Tuesday, December 6, 2011

apples to apples

a couple of weeks ago AWD and i went to see a limited run screening of some footage of a television interview with steve jobs that had been filmed in 1995. in what has to be one of the greatest and most lucrative coincidences of all time, the footage, which was thought to be lost forever, was rediscovered in the producer's garage a few days after steve jobs died.

the interview was taped just before jobs returned to apple, though he, of course, didn't know at the time that that would happen. in fact, when he's asked about apple in the interview, he says he thinks the company is doomed and can't be saved.

so, turns out he wasn't always right about everything.

we were a little nervous that 50 minutes of steve jobs talking into a camera might be kind of dull, but it wasn't. it was wild to see him with all that hair and a full, chubby face. and he was still wearing black mock turtlenecks back in 1995. he was insightful (except for that thing about apple being beyond saving) and well-spoken, as you might imagine, and he said a couple things that really stuck with me.

1. little things can do big things. one of steve's first forays into the computer world was developing a box that could mimic long-distance dial tones so you could trick the telephone switchboard system and make long-distance calls for free. it was just a small contraption, but it could manipulate the whole big national and eventually international telephone system. it was a little thing that could do something big. i'd like to think of myself and my own efforts in that same way more often.

2. the product is more important than the process. according to jobs, it was a failure to recognize this that threatened to bring apple down in the 1990s. people thought that if you were following the process, sticking with the system, then the product had to be good. but they weren't paying any attention to the product and so the product sucked. i think it's really easy to get bogged down in procedural details that are not important, or to hide behind systems and processes and programs because they excuse you from courageous, creative thinking. i am sure i do it all the time. but i'd like to learn to worry more about what i want to do then whether i am doing it "right."

3. not as many things are as impossible as you think. well, he didn't actually say this, but this idea stuck with me anyway. it was so fascinating to me that steve jobs, right there on tape, said apple was heading down the tube and there was no way to bring it back. he thought there was no way to bring it back, he said there was no way to bring it back, and then he returned to apple and brought it back. he accomplished what he, himself, had stated was impossible. i think that is totally rad. and i don't think i am alone in saying that, if he had to be wrong about something, i am glad he was wrong about that.

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