Steve Jobs Biography: Insanely Great

My cobbled notes on the Steve Jobs biography…

First, one of my favorite quotes that makes my hair stand up:

The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.

This book has a few recurring themes:

  1. Steve Jobs is a dick and seems to be able to exploit others into doing what he wills. This is both good and bad.
  2. Steve Jobs has a reality distortion field; see #1.
  3. Steve Jobs is meticulous about the design of just about anything.

My notes will focus more on Steve Jobs the entrepreneur.

The book establishes early on that Steve Jobs has a disdain for authority. After reading this and some of the anecdotes regarding his family history, I felt as if Isaacson wrote part of the book for me. It spoke to me personally. Perhaps, that means it was well written? Forget the haters.

A quote about religion that resonated with me: 

The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it. I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes, I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s a great mystery.

I enjoyed the early tales of Jobs seeking enlightenment and prajna - much like my journey.

Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instad, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect.

Think about that statement for a moment; think about how it relates to products. Of course their are biases, but I think that it could be said that making a product intuitive or one that appeals to intuition far outweighs those that appeal to the intellect. People are not rational, and have different levels of intellect. Products that appeal to intellect aren’t necessarily bad, see: Vim. They are just niche products. When a person wants to have an impact upon the world, like Jobs, this must be considered.

My vision was to create the first fully packaged computer. We were no longer aiming for the handful of hobbyists who liked to assemble their own computers, who knew how to buy transformers and keyboards. For every one of them, there were a thousand people who would want the machine to be ready to run.

Markkula (original investor in Apple) wrote a one page paper: “The Apple Marketing Philosphy”:

Empathy. An intimate connection with the feelings of the customer. We will truly understand the needs of the customer better than any other company.
Focus. In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.
Impute. People form an opinion of a company by the signals that it conveys. People do judge a book by it’s cover.

Often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” This became one of the maxim’s for Jobs’s design philosophy.

The Apple II, Lisa, Xerox PARC, and Macintosh stories set the stage for Job’s core beliefs on products:

  1. Design leads engineering. That is to say, the design dictates everything. Engineering must find a way to make it work with the design. Most companies are backwards in this regard.
  2. Simple products are easier to use.
  3. Customers don’t know what they want, Apple must show them.
  4. For the best product experience, Apple must own it end-to-end. Hardware and software in contrast to the PC environment where Microsoft just owns the operating system.

On competition…

Steve had a way of motivating by looking at the bigger picture. Jobs thought of himself as an artist and he encourage others to think this way too. His goal was never to make a lot of money or to be competition, it was to do the greatest thing possible or even a little greater.

Does it feel to you like companies get competition all wrong? They are so focused on what their competition is doing, instead of just being the best at what they can be. Companies lose focus by doing this. 

The book doesn’t conclude this, but I wonder if part of the reason he did this was to instill cultural pride in his employees. If they feel they must focus on these details, then they’ll ingrain this philosophy in their heads day in and day out. Thus, being a bit more meticulous about their crafts.

On employees…

I learned over the years that A-plus players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B work.

So true.

Jobs had incessant demands for perfectionism in things that most people won’t care about. Two examples:

  1. The inside of the cases and how Jobs wanted them to look neat and clean.
  2. The way his factories look and how he detailed he wanted machinery to look and operate. Even positioning.

Rebel Spirit…

It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.

Market Research when asked about launching the Mac…

Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research when inventing the telephone?

On Focus…

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what do to. That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.

On Design…

Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I felt as if I was taking a tour of the mind of Steve Jobs and what made him tick.

Now, imagine what a person could do if they could lead in a more humble manner, giving their employees credit, not stealing the spotlight, but not being afraid of calling people out on their bullshit and pushing them to their limits? Imagine if this person had a rebellious attitude and a disdain for authority. What if this person had an overwhelming desire to be honest, even at his own expense? Imagine if this person had a love of simplicity and art. Imagine that this person is driven with a passion to deliver maximum impact on improving people’s lives. Could this person change the world? We’ll see.



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Steve Jobs 1955-2011: Sharing His Message

I pulled into the driveway after I had just picked up my son Chris from CCD. I told him that Steve Jobs had died. “Who is that?” he said. I was a bit surprised that he didn’t know who he was; other than Jesus, Steve Jobs has been one the most influential persons in my life. [Yes, I may have subtly compared Steve Jobs to Jesus :p]. I wanted to share a few of his quotes with Chris.

The first are from his Stanford commencement speech:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because 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.

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.

This is an important thought to keep in mind as much as possible. We will all die. When faced with death, we forget the minutia of life but remember what is important. This should be done daily.

As I tucked Chris into bed, I said to him:

Those who are crazy enough to believe that they can change the world are the ones that actually do.

This quote came from an old Steve Jobs presentation.

Much has been said about how we probably heard the news about Steve Jobs’s death via his products. But consider this, Steve has given us wonderful products, wonderful products that we use to improve our lives. Now, what will you do with these products to make a difference in the lives of others and to maybe even change the world?

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy:

  1. Saddened by Steve’s Departure
  2. Steve Jobs Lesson on Marketing: Values and Belief
  3. Steve Jobs is This Century’s Henry Ford

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Do or Do Not; There Is No Try

Do you remember that seen in Star Wars where Master Yoda is training Luke to become a Jedi? Luke doesn’t believe in himself and he claims that he is trying.

Yoda then says “Do or do not; there is no try.”

Do you want to quit smoking?

Do you want to live a healthy lifestyle?

Do you want to be a successful entrepreneur?

There is no try.

The word ‘try’ is an excuse. You cannot ‘try’ to quit smoking. You cannot try to become a successful entrepreneur. You know what you need to do. You need to make the conscious decision and effort to do it.

To be a successful entrepreneur is as simple as this:

  1. Identify a problem.
  2. Build a solution to solve that problem.
  3. Charge money for it.

I realize that this is a bit of an oversimplification. But, there is no ‘try’. You should just remove that word from your vocabulary.

Do or do not. There is no try.



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We Should…

How often do you run into someone that you use to be close friends and you have a dialogue that is similar to this:

You: How have you been?

Them: Good! Good… how have you been?

You: Oh, good… so what’s new?

Them: Oh you know… same old… we should get together sometime for lunch or something.

You: Ya, let’s do.

Them: OK, well it was nice seeing you…

You: You too… take care.

How do you feel after a conversation like this? Do you feel like you have renewed your connection with this person? It seems to me that a lot of conversations like this take place solely because it might be considered socially rude to not acknowledge the person. Maybe the intent of the statement “we should get together” is sincere?

A lot of people in my life have thrown out “we should” statements, but with no firm date set. “Hey man… it was great meeting you at that conference, we should Skype sometime” or “Hey, we should get some cocktails sometime.” I’m sure they happen all of the time in your life as well. Maybe you say them a lot?

Recently, I ran into an old colleague at the gym. We had a bit of small chit-chat and I threw out the “we should get some lunch” line, I was even being sincere about it. A few weeks passed. Shit, no lunch. One day, I sent him an email and said “want to do lunch?” He couldn’t, and replied that he was busy for awhile. Not a big deal.

The important take away is this: it’s really important to consider your interactions with others. If you catch yourself saying the “we should” lines, ask yourself if you’re being sincere. If you are, set a date at that moment… if it doesn’t work that’s OK too. When it really comes down to it, if you really care to meet someone, you’ll make it a priority. They’ll do the same for you. If the meeting doesn’t happen, you should probably just accept that this person isn’t a priority to you or you might not be a priority to them. That’s OK too.

If you’re not sincere about meeting this person, please don’t throw out a “we should” line. You’ll save everyone, including yourself, a bit of guilt about the meeting not happening.

What are your thoughts?

You might also enjoy:

  1. You’re Only as Good as Your Word
  2. Fear and Loved Ones
  3. Life is About Maximizing the Happiness Function

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Forget the Shiny Tech, Focus on the Customer Experience

I’m always amazed when I discover a new piece of technology or software. Usually, thousands of business ideas start pouring into my head on how I can build a cool product. Most recently, the thought of Twilio, Mailgun, and Sendgrid came to mind. 

An internal dialogue raged on in my mind:

"SMS and email are some of the most ubiquitous communication tools, not to mention very pervasive."

 ”What could I build quickly to monetize and spread virally?”

"Focus, you fool…"

"You’re in the process of selling one company and you just started another. Plus, no one really cares about how you’re using cool tech.”

And then I dropped the thought.

This has happened to me time and time again. In fact, that’s how Reflect7 was founded. I knew the iPhone would be hot. I knew that consumers would purchase them by the ton. I just didn’t know what apps to develop for it yet. Eventually we settled on sports’ apps, but we didn’t consider the customer experience until the end.

I finally had this realization of all of this when I stumbled upon this video:

It was Steve Jobs who made it crystal clear as to what I had done. I was thinking a lot about the technology and how I could sell that, rather than consider customer problems and how I could build products that delivered a superb experience. This is what Gitpilot will do.

You might also enjoy:

  1. Customers Demand Native for Mobile Apps
  2. Great Artists Simplify
  3. Apple Sucks at Upgrades

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Big Success Requires Accomplishing Small Goals

I often fall victim to this. I’m very ambitious; typically I have many projects and goals running concurrently. It’s important to remember that you must break down your goals into smaller goals.

  • Want to run a marathon? Start by running 1 mile, and then 2 miles, etc.
  • Want to make a 1 million dollars? Learn how to make 1000 dollars first.
  • Want to write a book? Use Scrivener to write one paragraph a day.
  • Want to write an autobiography? Write one blog post every day.

It sounds so easy, but yet it’s tough to do this. Lately, I’ve been using the todo iPhone app Do It (Tomorrow) to break up my goals into actionable tasks each day. So far, it’s worked out great.

How do you accomplish your big goals? Do you use any specific tools?

You might also enjoy:

  1. Two-Device Productivity Solution
  2. What the Successful Will Do That You Won’t
  3. Don’t Let Your Brain Prevent You From Your Goals
  4. Umotiviated? Get Some Layups

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Sometimes It Doesn’t Matter What the Contract States

Disclaimer: at this time, I can’t write about the details behind the blog post. I will however in the near future.

Recently, I entered into a negotiation to exchange some software for cash. That is, I would develop some software and in return, the prospect would give me cash. Pretty straightforward.

The prospect read over the detailed contract and enthusiastically signed it. A video of the software working was sent. Positive feedback was received. The first wire transfer came. All was well. 

When the software was delivered, the prospect was disappointed. They stated that a few things were missing that they didn’t expect to be missing. Despite the fact that the video showed that these features were missing and the contract detailed what was included in the software deliverable, they were still disappointed. It was clear that their perspective and feelings weren’t malevolent.

I feel as if I’m left with two choices:

  1. Acquiesce and change the software to meet their expectations.
  2. Adhere to the contract.

Both sides have advantages and disadvantages. However, you need to do what you think is right considering all circumstances. This could be either #1 or #2.

Think about what you put into your contracts. Do you need to explicitly point out anything while you’re meeting with your prospects? How can you make your contracts crystal clear? What could be misinterpreted?

You might also enjoy:

  1. What the Restaurant Industry Can Teach Us About Business: Customer Expectations
  2. To Stand Out, You Must Dazzle Your Customers
  3. Consider Customer Motivations

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Saddened by Steve’s Departure

Who would have expected that many would be saddened by a CEO’s departure from a company? I wouldn’t. But on many of the net forums, people are expressing a bit of melancholy. I feel the same.

It’s not because Steve is some big, bad, powerful man [he is]… no, it’s because Steve took Apple from the brink of bankruptcy to briefly being the most valuable company in the world (currently the 2nd behind Exxon Mobile). He did this all while giving us products that we as consumers love.

You see, Apple represented what we love about a good story. Apple was David the underdog. Microsoft was the evil goliath that could not be defeated. Apple innovated. They help to revolutionize the music industry, the computer industry, and the smartphone. I hope that they are just getting started.

As an entrepreneur, Steve Jobs represents exactly what an entrepreneur should be. One who is focused on the present while simultaneously holding a vision. One who cares about simplicity and not just producing another “me-to” product. One who wants to change lives.

I truly believe that history will remember him as this century’s Henry Ford. Or better yet, he has set a new standard, one that I’ll always be inspired from.


Read more from other new’s sources:

You might also enjoy:

  1. Steve Jobs Lesson on Marketing: Values and Beliefs
  2. Steve Jobs Is This Century’s Henry Ford

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What the Restaurant Industry Can Teach Us About Business: Customer Expectations

A colleague of mine dropped by my office to share his wonderful dining experience at the Bonefish Grill restaurant. This colleague and I like to banter about our dining experiences; we use to agree that the Bonefish Grill was one of the best dining experiences. I should be clear, I’ve never had a bad dining experience at the Bonefish Grill. It’s just been inconsistent.

The first time that I went to the Bonefish Grill, I walked into to the restaurant with my wife and I could smell the aroma of fresh seafood. The entry area, where the bar resides, was dimly lit like that of a college bar. It was packed with people like a college bar too, albeit not in a manner liked you’d expect; it was comfortable. Conversation was everywhere, not too loud, not too quiet. Perfect. The night was ripe for an excellent date.

My wife and I were lucky enough to score some seats at the bar while we waited for a table. The bar tender promptly took our order for drinks. Two small TVs were in the bar area. Just enough to check the score of the game, but not enough to distract a table from intimate conversation. The bar tender brought over a shrimp appetizer, Bang Bang Shrip, courtesy of the house. “We call this: making friends” he said. Very rarely does a restaurant give away food to patrons without reason. They set themselves up well. Even better, the shrimp was delicious.

Finally our pager buzzed and we were able to get a seat. The attentive server took our order as if we were her only concern, almost like a private butler. It was amazing. We topped the night off with a dessert.

I walked out of the Bonefish Grill feeling that I had one of the best dining experiences ever. At least, the best in Nebraska.

The restaurant had just become my favorite restaurant. I was now their evangelist. Almost like a Jesus spreading the gospel, but not about eternal life, but the gospel of the freshest and most delicious seafood the Midwest would ever see.

The second and third time that I went there. The experience was just average. It wasn’t bad, just average. Slow staff. Messed up sides, etc. I expect this sort of stuff to happen at Applebee’s, not my beloved Bonefish.

The restaurant became just another restaurant to me.

As I was writing this, I’m reminded of when I use to work as a cook at the local restaurant Lazlos 12 years ago. When I was packing up an order, I put an extra serving of french fries for a to-go order. The owner Jay Jarvis saw this. “What are you doing?” he said. “I wanted to put a smile on their face.” I enthusiastically replied. He then told me that I had put too much fries in the order; I was just thinking that he was being a cheap owner. He then went on to say that the next cook might not put in as much for that same customer. The customer will feel let down. What matters is “consistency”, he said. That was my first real lesson in consistency and customer expectations.

So many restaurants struggle with this. Maybe they don’t train their staff enough to think about providing a consistent experience?

I didn’t write this article to complain about restaurant inconsistencies, but rather to get you to think about the experience you’re delivering to your customers. How can you be more consistent? What tools and processes can you implement to improve this?

But don’t forget about the paradox of expectations:

Better than expected might be the level of quality that’s necessary to succeed. Of course, once that becomes the standard, the expectation is reset. - Seth Godin

Seth also writes:

Have you noticed how upbeat the ads for airlines and banks are?

Judging from the billboards and the newspaper ads, you might be led to believe that Delta is actually a better airline, one that cares. Or that your bank has flexible people eager to bend the rules to help you succeed.

At one level, this is good advertising, because it tells a story that resonates. We want Delta to be the airline it says it is, and so we give them a try.

The problem is this: ads like this actually decrease user satisfaction. If the ad leads to expect one thing and we don’t get it, we’re more disappointed than if we had gone in with no real expectations at all. Why this matters: if word of mouth is the real advertising, then what you’ve done is use old-school ad techniques to actually undercut any chance you have to generate new-school results.

So much better to invest that same money in delighting and embracing the customers you already have.

Think about this. Be consistent.

You might also enjoy:

  1. To Stand Out, You Must Dazzle Your Customers
  2. The Power of the Apology
  3. Hey Taco Johns, Go F*ck Yourself: A Failure to Understand Customer Mindshare

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What Does Your App Do Again?

Dear Fellow Entrepreneurs:

When sending out a launching announcement, please include a blurb to remind your mailing list users what your app does again and why we signed up in the first place. This would really help us to remember in our busy lives how your app can help get your users laid.

Your friend,


Seriously though, this happens a lot. Most recently, this happend when Bushido sent me such a welcome invite. I had no clue what Bushido was as I had probably signed up months ago. Fortunately, this opened up for a nice dialogue with the founder who agreed with the point.

Some get it right though. BufferApp’s founder Joel Gascoigne did this when he validated his app. Joel writes:

What I did with Buffer is treat the emails as people who were happy for me to get in touch and discuss the idea with and whether it solved a problem for them. As soon as someone put their email in the “you caught us early” page, I sent out an email which was from my own email address and shared more details about the product which weren’t on the landing page. It also ended with a very welcoming paragraph explaining that I needed their help to shape the product into something truly useful. This triggered off a lot of communication and let me ask people what a fair price would be for example so I could decide on my pricing, and also decide on the priority of some features. In my previous startup I did the right thing of launching early but I made the mistake of having around 6000 users and never asking any of them what they thought about the product and whether it solved a problem for them.

So, attach a blurb in your launch email. Even better, tell your potential users how this app improves their life. I know that I’ll remember this point when we launch Gitpilot.

You might also enjoy:

  1. A Real MVP Tale
  2. To Stand Out, You Must Dazzle Your Customers
  3. Your Language to Your Customers

Follow me on Twitter: @jprichardson



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