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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.

Self Development

5 Inspiring Quotes From Madiba To Stir You Into Action On Mandela Day

In honour of Mandela Day, here are 5 of Nelson Mandela’s most inspiring quotes.

Casandra Visser

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Bouncing Back

nelson-mandela

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

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Self Development

25 Bad Words That Make Other People Feel Inferior

If the harshest thing you have to say about someone is partly true, say the other part.

John Rampton

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word-choice

Did you know that in every language, there are more negative words than positive ones? It seems we need lots of words to describe our negative feelings, but we’re content with a handful of positive ones.

For instance, researchers have found that most cultures have words for seven basic emotions: Joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and guilt.

That’s one positive emotion, and six negative

It’s no wonder so many of us have a hard time keeping our negative comments in check. Over the past six months I’ve been working on the verbal language that I’ve been using that I don’t even realize hurts others and in some cases makes them feel inferior. I even noticed that I’ve used a couple on my personal and business website. This is a “no-no” that I needed to fix.

This post will list 25 negative words you should avoid…so that you stop hurting, belittling and intimidating those around you!

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Self Development

How To Control What You Can And Influence What You Can’t In Your Life

Every day you need to get up and face numerous challenges. Here’s how you can keep your head in the game — even when all you want to do is quit.

Erik Kruger

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resilience

On Monday you wake up ready to take on the world. You’re focused, determined and business is doing well. Tuesday feels like you’re invincible and things could not be going any better. Wednesday, your world collapses. You doubt your ability to deliver to your clients. You wonder whether you should still pursue the same business. You think that quitting at this stage is easier than dealing with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. And you are dramatically reminded that entrepreneurship is hard.

Mix in human nature and it becomes borderline insanity to try and build a business. And yet, the reward is worth it. I therefore want to share three strategies that might help you cope with this tough but deeply rewarding pursuit.

Influence and control

Most of the things in business and life are out of our control. You cannot control how other people react to your service or product. You cannot control how your employees will show up. You cannot control how the market will react and how that will affect your business.

Related: How You Can Do Big Things

This makes it very important to control what you can and then influence the rest to the best of your ability.

So, what can you control? You can control your actions, reactions and perceptions of the challenges you face. Meaning essentially, that you can control yourself and your efforts.

Do this with excellence and you will automatically influence the people around you and the situations you find yourself in.

Override your moods

If we only did the hard work when we felt like it, we would hardly get anything done. Our moods fluctuate like the tides of the ocean. Not because we are temperamental but because the external world has a profound impact on us.

When you wake up to news that the economy is in recession, it has the potential to plant seeds of doubt in your mind. When you receive an email from a disgruntled customer complaining about your service, it has the potential to ruin your day.

The fact is that you can receive a hundred testimonials singing your praise, but you will obsess and become despondent over that one negative comment.

This means that we have to move beyond our emotions. Sure, they are important in the decision-making process and for fostering meaningful relationships. But you cannot allow them to dictate when you will do work.

In other words, work hard, irrespective of your moods, especially on the days when you don’t feel like it.

Create a calibration practice

One of the best ways to deal with this rollercoaster effect is to create a daily calibration practice. I am a big fan of any action taken on a daily basis. Not only because of the accumulation effect that occurs over time, but also because it keeps you focused.

So, what does a daily calibration practice look like?

It differs for everyone. It could range from meditation to a vision board to journaling to listening to a specific playlist of songs. My suggestion is that you give journaling a go.

Because it’s sometimes difficult to start a new calibration practice, I have included my journaling template for you.

It’s called ‘J1G’ (pronounced as jig). I use Evernote or a notebook from HumanWrites for journaling purposes.

J: Journal

For the first few minutes, simply allow your hand to run across the paper. The idea is for you to dump as many of your thoughts onto the paper as possible.

Some questions you can answer in this section are:

  • What am I currently excited about?
  • What am I currently worried about?
  • Where am I currently winning?
  • What can I learn from what happened yesterday?

1: The one thing that you want to get done today

In this time, I usually have a look at my to-do list and decide which one action I want to get done today. Write it down and then expand on why it is the most important action. How will it move you or your business forward?

Related: Better Thinking For A Better World

G: Gratitude

In the last section, you simply write down three things that you are grateful for. Trust me, this is an important daily practice, but even more so on the days when you feel as if life is beating you down.

When you focus on the things that you are grateful for, you crowd out fear and shift your state of mind to a more positive and productive one.

The punch line

If you can stick to the three ideas I outlined above, I guarantee you will develop more resilience and perseverance. You are an entrepreneur because you chose to be one. Do not allow life to impose its will on you. I have no doubt that you will be better off because of all the challenges you face. Not in spite of them.

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