I just finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and it was spellbinding! I couldn’t put it down, which is probably a sentiment more often reserved for fiction novels. Not only was the story spellbinding, but Steve Jobs himself was spellbinding. In spite of his personality and reputation for being a jerk to most people–even hypocritical, at times–he surprisingly garnered a huge amount of loyalty from employees and customers. He did this by expecting–and demanding–nothing less than perfection from his employees, and ultimately, his products. As I reflect on him and his story, my take-aways are in three of his personal qualities that stand out to me. The first is Focus.
He was Focused. He was able to identify the top two or three priorities that he wanted to work on and block out distractions. There was no better example of this then when he returned to Apple as interim CEO eleven years after he was ousted during his first tenure. At the time of his return, Apple was floundering and had lost its way. They were trying to develop dozens of products and ideas simultaneously and departments were working in silos. Jobs came in and slashed through the chaos by stating that they were going to focus on one great desktop computer and one great laptop computer in each of the personal and business computing markets. That’s it. Only four products. But four “insanely great” products. (That was one of his mottos: insanely great) The employees were stunned! Isaacson goes on to say that “that focus allowed him to say no. He got Apple back on track by cutting all except a few core products. He made devices simpler by eliminating buttons, software simpler by eliminating features, and interfaces simpler by eliminating options.” (p.564). This led to the iMac, and then eventually the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
This is very instructional for me, because I am easily distracted. Whether it’s losing focus on my goals or losing focus on my daily tasks, I can get sidetracked fairly easily. Not only do I want to be focused on setting and working towards my goals, but I want to be focused on which areas I need to set goals in. I also want to be focused on how and where I spend my time. For example, I’ve been trying to figure out to change my income situation and have been juggling multiple ideas and methods, to the point where I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the things I’ve been considering. After reading this book, a lightbulb came on and I recently narrowed it down to a four square grid (like Job’s simple grid) with a personal and business column, and two rows related to my areas of interest. It’s amazing what simplifying can help make focusing so much easier. Have you clarified your focus lately?
I’ll talk about Jobs’s next quality, Fearlessness, in my next post.