What I learned from Steve Jobs

On Wednesday last week during the conference we heard Steve Jobs had died. Not that it came as a surprise. He was battling with cancer for a while and his stepping down earlier this year gave some hints.


In my opinion Steve provided a lot of inspiration. I wasn’t an Apple (or MacIntosh) fan for a long time. The systems had a great user interface but weren’t main stream. There wasn’t a lot you could with them unless you were in a niche market that had targeted software like the publishing industry. For those markets there was hardly anything that could compete.

My opinion changed with the iPod touch. Yes, just recently in terms of computers. That device was a breeze to use and the apps market was designed with the end user in mind. Within 2 years we changed our home equipment to iMac, MacBook Air and iPhone. These tools and their subsequent improvements again provided exceptional design elements that work together like a set of drawers made by a master carpenter compared to the home handyman.


Some years ago I saw the speech that Steve Jobs gave to graduates 2005 at Stanford. It was inspiring. It’s not surprising that this video is now emerging again. Steve shares 3 stories of his life.

Puzzle pieces

The first is about connecting the dots. He makes it pretty clear that you cannot connect all dots in advance. That is you cannot plan life. Although you can connect them in hindsight and apply what you have learned to enhance what you are doing now. The lesson for me is, nothing is wasted what you are doing. It is up to you how you apply it to make better things later.

Resilience: Get up again!

The second story is about love and loss. I’ve always believed in love what you do and do what you love. And that’s how Steve started Apple with his friend. The second piece of his story is the new element. When Steve got fired from Apple, he said “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.”. Loosing what you’ve build and created is hard. People can sink into depression on this like some do, see the outcome for some families after the Christchurch earthquakes (4 September, 22 February, 13 June). Steve did not, he showed remarkably resilience and turned adversary into opportunity. It reminds me of the old saying, “When one door closes another one will open.” with a strong hint of Benjamin Franklin “God helps those who help themselves”.

The richest man in the cemetery?

The third story is about “death being the single most important invention for life”. Steve shares his story about being diagnosed with cancer and how it changed his perspective on what is important in life. Time is limited for all of us. And change is coming as certain as night follows day. He concludes with an image of an old country road having the words “stay hungry, stay foolish.”. The latter reminding me on Sir Angus Tait, the founder of Tait Electronics. After his first company failed and went into receivership his bank manager asked him when he applied for a new bank loan: “I hope you have learned from your mistake and won’t make that again.” Sir Angus replied, “I sincerely hope to making a few more but different ones!”. He got the loan and created a 200M dollar company. In my opinion, the third story is less about death and more about of not being afraid. It doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks and being stupid. It does mean to wanting something more than what is available now, to dream big and taking the plunge, to making it happen. 10 years earlier Steve said something similar: “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.”

I like that.


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