Being Steve Jobs: Which Traits Would You Choose?

I just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s amazing book, Steve Jobs. So how’s this for an entrepreneurial career? You help to invent the personal computer industry (Mac). You then reinvent, in succession, the animated movie industry (Pixar), the music industry (iPod & iTunes), the telecommunications industry (iPhone), the software industry (App store, iCloud) and then the computer industry (iPad). I doubt we’ll see another single entrepreneur with as much of an impact in our lifetimes.

As I was reading the book I found myself keeping track of which traits that made him so successful and mentally ticking off which ones I would like to learn from and even emulate and which ones don’t fit my character or personality. Here is an incomplete list of the themes and traits that, according to Isaacson (and with some editing by yours truly), made Jobs so successful. Which ones would you choose?

Reality Distortion Field – As Steve Wozniak said, “His reality distortion is when he has an illogical vision of the future…you realize it can’t be true, but somehow he makes it true.”

Willingness to be Hated – Jobs was not universally loved. In fact, he categorized the world into “the best” or “totally shitty” and treated the “shitheads” with complete disdain.

Intersection of Arts & Technology – Jobs was able to simplify interfaces, introduce beautiful typography to otherwise utilitarian machines and make beautiful devices for creating and consuming content because he believed passionately in the intersection of art and technology.

Obsession for Control & Perfection – his technology vision was that end-to-end integration was better than open systems because he could control the overall experience. This reflected his personal desire to control every detail of his products, his workplaces and his people.

Intensity – as Isaacson says, “his silences could be as searing as his rants…sometimes it was charming…at other times it was terrifying”

Ability to Focus – “If something engaged him, he was relentless. But if he didn’t want to deal with something he would resolutely ignore it. That focus allowed him to say no.” This got Apple back on track when he came back to the company and helped him design clutter-free product experiences.

Desire to Build a Culture & Lasting Company – as he himself said,

I hate it when people call themselves “entrepreneurs” when what they’re really trying to do is launch a startup and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on….[instead] you build a company that will still stand for something a generation or two from now.”

Which traits would you choose? What did I leave off the list?


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