Story #2 in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, Jobs talked
about the shock at being fired as CEO of Apple in 1985. He had co-founded
the company. He had taken it from a garage enterprise to a major
producer. Then he got sacked by his board.
In his speech,
he neglected to identify the #1 source of Apple's success: VisiCalc.
That was the first "killer app." The phrase came as a result of
Visicalc's success. VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet.
It was developed
by Dan Bricklin. He was a student at the Harvard Business School.
Wikipedia provides the basic story.
by Dan Bricklin, refined by Bob Frankston, developed by their
company Software Arts, and distributed by Personal Software in
1979 (later named VisiCorp) for the Apple II computer, it propelled
the Apple from being a hobbyist's toy to a useful tool for business.
After the Apple II version, VisiCalc was also released for the
Atari 8-bit family, the Commodore PET, TRS-80, and the IBM PC.
to Bricklin, he was watching a professor at Harvard Business
School create a financial model on a blackboard. When the professor
found an error or wanted to change a parameter, he had to erase
and rewrite a number of sequential entries in the table. Bricklin
realized that he could replicate the process on a computer using
an "electronic spreadsheet" to view results of underlying formulae.
is forgotten. VisiCalc is forgotten. It was replaced by a program
called 1-2-3, which was in turn replaced by Microsoft Excel. But,
in its day, VisiCalc gave Apple II the edge over Radio Shack's
TRS-80. It was the first business software application that was
perceived as crucial. Businessmen bought Apple II computers in
order to use VisiCalc.
a far more crucial dot in Steve Jobs' career than calligraphy
ever was. It was dropped into his lap as a free bonus. It had
nothing to do with Jobs' aesthetic sense. It was a series of boxes
on a screen into which people typed numbers.
I call this
providential. Jobs preferred to call such events "your gut, destiny,
life, karma, whatever." He did not see life as a silver platter,
but nonetheless a platter. "This approach has never let me down,
and it has made all the difference in my life." Bricklin handed
him a windfall in 1980. He made good use of it.
was lucky I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz
and I started Apple in my parents' garage when I was 20. We worked
hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us
in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees.
We had just released our finest creation the Macintosh
a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got
This is a
remarkable story. It is a rags-to-riches story. It is the stuff
of dreams in America as in no other society in history. It will
be told over and over. And he was correct: it had two parts. The
day he was fired ended part 1.
you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew
we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the
company with me, and for the first year or so things went well.
But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually
we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided
with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had
been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was
VISIONARY AND THE BEAN-COUNTER
the conflict between the visionary and the bean-counter. This
is inescapable. The bean-counter represents the conflict. They
provide the beans. Without them, the visionary sleeps on the floors
of friends. The beans are the whips by which the real Simon Legrees
in life customers flagellate producers who do not
perform to their satisfaction. The lifetime refrain of the customer
is this: "What have you done for me lately?"
can produce no more than what the supply of beans will allow.
He can borrow more beans in terms of a projected stream of beans.
He can cut costs and hoard beans. But he cannot escape the restraints
of beans. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
thinks that his product cannot fail to please customers in the
future. The bean-counter says, "Prove it." But the visionary cannot
prove it. That is why we call him a visionary.
Jobs in 2005
still regarded the Macintosh as Apple's greatest product. That
was because it was aesthetically neat. It was his calligraphy.
He failed to mention the ill-fated Apple III, which could not
compete with the PC-AT 286 or the Intel 386 chip that was in Compaqs.
Apple was losing ground where the beans were: businesses. He was
still trying to sell to artists. The bean-counter reminded him:
the phrase "starving artist" reflects reality. The Macintosh was
a poor business computer. Jobs had to go. If I had been on the
board, I would have voted to fire him.
It was the
best thing that ever happened to him, he reflected in his speech.
It was also a great thing for customers.
didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from
Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness
of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed
me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another
company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman
who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world's
first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now
the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable
turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and
the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's
current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family
a high standard, but it did not affect the lives of the masses.
Pixar did. The inner calligrapher of Steve Jobs found an outlet.
He pursued both sides of his brain: the digital precision of NeXT
code and the animation of Pixar. He told stories with digits.
I visited a professor of computer science at Texas A&M. I had
walked into his office unannounced on a Saturday with my son,
who was ready for his junior year of college. He told us this:
user's manual in the microcomputer field has on average one
error per page. I do not mean typographical errors. I mean procedural
errors. The only exceptions are the manuals produced by NeXT.
There are no errors.
a perfectionist. It took success outside of Apple to let him exercise
his artistic skills alongside his digital skills. He became the
Jedi master of the right-brain/left-brain synthesis. He got even
pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been
fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the
patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a
A door had
closed. Two more opened across the street. One of the familiar
themes in the book, The Millionaire Next Door, is the rags-riches-rags-greater
riches theme. They often go bankrupt. They recover.
look for entrepreneurs who have gone through a bankruptcy. They
want to see how a man recovers. A string of successes does not
provide information on how well the man will perform under adversity
with their money.
counsel. It was high-level counsel.
really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I
had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down that
I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with
David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing
up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about
running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn
on me I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple
had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still
in love. And so I decided to start over.
This was a time of testing. But, in saying this, I am saying that
the testing was personal. The counselors were personal: very rich,
successful men in Silicon Valley. His rebound was personal.
of the test itself? What about the connection between the chronological
dots? Was there anyone administering the test? Here, he was silent.
He then added:
"Don't lose faith." He did not elaborate. The inescapable question
is this: "Faith in what?" He then went into cheerleading mode:
"Follow your dream."
He had faith
in himself. He wanted his listeners to have faith in themselves.
convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved
what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true
for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to
fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied
is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do
great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet,
keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart,
you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship,
it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking
until you find it. Don't settle.
He told this
to students who were getting their certification papers at an
expensive university, one that is usually listed in the top ten
in the United States. It is one of about three dozen universities
attended by a third of the world's richest and most powerful people.
(Read David Rothkopf's book, Superclass,
or watch his
videos delivered at Stanford.)
This is nonsense. It is outrageous nonsense. Of course you settle.
For 80% of your life, you settle. It is that other 20% where you
make your mark. You devote 80% of your time to putting food on
the table. You devote the other 20% of your work day to that area
of your life that I call the calling: the most important thing
you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace.
If you have
faith, and if the object of yourfaith delivers the goods, then
you can move from 80-20 to 20-80. You can spend 80% of your time
on your calling. This rarely comes when you are young.
a rarity. He found his calling three times: in delivering a tool
that ran VisiCalc, in developing Pixar, and in developing the
iPod/iPad tools that make other people's apps none killer
so far available to customers. He produced the platforms
that made individual programmers efficient in delivering their
goods to customers.
as if he were normal. He was not normal. That was why he was asked
as if he had not been the recipient of a series of opportunities
to serve as a middleman in between others and customers. He delivered
the goods that let others deliver their goods. He got rich and
famous by doing this.
Life is filled
with grunt work. Most work is grunt work. Unless someone promotes
the idea of an elite of producers who hire workers who do all
of the grunt work, he had better learn to do great grunt work.
The 80% of life that is grunt work is what allows the 20% of good
work to be possible, and the 4% of top quality work to change
is grunt work. Grunt work is basic to all work.
market lets us sort out our grunt work from great work. Customers
pay for the output of our grunt work, but demand ever-better work.
We decide how to allocate our work.
three years of preaching, beginning around age 30. The previous
20 years had been mainly grunt work. He knew his Torah, as we
read in Luke 2:41-5. This is the only reference to the years in
between the birth and ministry of Jesus. He was a carpenter's
apprentice for much of the time, then a carpenter. Carpentry is
grunt work. He settled. But not forever.
did not live a charmed life. He lived a representative life of
highly successful people. He was adopted by the right family.
He went to the right college. He dropped out of the right college.
He was aided by the right people. He found the right partner:
Wozniak, who was a technician, not a publicity hound and not a
controlling type. He got fired for the right reason at the right
time. He walked away a multimillionaire. He rebounded.
followed his dream. He helped change the world by giving tools
to people: producers and consumers. At Pixar, he became a middleman
between story tellers and story lovers. He lived his life as a
We all do.
Here is the bedrock truth: we are all middlemen. We buy low and
sell high in some market. We find customers to serve. Some do
this better than others. A few do it magnificently. Jobs was one
of the few.
He did not
settle in life. But in one area, we all must settle. That was
the theme of Story #3.