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Messing with Fate: The Real Magic of Steve Jobs

New biography reveals what made Steve Jobs the business icon he is today.

Paul Smith

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Steve Jobs

Shortly after launching the Apple I, in 1976, Steve Jobs had the “ah-ha” moment that would change the world. Jobs had decided that computers should come as a complete package. Jobs and his co-founder Steve Wozniak had sold a couple hundred of their first computer, the Apple I, but the Apple I could hardly be called a finished product. It comprised of a circuit board with no power supply, no keyboard, no monitor and no case. As a result, the market ended at computer hobbyists.

Jobs’ big insight was that the Apple II need to be a fully “integrated consumer product” that could be sold to the average consumer. It needed to be ready to go out of the box with a keyboard, monitor, power supply, all beautifully wrapped up in a moulded plastic case. But, to achieve this he needed cash. After approaching a number of venture capitalists, he connected with Mike Markkula an ex-Intel executive who was enamoured by the Apple II prototype, and hence, invested $250,000. This enabled the two founders to turn their hobby into a business. Unfortunately, the brilliant co-founder and engineering genius Steve Wozniak wasn’t interested. He refused to quit his full-time job at HP. While Markkula shrugged and said okay, Jobs refused to take no for an answer. Walter Isaacson explains Jobs’ reaction in his new biography, Steve Jobs:

He cajoled Wozniak; he got friends to try to convince him; he cried, yelled, and threw a couple of fits. He even went to Wozniak’s parents’ house, burst into tears, and asked Jerry for help. “I started getting phone calls at work and home from my dad, my mom, my brother, and various friends, “ Wozniak recalled. “Every one of them told me I’d made the wrong decision.” None of that worked. Then Allen Baum, their Buck Fry Club mate at Homesead High, called. “You really ought to go ahead and do it,” he said. He argued that if he joined Apple full-time, he would not have to go into management or give up being an engineer. “That is exactly what I needed to hear,” Wozniak later said. “I could stay at the bottom of the organization chart, as an engineer.” He called Jobs and declared that he was now ready to come on board.”

Born entrepreneurs

In the early 1980s, Robert Brockhaus began to explore personal traits that separated entrepreneurs from the general population. Brockhaus discovered that ‘internal locus of control’ was a powerful predictor of both a person intention to start a business and the success of that business. This finding has been replicated in many studies since.

A person with an internal locus of control believes that effort, skill and ability are what lead to success. They minimise the importance of fate, luck and chance in achievement. The problem with people who have an extreme, internal locus of control, is their beliefs often don’t fit with reality, they believe too much in their ability to shape their destiny. Steve Jobs is one such example. So extreme was his belief that he could shape the events in his life that colleagues described it as his “reality distortion field”.

Tribble, a former college, explained, “In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he’s not around, but it makes it hard to have schedules.”

It enabled him to convince co-founder Steve Wozniak to write a programme that should have taken months in just four days. Similarly, when Jobs decided he wanted one of the world’s top designers, Paul Rand, to work with him, IBM had already contracted him. Jobs was so persistent with phone calls that, after two days, the Vice Chairman of IBM Paul Rizzo concluded, “it was futile to resist Jobs” and gave the go ahead.

When he was launching iTunes, and many believed it would be impossible to get all the artists and record label’s to sign up. Roger Ames the head of Warner music describes the Apple founder’s behaviour, “He would call me at home, relentless at ten at night, to say he still needed to get to Led Zeppelin or Madonna. He was determined, and nobody else could have convinced some of these artists.”

Isaacson’s biography is peppered with incidents of Jobs acting on his belief that he can, and would, shape the world around him. Again and again Jobs indomitable will, charisma and belief that he would prevail, helped him reimage seven industries. As a former team member commented on his reality distortion field, “It enabled Jobs to inspire his team to change the course of computer history with a fraction of the resources of Xerox or IBM.” In short, Jobs was a living example of “people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.”

Developing your internal locus of control

A large volume of research has shown that you can develop a deep belief in your ability to influence the world through four mechanisms:

  • Doing it: The best way to change your belief in your ability to control your destiny is by actually doing it. Setting and achieving goals has been shown to raise a person internal locus of control.
  • Learning from others: Studying and meeting entrepreneurs who have a deep belief in their ability to control their lives, you realise, so can you.
  • Persuasion: If you don’t believe the you are totally in control of your company’s destiny read Great by Choice it gives a convincing argument why luck and chance play little role in business success.
  • Manage your moods: Emotions have been shown to alter your belief your own ability. Being happy raises perceived beliefs, while being sad lowers them.

Get the book: Steve Jobs is available from R187 from Kalahari.com and all good book stores.

Paul Smith is a writer and startup scientist. He currently manages an accelerator, Ignitor, which helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Ignitor has developed a new model that significantly improves early stage start-ups odds of success. His primary research interests include understanding the behaviours of expert entrepreneurs, as well as, how to most effectively support high potential start-ups. Follow him on Twitter and visit his website.

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Self Development

How You Can Make Failing Part Of Your Growth Strategy

Here’s how you can make failing forward part of your growth strategy.

Entrepreneur

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failure-dominoes

The concept of ‘fail forward’ basically means that it’s okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes. Once you shift your mindset regarding failure, it becomes an asset to your growth. What’s not to like about learning?

Here’s how you can make failing forward part of your growth strategy.

1. Take risks

If it’s okay to fail as long as you learn from it, then it’s okay to embrace the idea of taking more risks. Try new things and see if they’ll work. If they don’t, then at least you’ve tried and learnt.

Related: Flourishing Through Failure And Finding Fortune

2. Learn constantly

Failing and learning shouldn’t be one-offs or isolated incidents. They should weave together in a constant stream of learning that builds and rewards as we move forward. That way, we can improve and eventually succeed more often than we fail.

3. Search and reapply

Learn from each other’s mistakes. Marketing is a spectator sport — you can learn from watching each other’s brand activities — both the wins and losses.

4. Accept failure

This one is the hardest step. It’s not easy to fail. It’s not something we’re taught to do. It distracts us from our mission and it takes time away from being successful. Or does it? If you start failing forward daily, not only for yourself, but for your teams as well, you will create an environment where failing forward is accepted and embraced as part of a learning culture that seeks continuous improvement. That improvement includes actively learning from your individual and collective mistakes.

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Self Development

Listening To These 8 Audiobooks On Success Is A Better Use Of Your Long Commute

Commuting is mostly just unpaid work, unless you make an effort to learn something along the way.

John Boitnott

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audiobooks
Prev1 of 9

Commutes are getting longer, and in some cities they’re up to two hours each way. I have a friend in Los Angeles who does this. He passes the time with audiobooks. Now that’s still a lot of time to be stuck in transit, but he doesn’t view it that way. He says it allows him plenty of time to feed his personal and professional goals.

I’ve spent years listening to literature in the car while commuting, but somewhere along the line I switched over to books on business and personal improvement. I mostly gravitated toward amazing people who built their success from scratch and who experienced tremendous hardship. It stands to reason that if you’re dealing with hardships like a long commute, it’s important to hear motivational words that can help you transcend the difficulties.

Here are eight audiobooks that will help grow your success, both personal and professional, on your next commute:

Prev1 of 9

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Self Development

3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

Erik Kruger

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3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Goal setting as a concept makes perfect sense. At the most basic level you decide on the destination and then plot the way to get there. But as with many things, we like to overcomplicate that which should be simple.

Before you know it, you end up with 2 big goals in 15 different areas of your life and 100 micro goals that will help you reach your 30 big goals.

Complicating something simple. Some of the biggest obstacles to people in reaching their goals are:

  • The overestimate the effort it will take to achieve those goals
  • They want to go from 0-100km/h in the blink of an eye
  • Life is dynamic and static goals often do not make sense
  • They get so entrenched in the day to day running of things that goals get pushed aside.

What if instead of goals, we just focused on giving our best every day?

Of course, you still want to have an indication of where you are going.

But, if you are giving your 100% every day then you can forego the micro goals for a better way of calibrating your compass… using questions.

Related: Goal Setting Guide

I suggest you ask yourself these three questions regularly:

1. What does better look like?

The question at the heart of development and incremental improvement. This question allows you some creative space in which you can imagine a better future.

  • What does better health look like?
  • What does a better business look like?
  • What does better customer service look like?
  • What does better leadership look like?

By reflecting on this question, you materialise the gap between where you are and where you could be. Now, the only thing that is left is to align your daily actions with the better future you imagined.

2. What can I control?

Borrowed from Stoicism this question highlights the power of decision in your life. Epictetus said we should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”

Once you ask this of yourself regularly you will feel more in control of your life and more in control of your business.

Why?

Because your focus is solely on the things that you can influence. It restores the belief that you can actually impact the world around you in a meaningful way.

3. Was I impeccable with my actions today?

One inherent flaw with goal setting is that the goal setter often feels judged. As if we need more of that. In addition to the constant negative self-talk we have to endure we now have an additional source of judgement – whether we reached our goals or not.

As we discovered in question #2 We cannot control everything. Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

So, instead of judging yourself, commit to giving your best every single day.

Related: The Tim Ferriss Approach to Setting Goals: Rig the Game so You Win


Accountability

What I love most about these questions is that they provide a built-in layer of accountability. Use them every day.

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