Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Learning From Steve Jobs

There has been a lot written about Steve Jobs since he passed away and while I read many articles at first, I seem to just flip through them now. But one article that I not only read, but returned to, was written by Carmine Gallo, I feel there is a lot in here for me to learn.

I want to give Carmine’s bio here as I do lean heavily on his article. The list is his, any comments are mine. Carmine is a communications coach, a popular keynote speaker and author of several books including The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs. His latest is The Power of Foursquare (McGraw-Hill, 2011).

1. Do what you love.  Carmine offers two quotes here from Jobs.

“People with passion can change the world for the better.”

“I’d get a job as a busboy or something until I figured out what I was really passionate about.”

I consider myself very lucky in this respect. The only time that I have ever held a position I didn’t enjoy was temporary and for a specific purpose (earning money quickly to fund travel in my younger days). But more importantly, I love writing novels that highlight social injustices and, yes, I hope that maybe my novels might just contribute to a better world.

2. Put a dent in the universe. I love the quote that Carmine provides. Apparently, Steve Jobs once asked then-Pepsi President, John Sculley, “Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water or do you want to change the world?”

This is all about having a vision that can make a difference. Is it really enough to have a solid product like Pepsi, a lucrative career that benefited no one but yourself?

A friend recently asked me why I don’t write thrillers or romance models. His hypothesis was if I kill more characters and add more sex, I would sell a lot more books. While he is probably correct and my bank account would appreciate the change, I love what I write. I truly get passionate about the social injustice issue or the characters that I create. I could write “Pepsi novels,” but it just wouldn’t be me.

Still Learning From The Master

3. Make connections. Jobs believed in a broad life experience: to travel, read, learn from everyone and everything. Then return to your vision and use these experiences to achieve what you are setting out to do. In Judaism we are taught that wherever we wander (and Jews sure wander) we should immediately seek out a teacher. Today, with the explosion of social media, we are all connected to everyone. But do we take the time to listen enough to learn from each other.

4. Say no to 1,000 things. Carmine recalls how when Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he cut 340 products from the company, leaving them to focus on only 10. In doing this, he focused only on those products that could fulfill the vision that he had for Apple.

5. Create insanely different experiences. Everything about Apple is different. Everything is unique and clearly part of a carefully engineered brand. Just think of the experience, sensory and practical, of entering an Apple store. It is simply entering a different world. We look forward to going to the store in a way that we don’t experience with any other company.

6. Master the message. This is absolutely crucial. You must be able to communicate your message clearly, quickly and in a way that inspires the person/people who are listening to ask more questions, or to want to act/react in the way you want. If the response to my telling someone that I write political fiction is a request to pass the cheese, then I need to reconsider my message (though I might want to pass the cheese first).

7. Sell dreams, not products. I think this is an important concept and one that we are prone to forget in the hectic day-to-day. How often do we get bogged down in the small details of our books, or products, or political platforms, and forget why we are doing this.

Finally, Carmine leaves us with the pearl of Jobs’ ethos, and I will leave you with this.

“See genius in your craziness, believe in yourself, believe in your vision, and be constantly prepared to defend those ideas.”

Steve Jobs passed away last month, but his lessons will stay with us for many  years, and may well help us create a better world: one built on the concept of excellence.

Thank you Steve.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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