Becoming Steve Jobs

date May 26, 2015
authors Brent Schlender, Rick Tetzeli
reading time 39 mins

Forward thinking » Past veneration

While he was an introspective guy, he was not inclined to retrospection: “What’s the point in looking back,” he told me in one email. “I’d rather look forward to all the good things to come.”


But those years are in fact the critical ones of his career. That’s when he learned most everything that made his later success possible, and that’s when he started to temper and channel his behavior. To overlook those years is to fall into the trap of only celebrating success.


Pandora’s box of immaturity were necessary prerequisites to the clarity, moderation, reflection, and steadiness he would display in later years.

How did he learn?

Steve could be intransigent, and nothing was ever learned easily or superficially, but learn he did. Driven and curious even when things were tough, he was a learning machine during these years, and he took to heart all that he gleaned.

Focus and meaningful despite

allowed him to maintain his focus despite the cacophony of worries that came with knowing he had cancer. It also allowed him to maintain a deep and meaningful life outside the office, while revealing little of that to people who weren’t part of his close inner circle.

Deep believe vs knwoing

He knew in his bones, as he would say, that he was about to do something great. In reality, of course, he had no idea what was ahead of him.

Different view

He didn’t see Apple the way Jobs saw it as an extraordinary company that would humanize computing and do so with a defiantly unhierarchical organization.

Modeled after a car

The car, in fact, was a model for what he thought computers should be: powerful, sleek, intuitive, and efficient, nothing wasted at all.

Change the world

Jobs felt a deep restlessness to change the world, not just build a mundane business. The iconoclasm, the intersections of different disciplines, the humanity present in that room, all were representative of what Steve aspired to. And yet for some reason he couldn’t settle in.

Compelling story

Having a grand, bold goal was useless if you didn’t have the ability to tell a compelling story about how you’d get there. That seemed obvious.

You can build it

“It gave one the sense that one could build the things that one saw around oneself in the universe,” he once told me. “These things were not mysteries anymore. You looked at a television set and you would think that, ‘I haven’t built one of those but I could.

Getting noticed

innately understood from an early age that the right words and stories could help him win the attention he needed to get what he wanted.

Woz’s contribution

Why not input commands and data values more directly with a typewriter keyboard? And why not have the computer project your typing and results onto an attached television monitor? And for that matter, why not plug in a cassette tape recorder to store programs and data? The Altair had none of these features that would make computing far less intimidating and far more approachable. This was the challenge Woz decided to tackle.

For users and hobbyists

Steve knew that Woz was so uniquely talented that any computer he would design would be cheap, usable, and easy to program so much so that the other hobbyists at Homebrew might want one, too.

Trusting your intuition

Steve was innately comfortable trusting his gut; it’s a characteristic of the best entrepreneurs, a necessity for anyone who wants to make a living developing things no one has ever quite imagined before.

Obsessing about?

While a few had broader business ambitions and eventually founded microcomputer companies of their own, most were obsessively focused on electronic intricacies, like determining the most efficient way to link memory chips to microprocessors, or imagining how you might use a cheap computer to play games like the ones they played on mainframes back in school. Steve liked knowing enough to be conversant about electronics and computer design, and later in his life he would boast about his own supposed skill as a programmer. But even in 1975, he didn’t fundamentally or passionately care about the intricacies of computers in and of themselves. Instead, he was obsessed by what might happen when this powerful technology got into the hands of many, many people.

Simplcity by removing things

Steve had opposed adding those expansion slots, for example, because he thought a perfect consumer computer should be so easy to use that no one would ever want to add to the hardware’s capabilities by opening it up. The instinct to deliver a computer with the simplicity of an appliance may have been an admirable long-term goal, but it was a profoundly wrongheaded choice for a personal computer in 1977.

Dealing with business vs messing around electronics

Ceding control had not been difficult at all for Wozniak, who had absolutely no interest in overseeing the details of a burgeoning business. A world-class electrical engineer, he always seemed happiest at his workbench, where he could tinker, invent, and debate with his fellow engineers about wonky details as Apple’s vice president for research and development.

Beginning of an industry

Apple was pioneering a nascent industry that was different from most others in one crucial way: computers were systems that blended three key underlying technologies that all were in a state of perpetual and rapid change semiconductors, software, and data storage.


In fact, it soon became clear that it was smart business for a company to start work on the product that would render obsolete its latest and greatest offering well before the first one even made it to market. That’s how fast things would change in the tech marketplace that was just beginning to materialize.

Not in it for money

None of these people were really in it for the money,” he told me. “Dave Packard, for example, left all his money to his foundation. He may have died the richest guy in the cemetery, but he wasn’t in it for the money. Bob Noyce [cofounder of Intel] is another. I’m old enough to have been able to get to know these guys. I met Andy Grove [CEO of Intel from 1987 to 1998] when I was twenty-one. I called him up and told him I had heard he was really good at operations and asked if I could take him out to lunch.

Intuitive experience

As Steve explained at the time: “Our whole company is founded on the principle that there is something very different that happens with one person, one computer. It’s very different than having ten people to one computer. What we’re trying to do is remove the barrier of having to learn how to use a computer.”

Cannibalization timing

The best recipe for maintaining steadily rising revenues in the computer hardware business is to have a breakthrough product ready just when your last breakthrough is reaching the peak of its own success.

Value of software

One could argue that Gates’s greatest contribution to the world was not Microsoft, or the MS-DOS or Windows operating systems, or the Office productivity applications that hundreds of millions of people use. It was his role as the first champion of the concept that software itself had value. The mind that could envision all that was a mind suited for the organizational matrixes of the corporate world.

Steve and Steve

It’s the story of two men who saw exactly what they wanted to see in the other, who salivated at the thought of how pairing up might transform their lives, and who both wound up sorely disappointed.

A boss who gets it

“If you’ve worked enough, you know the difference between a boss who just gets it and someone you have to drag into understanding what you’re trying to do. And when you find that boss that just gets it, you’re just like, ‘Oh my God, it’s wonderful. You’re making my life so easy now.’ Steve was that kind of person. He was intellectually right up there with you. You didn’t really have to go into too many explanations. He cared passionately. And he never dialed it in.”

Too much hierarchy

“We were going the wrong way,” remembers Barnes. “Apple was reorganizing, and you had to go down seven levels of management to find an engineer. That’s a really dangerous place for a technology company to be.”

Prioritizing efficiently

He was smart enough to realize that a successful CEO must prioritize among his employees’ many projects and ideas, but it would take years for him to learn how to do so efficiently or without the ego that came with thinking that his own ideas were always best. Nor did he have any real knowledge of how to launch a company into a field crawling with competitors. And he was unaware of each and every one of these weaknesses.

Good negotiator

He had shown himself to be a good negotiator with parts suppliers, often getting Apple better prices in its early days than its volume had really justified. He could synthesize big ideas, and he could see how different technologies could be combined into something that added up to a whole lot more.

Micromanagement == No Prioritization

This micromanagement was the primary example of the fact that Steve did not know how to prioritize in any kind of holistic way at this stage of his career.

Where is a startup more advantageous than a company?

Most great Silicon Valley startups start out lean and simple. The advantage they have over established companies is the focus they can bring to a single product or idea. Unencumbered by bureaucracy or a heritage of products to protect, a small group of talented folks is free to attack a concept with speed and smarts.


The fascination with his new company, so out of proportion for a startup with no product entering a highly competitive industry, confirmed his own sense that he was destined to do great things. That sense of genius and destiny made it harder for Steve to sideline any of his own ideas. He acted as if each detail he advanced could make the difference between creating a breakthrough product and putting out the kind of dreck he thought was offered by other manufacturers.

Engineers given the status

the company drifted from month to month, year to year without delivering a final product to the market, many of the engineers continued to do great work and viewed their jobs as both a noble mission and a labor of love. Engineers ruled the roost at NeXT. They had their own special wing at headquarters, equipped with a grand piano and locks that kept out all other employees.

Open salary

Steve tried to implement an idealistic social experiment he called the “Open Corporation.” Salaries were set by category, so that everyone with a certain job title would be paid the same amount. And every employee’s salary information would be available to everyone else.


In software, it’s at least 25 to 1. The difference between the average programmer and a great one is at least that. We have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world. And when you’re in a field where the dynamic range is 25 to 1, boy, does it pay off.” The hiring process at NeXT was rigorous, with multiple interviews. In many cases, even one interviewer’s “No” could blackball a candidate. And there were candidates aplenty, vying for the chance to work with Steve.

Protective boss

Tevanian did his best to protect his software engineers from the wrath of Jobs, by making sure they were away from the office when he informed Steve of a slip on schedule, or when a user interface feature he had ordered up turned out to be unworkable.

Get the core message from any anger / screaming / yelling

Explains Barnes: “You had to get through the yelling to the reason for the yelling that was the important part, something you could try to fix.”

Tight deadline

Introducing the NeXT computer called for more sleight of hand than ever. The operating system, which was at least a year away from being released, was buggy. The optical storage drive ran too sluggishly for a demo. There were no apps written by outside software developers. With the possible exception of the iPhone nearly twenty years later, Steve would never unveil a product that was less ready for prime time. But he couldn’t wait any longer. Steve needed the event to be a success.

Humility and clarity

If Steve had started NeXT with a clear mind and even an ounce of humility, Sun is the company he would have acknowledged as his most dangerous competitor and potentially his best role model.

Buying Pixar

As he would show again and again through his life, Steve was a ballsy negotiator. His willingness to walk away paid off. Faced with getting nothing, the Lucas team caved. Steve paid $5 million in cash while promising to capitalize the outfit with another $5 million.

Forgoing micromanagement

At Pixar he would lay the foundation of two of his great strengths: his ability to fight back in times of distress, and his ability to make the most of an innovation that put him ahead of anyone else in that field. In other words, it taught him how to keep his head and fight back when cornered, and how to run like the wind in the open field. And it became the place where he really learned, albeit slowly and reluctantly and against his natural instincts, that sometimes the best management technique is to forgo micromanagement and give good, talented people the room they need to succeed.

Learning during Pixar

Steve’s Pixar adventure would help him rediscover his self-respect, make him a billionaire, and align him with people who would teach him more about management than anyone he’d ever worked with.

Pixar is different from his other companies

At Apple he had been the brash novice, the founder who, for better and worse, established the corporate culture. At NeXT, too, Jobs was the center of attention, the hub and visionary of the company. But at Pixar, Steve couldn’t shape the culture. He wasn’t the founder, and even as owner, he could not change the company to reflect his image and sensibilities. It already had a culture. It already had a leader. Its cohesive and collaborative team knew exactly what it wanted to do. And Catmull was not about to let his young new owner mess things up.

Mentor as well as Boss

He also knew it would have its own challenges. Over time, he became perhaps the keenest observer of Steve Jobs, developing an understanding of his boss that allowed him, in turn, to become one of Steve’s most valuable mentors.

Another hit?

The world’s most famous computer entrepreneur was in danger of drifting into the middling obscurity that has enveloped so many other one-hit wonders of the technology world. Shutting down this expensive side project would have made enormous sense. And yet Steve persisted.

Middle-class upbringing despite wealth

And their middle-class connection would become increasingly important: when they eventually had a family, Steve and Laurene would do everything in their power to raise their kids with as normal values as they could, despite their growing wealth.

An operating system

An operating system manages the flow of data within a computer, and gives programmers access to its hardwired information-processing capabilities. It is the crucial intermediary between the programmer who has a task he wants to accomplish and the semiconductor chips and circuitry that can make that happen.

The declining Apple

By 1991, Bill Gates’s operating systems were on 90 percent of all the PCs in the world. And the company that owned the other 10 percent? Well, that was Apple, which was becoming less relevant, less innovative, and less important year after year.

Balance in innovation

“Fundamentally,” he explained, “the PC industry is taking the existing and repackaging it or making it run faster. I think that’s much more valuable than I used to. But I also think that what’s the real trick, and the real necessity to keep our industry healthy, is to balance that incremental improvement with some big steps.

Bill’s deep understanding

What wasn’t made clear, and what Bill didn’t even come close to revealing, was how his deep understanding of the computing needs of businesses would transform the computer business itself over the next several years, further sidelining anyone who, like Steve, chose to focus on the aesthetics and thrills of personal computers.

Artless machines

The personal computer giants of that decade, companies like Dell and Compaq and HP and Gateway, churned out one artless machine after another, competing on brute measures like speed, power, and delivery times.

Innovation at standstill

Part of the reason I jumped at the Tokyo assignment was that the computer industry in the early 1990s had grown a bit dull now that Microsoft and Intel, collectively known as Wintel, had basically won the personal computer wars. Innovation seemed at a standstill, and the future seemed to be merely a game of cutting costs and optimizing the various PC clones that were being offered by the likes of Dell, Gateway, Compaq, and HP. Apple had pretty much fallen into irrelevancy.

Internet pushing the innovation

The Internet was clearly something that could change everything in computing, and that was a good thing for a technology and business journalist.

Art of balancing

At Pixar, especially when the company started down the path of actually making movies, Steve started absorbing an approach to management that helped make him much more effective when he returned to Apple in 1997. These are the years where his negotiating style gained new subtlety without losing its ballsy brashness. This is when he first started understanding the meaning of teamwork as something that’s far more complicated than simply rallying small groups without losing his capacity to lead and inspire. And this is where he started to develop patience without losing any of his memorable, and motivating, edge.

Authority and attention

Which one of you has the authority to buy our computers?’ If they said no one, he would just dismiss them. ‘I only want to negotiate with someone who can make the deal,’ he’d say, and leave. We always said that Steve would take a hand grenade, toss it into the room, and then walk in. He’d get everyone’s attention right away.’


Katzenberg was right, of course. No matter how much technology you throw at the art of making an animated movie, a good one will always be expensive.

Fooling yourself

It was always, ‘What are we going to do to move forward?’ When you’re out there on the edge, some things go right and some things go wrong. If nothing’s going wrong, you’re fooling yourself. Steve believed that.”

Doing amazing things

He was more open to the talent of others, to be inspired by and challenged by that talent, but also to the idea of inspiring them to do amazing things he knew he couldn’t do himself.”

Hiring smarter

Ed had made it a point for years to try to hire people who he felt were smarter than he was, and the effort showed. “The collection of people at Pixar is the highest concentration of remarkable people I have ever witnessed,”

Idea and ego

For a lot of people, their egos are tied up in an idea and it gets in the way of learning. You have to separate yourself from the idea. Steve was like that.”

Learning from movie-making

This kind of attention to detail fascinated Steve. He loved the narrative and visual mosaics that Lasseter was able to assemble for each Pixar movie, and over the years he came to admire the way the animators outdid themselves with each and every film.

Lasting effect

‘You know, when we make a computer at Apple, what’s its life span? About three years? At five years, it’s a doorstop. But if you do your job right, what you create can last forever.’

The declining Apple

STEVE OBSERVED APPLE’S dire straits from a safe distance, fretting and muttering under his breath and off the record, like an embittered and estranged parent, that the famous company he cofounded might collapse of its own ineptitude. After ten years in exile, he still harbored a strong sense of attachment to his firstborn company and many of its employees.

The return

Opportunism, intuition, and manipulation would all come to play a role in his return to the company he loved most. But by also employing a newfound patience and maturity, Steve would return a better businessman.

Why choose to return?

But did he really want to try to ride to the rescue of Apple when it hardly resembled the company he had tried to build? Was he even convinced it had the people and resources to become competitive? Did he want to work that hard, now that he had a young family? Did he want to risk what was left of his reputation by tilting at windmills? These questions were all on his mind. He had to become convinced that enough of the “true” Apple remained before he would ever consider taking ultimate responsibility for it.

Patience and waiting

Steve had grown more comfortable with waiting not always patiently to see what developed, rather than jumping impulsively into some new venture where he thought he could once again astound the world.

First change

Steve’s second big move was to convince Woolard to allow him to replace virtually the entire board of directors the same one that had just ousted Amelio and brought Steve in to play a big role. Steve felt no gratitude.

Always be risking failures

“If you look at true artists, if they get really good at something, it occurs to them that they can do this for the rest of their lives, and they can be really successful at it to the outside world, but not really successful to themselves. That’s the moment that an artist really decides who he or she is. If they keep on risking failure they’re still artists. Dylan and Picasso were always risking failure.

Well I tried by best

And I finally decided, I don’t really care, this is what I want to do. And if I try my best and fail, well, I tried my best.”

New campaign

Steve decided Apple needed an advertising campaign to reaffirm Apple’s old core values: creativity and the power of the individual. It needed to be something radically unlike the meek and confused product advertising that Apple had been offering consumers for years.


The brilliance of “Think Different” is that it celebrated a counterculture philosophy in a way that allowed almost everyone to feel part of the celebration.

Small steps

But in retrospect, it seems clear that it was the exact opposite of grandiose: it was the first step of a leader who would now progress only in steps, not by leaps and bounds. “He was so focused,” remembers Fred Anderson. “He was intense and both patient and impatient at the same time.” Steve had begun to move incrementally.


Out went the contracts that licensed the MacOS to the clone manufacturers. Steve hated the idea of having his operating system in the hands of others, and he had refused to sign on as iCEO without the promise that he could shut down the clones.

Tim Cook - operations

Tim Cook became a new member of the team in March 1998 when he was hired away from Compaq where he had been called “the Attila the Hun of inventory” to be Apple’s chief of operations.

Cook’s lean management

Cook’s work drew no public attention, but it was crucial to trimming the company. In the nine months after he arrived, Apple reduced its inventory from $400 million worth of unsold, unwanted Macs down to $78 million. Cook was responsible for perhaps the most dramatic example of Steve’s hurry to rid himself of the burdens of Apple’s recent past:

Not knowing !== Cannot

“What Apple needs more than anything is to ship a great new product, not necessarily some new technology. The trouble is, I don’t think they even know how to make a great product anymore.” He paused as if he realized how damning that statement sounded, and abruptly added, “That doesn’t mean they can’t.”


The key was to simplify Apple’s ambitions so that the company could sharply focus its substantial engineering talent and brand equity on a few key products and broad markets.

Simplicity in product line

Steve set out to show how Apple could transform itself into a profitable company while offering no more than four basic products: two separate models of desktop PCs, one for consumers and one for professionals; and two separate laptop versions aimed at those same constituencies. That’s it. Four quadrants, four product lines.


“Steve didn’t believe in reviews,” remembers Jon Rubinstein. “He disliked all that formality. His feeling was, ‘I give you feedback all the time, so what do you need a review for?’ At one point I hired an executive coach so I could do three-sixty reviews with my own team. He was a really good guy, and I tried to get Steve to talk to him, but he wouldn’t. In fact, he asked me, ‘What do you need that for? That’s a waste of time!”

Taking time and satisfaction

Steve also understood that the personal satisfaction of accomplishing something insanely great was the best motivation of all for a group as talented as his. “You had to believe that it was going to take some time; that you weren’t going to wake up tomorrow morning and it was all going to be fixed,”


But you just had to know that if you kept your head down, kept working, kept trying to do the right things, it would work out.”

Balance his strength and weakness

Steve had assembled a group that was strong enough to deal with who he was, and autonomous enough to compensate for his weaknesses. They developed their own tactics for managing him. “It was like we had a common enemy,”

Building a company

“The only purpose, for me, in building a company is so that that company can make products. One is a means to the other. Over a period of time you realize that building a very strong company and a very strong foundation of talent and culture in a company is essential to keep making great products. “The company is one of the most amazing inventions of humans, this abstract construct that’s incredibly powerful. Even so, for me, it’s about the products. It’s about working together with really fun, smart, creative people and making wonderful things. It’s not about the money. What a company is, then, is a group of people who can make more than just the next big thing. It’s a talent, it’s a capability, it’s a culture, it’s a point of view, and it’s a way of working together to make the next thing, and the next one, and the next one.”

Ive and giving personality

Technologically, the iMac was not a radical departure from the past. But working closely with Steve, Ive designed a cosmetic standout that, for the first time in years, gave the personal computer some personality.

Brand match

And their optimistic, brilliant colors played well into Apple’s marketing, which kept redefining the Apple brand as forward-looking, lively, and creative.


What eventually resulted was an operating system that mixed the best of Steve’s intuitive understanding of the needs of regular people with deep, robust, and flexible code written by some of the greatest programmers in the world.

Exact innovation

A single haywire program wouldn’t take down the whole system. The machines seemed almost immune to software viruses. And its basic file system was easy to navigate and gave users the choice of three different ways to view and locate files in a list format. Under the hood, OS X was the state-of-the-art software foundation for everything Steve would want to create in the years ahead.

Incremental steps

Over the three and a half years since his return, he had come to recognize that taking this more incremental approach to computer development can result in the kind of equilibrium that allows you to build a business designed to thrive over the long haul.

Huge volumes from

Once you can sell computing to consumers directly, and once you get computing into products that become part of their everyday lives, the volumes become transformative.

Computers to consumer electronics

Steve had solidified the company by narrowing its product lines so that Apple could once again produce distinctive computers. He had reaffirmed the company’s mission, for employees and for customers, with ingenious marketing and respectable financial results. But Apple’s product portfolio was still built around computers. Now that Steve was beginning to sense that the merger of consumer electronics and computers was emerging as a critical growth market, Apple’s metabolism, and many of Steve’s old habits, would have to shift.

Saying NO

Above all, saying no became a crucial way of keeping everyone, including himself, focused on what really mattered. The sheer simplicity of the quadrant strategy had laid the foundation for an organization that would say no again and again until it said yes, at which point it would attack the new project with fierce determination.

Airy vision vs real products

When it came to the consumer’s future, Gates was the one offering the airy visions of a breakthrough future, while Steve was inching ahead with real products.

Huge storage, small size

This was the first thing he’d seen that had enough capacity at a small enough size to form the heart of an Apple music player. Unlike the tapes or CDs that you played in Sony’s Walkman or Discman, this hard drive would have enough disk storage to hold copies of perhaps a thousand tracks, rather than just a dozen.


“What I loved about working for Steve,” says Cue, “is that you learned that you could accomplish the impossible. Again and again.

Hardest part was the UX!

Turning Ruby’s Toshiba microdrive into the heart of a pocket-sized piece of functioning hardware was not, by any means, the biggest challenge. The hard part was creating a usable device, one that would make those thousand tracks accessible with a click or two of a switch,

Another type of computer

To make all that happen, the music player would need enough smarts to host a rudimentary computer database program. The iPod, in other words, would actually be a tiny, specialpurpose computer.


But if the team had not cracked the usability problem for navigating a pocket library of hundreds or thousands of tracks, the iPod would never have gotten off the ground. It was a solution that came with ancillary benefits as well.

Shuffle == Radio

This so-called “shuffle mode” turned the device into the equivalent of a personal radio station that would play only your own music, in a totally unpredictable sequence.

Tim Cook’s supply chain internationally

Tim Cook had to build up an extensive international supply chain, and he and Ruby had to develop relationships with a set of Asian factories capable of delivering lots of high-quality machines in record times.


Then we didn’t know anything about MP3 players, but our people are smart. They went out and figured it out by looking at what was already out there with a very critical eye, and then they combined that with what we already knew about design, user interface, materials, and digital electronics.


To Steve, these stores were pulling off something he had never been able to manage: they sold a lifestyle product at an absurdly high margin by presenting it in a beautiful and yet informative way.

Catch phrase

Enter iTunes and the iPod. With their introduction, the stores quickly became the perfect medium for demonstrating Apple’s new digital hub concept. Highly trained salespeople on salary, not commission showed customers how to use their iMacs and iTunes to “rip, mix, and burn” their own customized audio CDs.

Clarity for freedom

“Steve was the best delegator I ever met,” Johnson said at Stanford. “He was so clear about what he wanted that it gave you great freedom.”

Every aspect of the project

These kinds of intricate answers delighted Steve. When Apple took on a major project, he wasn’t just concerned with the design and marketing. He wanted to know everything about the project, and he expected his employees to attack every conceivable problem from design and engineering to seemingly mundane tasks such as packaging and billing with creativity. Steve told me he was just as proud of the microtransaction solution as he was of the redesigned iPod models he would introduce in conjunction with the opening of the online store.

Customer experience

he was now using his company to build more than just products. Apple was now creating a holistic customer experience. Everything the company did, from technology development to the design of its stores, offline and on, was in service of that customer experience.


wonderful phrase to describe an essential characteristic of great leaders: deep restlessness.


Collins believes this restlessness is far more important and powerful than simple ambition or raw intelligence. It is the foundation of resilience, and self-motivation. It is fueled by curiosity, the ache to build something meaningful, and a sense of purpose to make the most of one’s entire life.

Judge after everything is done

“Churchill had his detractors, which is not an uncommon experience for great men. But in the end you judge them by the big picture, the arc of how everything unfolded.” Churchill, like Jobs, suffered humiliating setbacks early in his career, and persevered through a long, arduous climb back to an even greater prominence.


Back then, his restlessness sometimes seemed like impulsiveness. But he never gave up. He didn’t ever quit on Pixar or NeXT. What gave his particular restlessness real depth, then, was its relentlessness. “The things he was trying to do,” says Collins, “were always hard. Sometimes those things beat him up. But the response to fighting through that suffering can be tremendous personal growth.”

What’s next?

This was one of his great talents, the ability to synthesize separate developments and technologies into something previously unimaginable. It’s a talent that he would call on to decide what came next.

Followed research in academia and tech

He had gotten over his romance with pen computing, but he had steadily followed all the multi-touch research efforts in academia and the tech industry.

Dealing with cancer

Steve conducted his research with the same inquisitiveness he applied to understanding what would make a great new product. He scoured the globe for other options, and made surreptitious trips to see doctors in Seattle, Baltimore, and Amsterdam.

Laser sharp focus

He told them that he would now focus even more of his attention on things like product development, marketing, and the retail stores, and less attention on manufacturing, operations, finance, and human resources matters.

Smallness == more challenges

‘I don’t know that I can convince people that a tablet is a product category that has real value. But I know that I can convince people they need a better phone.’ “ This suggestion wasn’t made in glorious ignorance of the engineering it would require. He knew absolutely that building a phone was much, much harder than doing a tablet, because it had to be so small, and because it had to be a good phone and a good computer and a good music player.

Very selective about speaking

He was offered speaking engagements constantly, and he always said no. In fact, he was asked to do so many commencement addresses that it became a running joke with Laurene and other friends who had college or graduate degrees: Steve said he’d accept one just to make an end run around them and get his PhD in a day, versus the years and years it had taken them.

ROI for conferences and public speaking

But in the end, saying no was simply a question of return on investment conferences and public speaking seemed to offer a meager payoff compared to other things, like a dazzling MacWorld presentation, working on a great product, or being around his family. “If you look closely at how he spent his time,” says Tim Cook, “you’ll see that he hardly ever traveled and he did none of the conferences and get-togethers that so many CEOs attend. He wanted to be home for dinner.”

Practicing speech

In the days before the event he would recite it while walking around the house, from the bedroom upstairs to the kitchen below, the kids watching their dad spring past them in the same kind of trance he’d sometimes enter in the days before MacWorld or Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Several times he read it to the whole family at dinner.

Playing the lucky cards well

What separates people is the return on luck, what you do with it when you get it. What matters is how you play the hand you’re dealt.” He continues, “You don’t leave the game, until it’s not your choice. Steve Jobs had great luck at arriving at the birth of an industry. Then he had bad luck in getting booted out. But Steve played whatever hand he was dealt to the best of his ability. Sometimes you create the hand, by giving yourself challenges that will make you stronger, where you don’t even know what’s next. That’s the beauty of the story.

What mattered

The dividing lines were clear. Family mattered. A small group of friends mattered. Work mattered, and the people who mattered most at work were the ones who could abet, rather than stifle, his single-minded pursuit of what he defined as the company’s mission. Nothing else mattered.

Articulating emotions

“But to hear his introduction of me to the whole of Pixar, I realized that he really understood what I was trying to achieve at an emotional level. At some level, he knew what I was trying to articulate.”

Better and better

Ive believes that the lessons gained from each successive product development cycle fueled Steve’s unquenchable restlessness. Each product somehow fell short, which meant that the next version not only could be better but had to be better.

Launch of iPhone

“iPhone was the culmination of everything for Steve, and of everything I had learned. It was the only event I took my wife and kids to because, as I told them, ‘In your lifetime, this might be the biggest thing ever.’ Because you could feel it. You just knew that this was huge.”

Team size

He believed that small teams were better than large teams, because you could get a lot more done. And he believed that picking the right person was a hundred times better than picking somebody who was a little short of being right. All of those things are really true. A lot of people mistook that passion for arrogance.

Hiding away complexity

But by the time he and his team got around to creating the iPad, he had learned enough, finally, to make the technology essentially invisible. A true artist, he’d finally hidden all evidence of his labor.

Why why why

“Steve cared deeply about the why,” says Cook. “The why of the decision. In the younger days I would see him just do something. But as the days went on he would spend more time with me and with other people explaining why he thought or did something, or why he looked at something in a certain way.

What makes a great company?

“There are three things you need to be considered a truly great company,” Collins continues, switching gears to Apple. “Number one, you have to deliver superior financial results. Number two, you have to make a distinctive impact, to the point where if you didn’t exist you couldn’t be easily replaced. Number three, the company must have lasting endurance, beyond multiple generations of technology, markets, and cycles, and it must demonstrate the ability to do this beyond a single leader.

Seeing the reality

It is hard enough to see what is already there, to remove the many impediments to a clear view of reality, but Steve’s gift was even greater: he saw clearly what was not there, what could be there, what had to be there. His mind was never a captive of reality. Quite the contrary. He imagined what reality lacked, and he set out to remedy it.