A group of hopeful entrepreneurs were grilling Steve Jobs and Bill Gates about how they achieved their success. When one young man took the microphone and directly asked Jobs for his one piece of advice, Apple’s CEO included this gem:
“Any rational person would give up.”
Granted, I haven’t checked the curriculums of every MBA or entrepreneurship program in the country recently, but whenever I scan them I never find any that focus on developing one’s irrationality or learning how to release one’s inner insane person. Let’s face it, most training is focused on teaching us how to make the most rational decision in any given situation.
Whenever Steve Jobs had something to say, people listened—at least for much of his career in business—and for good reason. In an earlier article, Michael G. Holmes chronicled how the
It’s so crazy, it just might work!
As far as I can tell, Dana Carvey in the very forgettable 2002 family movie, The Master of Disguise, was the first to utter the line, “It’s so crazy, it just might work!” Is this the kind of attitude or philosophy that Steve Jobs was getting at when he spoke to that group of budding business owners? Like a detective, let’s look at a few examples from the life and career of Steve Jobs and see if we can identify some irrational behavior that may have attributed to his business success.
Reflecting on what he learned from Steve Jobs over the years, Guy Kawasaki, who marketed the Macintosh back in 1984, points to one episode that might reveal a little of Jobs’s insanity. When the company was originally developing the iPhone, they trotted in a prototype for Jobs to check out. The black wasn’t black enough for him and he made the development team jump through all kinds of hoops to get a shade of black that was sufficiently dark.
How many of us mere mortals would raise that kind of stink just to get the right black? Of course, with a closetful full of black turtlenecks, Jobs probably had a deep appreciation for the color.
Who needs a disk drive?
While all the other computer makers were working to include as many features as possible, Jobs decided it was time to eliminate floppy drives from Apple computers. The handwringing around the corporate headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino must have been palpable.
Taking something off your product that you know many people depend on has to be a somewhat irrational decision. You might say that Jobs was merely demonstrating his “vision.” But aren’t insane people always having visions?
Doing the same thing over again.
A standard definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Isn’t that exactly what Jobs did when he signed on with Apple the second time?
After leading Apple from the very beginning, he was essentially ousted in 1985. In 1996, through a merger, he came back and was soon the company’s CEO. It has to take some insanity to agree to lead the same company that summarily dismissed you a decade earlier.
In her discussion of passion, perseverance and persistence, Debra Kaye uses Steve Jobs as an example. When we look at the events that we’ve discussed here, I think what we are seeing is that Jobs took passion, perseverance and persistence to a level that most of us would consider virtually irrational.
Remember, whether the eventual outcome is either a success or a failure, we never regret trying too hard. So maybe if no one ever turns to you and says, “What? Are you crazy?” you aren’t trying hard enough.
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Images: ”PALO ALTO, CA – OCT 5: Apple website pays tribute to founder and CEO, Steve Jobs, who passed away on October 5, 2011, with a photo of him on their home page. October 5, 2011 in Palo Alto, California. / Shutterstock.com“