Five things I learned from the way Steve Jobs lived his practical genius:
1. Put all your assets out there.
Genius happens at the intersection of our hearts and minds, that sweet spot where our hard assets (strengths, skills, expertise) and soft assets (values, passions, and creative abilities) converge.
Steve Jobs the technologist was at one with Steve Jobs the artist; all of his abilities and his beliefs were seamlessly fused. To me, this was the manifestation of his genius—not the amazing products we love so much, but the extraordinary way he put everything he had—all his assets—on the line throughout his career entire career. I also loved how he seemed to stay true to himself through failure and success.
It’s only when you’re engaging all of your assets, all at once, that you can see for yourself what’s truly possible. It doesn’t mean it won’t be a boatload of work to get where you want to go; it just means that you can see your objective clearly and are able to keep all of your resources focused on it day-by-day.
2. Genius takes time.
Living your legacy isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Steve Jobs was patient with his projects and took the time necessary to realize his vision for each of them. Once you have identified your genius it will flourish over time. You will see the change in the quality of your experience immediately, but it’s the long-term, big picture transformation you need to commit to.
There’s a snip of video I love of a young, bearded Jobs that’s been played many times in news reports over the last couple of weeks. He’s demonstrating an early Apple computer and is explaining that the adoption of personal computers would take some time; it would be “very gradual, very human, and will seduce you into learning how to use it.” He lived his genius in the minute-by-minute and day-to-day, but it was also clearly ingrained in his vision for the future he would eventually help invent.
3. Listen to your heart.
Steve Jobs loved what he did. The joy and delight so clearly expressed on his face each time he unveiled a new Apple product should inspire each of us to lead with the heart…because when push comes to shove, the heart is always right.
4. Know your audience.
Steve Jobs was a modern tastemaker and he knew his audience well—often better than they knew themselves. He made creative decisions and business decisions based on his natural, almost intimate awareness of the nature of his audience. For example, a story in the New York Times describes Jobs’s decision to use a glass screen on the iPhone. Most would have chosen to use a plastic screen, for reasons that usually turn up on a P&L projection. But he knew that a plastic screen would scratch easily and many people would view that as a design flaw. Acting as an advocate for the audience he knew so well, he went with the glass. It was a big risk, but right on the money.
Attraction has nothing to do with you and everything to do with serving your audience’s needs and aspirations. Steve Jobs showed us how that’s done.
5. Fail forward.
We don’t hear much about Steve’s failures and that is because he failed forward. Even when he was ousted from Apple in 1985, he went off and started NEXT, which was a computer system that was a disappointment in the marketplace, but laid the foundation for the eventual development of the iPhone and iPad. His failures were epic, but he used every one of them to move ahead.
Failure is always a possibility. The trick is each time, to fail closer to your goals and aspirations.