Posted in Leadership
Never fear failure. Jobs was fired by the successor he picked. It was one of the most public embarrassments of the last 30 years in business. Yet he didn't become a venture capitalist never to be heard from again. He didn't start a production company and do a lot of lunches. He picked himself up and got back to work following his passion.
Eight years ago, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he only had a few weeks to live. As Samuel Johnson said, "There's nothing like your impending death to focus the mind."
Here is an excerpt from Jobs' 2005 Stanford commencement speech:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
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 others' 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.
Listen to that voice in the back of your head that tells you if you're on the right track or not. Most of us don't hear a voice inside our heads. We've simply decided that we're going to work in finance or be a doctor because that's what our parents told us we should do or because we wanted to make a lot of money.
When we consciously or unconsciously make that decision, we snuff out that little voice in our head. From then on, most of us put it on automatic pilot. We mail it in. You have met these people. They're nice people. But they're not changing the world.
Jobs has always been a restless soul. A man in a hurry. A man with a plan. His plan isn't for everyone. It was his plan. He wanted to build computers. Some people have a voice that tells them to fight for democracy. Some have one that tells them to become an expert in miniature spoons. When Jobs first saw an example of a Graphical User Interface -- a GUI -- he knew this was the future of computing and that he had to create it. That became the Macintosh.
Whatever your voice is telling you, you would be smart to listen to it -- even if it tells you to quit your job, or move to China, or leave your partner.
Expect a lot from yourself and others. We have heard stories of Steve Jobs yelling or dressing down staff. He's a control freak, we've heard -- a perfectionist. The bottom line is that he is in touch with his passion and that little voice in the back of his head. He gives a damn. He wants the best from himself and everyone who works for him. If they don't give a damn, he doesn't want them around. And yet -- he keeps attracting amazing talent around him. Why? Because talent gives a damn too. There's a saying: if you're a "B" player, you'll hire "C" players below you because you don't want them to look smarter than you. If you're an "A" player, you'll hire "A+" players below you, because you want the best result.
Find the most talented people to surround yourself with. There is a misconception that Apple is Steve Jobs. Everyone else in the company is a faceless minion working to please the all-seeing and all-knowing Jobs. In reality, Jobs has surrounded himself with super-talented people who don't get the credit they deserve. The fact that Apple's stock price has been so strong since Jobs left as CEO is a credit to the strength of the team. Jobs has hired bad managerial talent before, but he learnt from this mistake and realized that he can't do anything without great talent around him.
You can't connect the dots forward -- only backward. This is another gem from the 2005 Stanford speech. The idea behind the concept is that, as much as we try to plan our lives ahead in advance, there's always something that's completely unpredictable about life. What seems like bitter anguish and defeat in the moment -- getting dumped by a girlfriend, not getting that job at McKinsey, "wasting" four years of your life on a start-up that didn't pan out as you wanted -- can turn out to sow the seeds of your unimaginable success years from now.
You can't be too attached to how you think your life is supposed to work out. Instead, trust that all the dots will be connected in the future. This is all part of the plan.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So trust that the dots will eventually connect. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
My thanks to Steve Jobs and to Eric Jackson, Founder and Managing Member of Ironfire Capital LLC, for the Forbes article from which this came. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at @ericjackson or on Sina Weibo at weibo.com/ericjackson Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.