, so why not be great and achieve great things in life? After all, live is short. 😉 Thanks for sharing

  2. “Design by committee doesn’t work.”

    this is bombshell… to so many… I could say so much about this… but not in written 🙂

  3. Hey JD,
    Steve is a very unique guy. I always appreciate his insights.
    I especially like “Don’t live someone else’s life.”

    That’s a biggie. I think a lot people get lost in their mentors and role models forgetting to be who they are and own their own gifts. Knowing this can make all the difference between having meaning and becoming meaningless.

  4. […] Lessons Learned from Steve Jobs – Sources of Insight He lives his values, and he lives life on his terms, and he challenges us to do the same When it comes to innovation and excellence, Steve Jobs raises the bar for himself and for others, while pushing the envelope of what's possible. Design by committee doesn't work. You can't arbitrate your way into a great design Take it from Jobs, “It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show […]

  5. This is great. I really like #6. Many people always wish they were someone else and while they are wishig and hoping there life just slips by. We all have the talent to do great things even if we are a small fish in a big pond. Many forget that the you can grown and the pond becomes smaller and much easier to navigate.

    Wonderful lessons to learn from Steve. Thank you for sharing them JD.

  6. OK Steve, you give me the hundred million and you can live on my income. It doesn’t really matter? Really?

    I’ve got lots of ideas on how to use this kind of money in worthwhile ways.

  7. I am a naked crazy one…I want to have a successful listening business and Wise Ears dot com in nearly up and running…I just need to figure out the phone system, but we could operate now…any minute we will be out there full and helping people be their very best.

    The other idea that is driving me is I want to build 2 Living Building townhouses in my neighborhood, because people need to see how green and sustainable functions and how maintenance is so different and they will not understand until they see it in operation…I am driven and I know this will make money and help the earth and be healthful…and no one is listening to me right now….I am going to overcome their fear, break it down and find backers, and get our pokey hokey city to comply..
    It is so over the top neat…and it will leave the world a better place…
    I will still clean all the neighborhood drains…I will just create the reality in total visual form…There I shouted it out loud

    And I am going to do this while I can still see.

  8. Great lessons. I do think that while we can learn a lot from Jobs, he has that extra something that can’t be emulated.

  9. @ Dia — It lights me on fire when I see how far people can push the limits of what’s possible. Steve blazed quite a trail.

    @ Peter — To each his own.

    @ Alik — I know what you mean. You get LCD versus Vision. I’m a fan of vision.

    @ Marlee — I really like that too. It’s so easy to lose ourselves in the process of life, if we don’t get to the core of who we want to be and what experiences we want to create.

    @ Debbie — So true. I think sometimes people forget to “model the best” to “be YOUR best.”

    @ Evan — It’s actually an interesting scenario — what are the top three ways you’d use the 100 million?

    @ Patricia — It sounds like you’re biting off quite an interesting challenge. Crazy with courage and compassion can lead to amazing things.

    @ Vered — He does have that extra something, and he sure makes the most of it.

  10. My three top ways to spend $100M via the Kill The Market Foundation: a market in necessities kills people, so . . . kill the market!

    1. Solve Australia’s housing affordability crisis. By getting those dying childless to leave their houses to a foundation which will rent them for cost of maintenance plus a margin to buy more stock. All that’s really needed for this is a respected public figure to promote it. (Australia’s Jimmy Carter for an Australian equivalent to Habitat for Humanity.)

    2. Show how education can be done well to get rid of schooling. Set up several model colleges for all school ages and vocational learning. Expertise is the acquisition of a set of templates that are readily recognised in a particular domain. People learn via repeated exposure to meaningful situations of increasing complexity.

    3. Solve the health affordability crisis by encouraging health and simple healing. In the West the main cause of ill health is emotional-relational. TCM is a viable and simply taught healing system for day to day health. I can teach it easily in 1 year full-time – to the point of knowing when to refer to a GP/hospital etc. Patent formulas and 120 points handle most day to day health problems. The affordability crisis in health is due to technology (pills and machines) – traditional health systems use cheap options – peoples’ hands, herbs, pins.

    We could end up not even having to spend it all.

  11. JD,
    This is excellent! What great lessons from Mr. Jobs!

    While there are so many that really jump out at me – I’m especially drawn to the idea of “be bold” and “simplicity wins”.


  12. JD,

    I found your introduction so uplifting before even getting into the details! “Steve Jobs lifts us. He leads by example and challenges us to see a better world and lead a better life.”

    I liked point 12 in particular > Jobs also says, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” All the frenzy in the internet world about making money is disenchanting me.

    I also like 13 > it’s the crazy people who change the world. I’m all for that!

    Great sum-up.

  13. Hi JD .. great post – Steve Jobs certainly has changed many peoples’ lives through his thinking let alone his products, which so many crave (me included!) .. but it’s his words … those pearls of wisdom that cut to the chase.

    Someone who can visualise his and the company’s future with the quality of the fewer products … and realises that saying ‘no’ is an essential to life … so focus on what matters, leave most of the other things and get on with your own distinctive style of life – make it worth it.

    Cheers – I think most of us enjoy articles on Steve Jobs, so many thanks for this excellent lessons learned .. Hilary

  14. @ Lance — Thank you. I’ve really come to appreciate the power of bold. It’s the bold things that people do that makes their lives shine.

    @ Sandra — Thank you. The crazy people are the artists of possibility. They dare themselves and dare us to think, feel, and act in new ways. They get a thumbs up in my book.

    @ Hilary — Thank you. His words are piercing and precise.

    Some people say things that make you think. Some people say things that make you feel. Steve has the knack for doing both.

  15. Steve Jobs has done a lot and he has made it a habit too be one step ahead.
    We can all learn from that mindset and ability. If you are one step ahead of your competition, so will your results.

  16. […] 25 Lessons Learned from Steve Jobs Jobs has paved a powerful path of innovation, excellence, passion, and prosperity and has modeled a way of leadership that’s all his own.  Here are some of the key lessons we learn from his journey: […]

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  18. […] more brain food, I suggest you this great post by J.D. Meier, about Steve […]

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