Steve-isms: The Wisdom of Steve Jobs

Love or loathe him, everyone agrees that Steve Jobs was a true original. Here are 60 of his very best, most honest and inspiring quotes. For your convenience, we’ve organized them by topic.

You can either select a topic below, or scroll through the entire list.

Creativity | Innovation | Design | Business | Money | The Public | Life & Death | Legacy

Creativity

Creativity is just connecting things.
It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.
If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.
I’m a big believer in boredom. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity and out of curiosity comes everything. All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.
When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often-times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there.
Stay hungry, stay foolish.

Innovation

Innovation… is not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed.
Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.
I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.
Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.
My observation is that the doers are the major thinkers. The people that really create the things that change this industry are both the thinker and doer in one person.
If anybody’s going to make our products obsolete, I want it to be us.

Design

The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.
That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
Things don’t have to change the world to be important.
When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.
It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
We had a fundamental belief that doing it right the first time was going to be easier than having to go back and fix it. And I cannot say strongly enough that the repercussions of that attitude are staggering.
We humans are tool builders. We can fashion tools that amplify [the] inherent abilities that we have to spectacular magnitudes.
When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back.

Business

It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the Navy.
Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys that kept each other’s negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts.
I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.
My job is not to be easy on people. My jobs is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.
To me, the company is one of humanity’s most amazing inventions. It’s totally abstract. Sure, you have to build something with bricks and mortar to put the people in, but basically a company is this abstract construct we’ve invented, and it’s incredibly powerful.
If they are working in an environment where excellence is expected, then they will do excellent work without anything but self-motivation. I’m talking about an environment in which excellence is noticed and respected and is in the culture. If you have that, you don’t have to tell people to do excellent work. They understand it from their surroundings.
My best contribution to the group is not settling for anything but really good stuff. A lot of times, people don’t do great things because great things really aren’t expected of them, and nobody ever really demands that they try, and nobody says, ‘Hey, that’s the culture here’. If you set that up, people will do things that are greater than they ever thought they could be. Really some great work that will go down in history.

Money

I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year… It’s very character-building.
When [start-ups] sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they’re gipping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their new-found wealth in perspective.
My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.
Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.
I don’t view wealth as something that validates my intelligence.
I’m convinced that to give away a dollar effectively is harder than to make a dollar.

The Public

As individuals, people are inherently good. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of people in groups.
It’s hard for [customers] to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.
You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.
When you’re young, you look at television and think, there’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want.
Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.

Life & Death

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.
Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.
One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are.
I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.
The older I get, the more I see how much motivations matter.
I think the things you most regret in life are things you didn’t do.
Music is good for the soul.
I believe life is an intelligent thing — that things aren’t random.
Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.

- Jobs’ last words, on his death bed


Legacy

I want to put a ding in the universe.
You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So this is what we’ve chosen to do with our life.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
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.
About Robin Parrish

Unathletic, uncoordinated tall man with endless creativity stampeding through his overactive brain. Comes with beard, wife, and two miniature humans. Novelist. General blogger and main Gaming Geek for ForeverGeek. Lead Blogger, Apple Gazette.

Comments

  1. Oh wow..
    I teach Applecare to CPU Senior advisors for the North Carolina region, (sorry, can’t name the city, but you know it better as the home of the Dukes!)
    I will be using these in my next class and I think they carry a lot of power and will help advisors make this transition more meaningful.
    Thank you for some really emotive and genuine words- Steve was indeed a believer, a dreamer and a void has been left in the world without his own special enigma. Thanks Steve, for more than just a legacy, but for a feeling too.

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