10 Powerful Quotes From The Steve Jobs Movie And What They Teach Us About Leadership

The script for Jobs, the new movie starring Ashton Kutcher as the visionary Apple co-founder, is heavy with quotes that reflect Jobs’ business philosophy and approach to life. I’ve interviewed the director, Joshua Michael Stern, and I recognize most of Kutcher’s lines in the movie as being either direct quotes from Steve Jobs or compilations of his quotes. Here is my vote for the ten best quotes from the movie and what they can teach us about leadership, creativity, communications, and success. 1. I’m not dismissing the value of higher education; I’m simply saying it comes at the expense of experience. According to Jobs film directorJoshua Michael Stern, Steve Jobs felt that life experiences were critical to being creative. Stern included pivotal scenes in the movie showing a young Steve Jobs taking a college calligraphy course and visiting India with his friend, Daniel Kottke. “Absorbing culture, art, and history were extremely important to Jobs. He believed in taking life experiences and using it as a subtext for something else you’re doing, like helping to form the product you’re creating,” said Stern. This is one of the most powerful success principles we can learn from Steve Jobs: a broad set of life experiences is essential for creativity to flourish. 2. The greatest artists like Dylan, Picasso and Newton risked failure. And if we want to be great, we’ve got to risk it too. Steve Jobs didn’t hesitate to take risks. If he wanted something, he would ask, even at a young age. When Jobs was twelve years old he called up HP co-founder Bill Hewlett and asked for spare parts. Hewlett gave Jobs the parts and a summer job. “You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far,” Jobs once said. “Most people never pick up the phone and call. Most people never ask, and that’s what separates the people who do things from the people who just dream about them.” I’ve rarely interviewed a successful entrepreneur or CEO who hasn’t risked failure. In fact most successful people don’t even see ‘failure;’ they see a result that didn’t have the intended outcome. 3. How does somebody know what they want if they haven’t even seen it? Steve Jobs didn’t believe in focus groups. Actually, he avoided them like the plague. Jobs believed in building great products that he would want to use himself. To a large extent he had a point. For example, in 2010 how many of us would have asked for a third device in between a laptop and a smartphone? Most people would never have asked for an iPad, but once millions of consumers saw it, they couldn’t live without it, and it opened up entirely new categories of business applications. When I spent one year researching a book on the Apple Store, I learned that Jobs revolutionized the retail business because he asked better questions. For example, Jobs did not ask, “How do we build a better store than our competitors?” Instead he asked, “How do we reinvent the store?” Don’t do things better; do things differently. 4. Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Ashton Kutcher likes this quote so much he used it in a short speech at a recent award show, explaining that it’s one of the most profound things he learned while preparing for the role as Steve Jobs. The quote itself is taken from a rare 1995 interview for the Santa Clara Valley Historical Association. The entire clip is available here on YouTube. The rest of the quote is equally as profound: “When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life and try not to bash into the walls too much…that’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact—everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you…shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just going to live in it versus make your mark upon it. Once you learn that, you will never be the same again.” Don’t just live a life; build one. 5. I would rather gamble on our vision than make a ‘me, too’ product. Steve Jobs believed in dreaming big. In the 1970s personal computers were relegated to the hobbyist market. Jobs had the vision of ‘putting a computer in the hands of everyday people.’ He once said that Xerox could have dominated the entire computer industry because Xerox scientists in Palo Alto’s PARC research facility were developing the first graphical user interface. Jobs said Xerox failed because its “vision” was limited to making another copy machine. Never underestimate the power of a bold vision to move your career and the world forward. 6. We’ve got to make the small things unforgettable. The devil’s in the details and few people were more obsessed with details than Jobs. We’ve all heard stories of Jobs driving his engineers crazy because he didn’t like the aesthetic of something inside the computer that nobody would ever see. Everything mattered. I recall visiting a cardboard box manufacturing facility in Modesto, California, to prepare for a keynote speech to industry executives. This company made boxes for Apple products. One factory manager said out of the thousands of brands they made boxes for, none were more particular than Apple. Steve Jobs demanded that the details of the box, the tactile design, had to be just right. The edges had to look and even feel a certain way. When customers opened an iPhone box, it had to set the tone for the experience. Far too many people and businesses overlook the details and the customer experience with the brand inevitably suffers. Details matter. 7. Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Jobs once said that what made the Macintosh great was the fact that the people he chose to work on the system were “musicians, and poets, and artists, and zoologists, and historians who also happened to be computer scientists.” It’s a profound insight that speaks to building creative teams. Today it’s common for many companies to overlook creative individuals because they don’t fit in a hiring box. Jobs didn’t just think differently; he hired differently. See genius in diversity. Hire outside your industry from time to time. 8. You’ve got to have a problem that you want to solve; a wrong that you want to right. I considered Steve Jobs one of the world’s greatest corporate presenters because he always explained the problem that his product would solve. The introduction of iTunes Music Store in 2003 is perhaps the best example of this approach. In one presentation Steve Jobs turned around public opinion, convincing customers that it was in their best interest to pay for something (songs) that they could otherwise get for free at the time. In this video clip you can watch Jobs demonstrate the “upsides and downsides” of the status quo, followed by his “solution,” the 99 cent song on the iTunes Music Store. Your audience needs to understand the problem your idea solves. Don’t leave them guessing. Explain it clearly. 9. It [what you choose to do] has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through. Steve Jobs believed that passion was a critical component of success. He talked about the role of passion constantly, so it’s no surprise that this quote would appear in ‘Jobs’, the film. The 2005 Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford University has been viewed millions of times and it’s the event where his thoughts on passion are most clearly articulated. Jobs told the graduates that day, “You’ve got to find what you love… Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” This could very well be the greatest piece of career advice ever given, with the exception of #10. 10. In your life you only get to do so many things and right now we’ve chosen to do this, so let’s make it great. This quote is the best advice Jobs ever gave to Disney’s Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter. Well before he became Disney’s chief animator, Lasseter recalls his first meeting with Steve Jobs after Jobs bought Pixar in 1986. Lasseter was working on a short film at the time and, at the end of the meeting, Lasseter says Steve Jobs asked him to do one thing: “Make it great.” The short, Tin Toy, went on to win the first academy award ever given for computer animation and set the foundation for what later would become Toy Story. Lasseter has told the story publicly a few times, most recently in this emotional tribute at Disney’s D23 Expo (the story begins at 8:30). Lasseter said those three words—make it great—have applied to every frame of every Pixar movie he worked on.

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