What did Steve Jobs do right?

We are here to put a dent in the universe.
Otherwise why else even be here?

-Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Steven Paul Jobs (Steve Jobs) has been and still is being discussed by global community for his impact in the world being considered as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. But what did Steve Jobs do to make that happen? What distinguished him from other business leaders and in what ways he changed the world and business?

Early life and personality

He was born on February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California to Joan Schieble (later Simpson) and Abdulfattah (“John”) Jandali, two graduate students of Wisconsin University, who gave him for adoption. As an infant, Jobs was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs. Clara worked as an accountant and Paul was a Coast Guard veteran and machinist.

As a boy, Jobs and his father worked on electronics in the family garage. Paul showed his son how to take apart and reconstruct electronics, a hobby that instilled confidence, tenacity and mechanical prowess in young Jobs.

Jobs was always an intelligent and innovative thinker, though he had difficulty functioning in a traditional classroom; he tended to resist authority figures, frequently misbehaved, and was suspended a few times. In high school he developed two different interests: electronics and literature. These dual interests were particularly reflected on his relationships, as his best friend was Steve Wozniak (the later co-founder of Apple) and his artist girlfriend Chrisann Brennan.

In September 1972, Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, which was a private liberal arts college. After just one month he dropped out, considering the education he received meaningless, though he continued to attend very specific classes, such as calligraphy, which turned out to be an asset for his work later on.

In February 1974 he was hired by Atari, Inc. as a technician, however a few months later he left for India in pursuit of “spiritual enlightenment”, where he stayed for 7 months attracted by Zen Buddhism and the spiritual way of living.


In 1976, when Jobs was just 21, he and Wozniak started Apple Computer in the Jobs’ family garage. They funded their entrepreneurial venture by Jobs selling his Volkswagen bus and Wozniak selling his scientific calculator.

Wozniak conceived of a series of user-friendly personal computers, and — with Jobs in charge of marketing — Apple initially marketed the computers for $666.66 each. The Apple I earned the corporation around $774,000. Three years after the release of Apple’s second model, the Apple II, the company’s sales increased by 700 percent to $139 million.

Jobs was worth over $1 million in 1978 when he was just 23 years old. His net worth grew to over $250 million by the time he was 25, being one of the youngest people ever to make the Forbes list of the US richest people.

In 1980, Apple Computer became a publicly-traded company, with a market value of $1.2 billion by the end of its very first day of trading. In 1983, Jobs lured John Sculley away from Pepsi-Cola to serve as Apple’s CEO, asking him “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”.

In 1984, Apple released the Macintosh, marketing the computer as a piece of a counterculture lifestyle: romantic, youthful, creative. But despite positive sales and performance superior to IBM’s PCs, the Macintosh was still not IBM-compatible.

The original Macintosh (1984) is the first successful mass-market personal computer to have featured a graphical user interface, built-in screen, and mouse.

Sculley believed Jobs was hurting Apple, and the company’s executives began to phase him out. Not actually having had an official title with the company he co-founded, Jobs was pushed into a more marginalized position and thus left Apple in 1985.

After leaving Apple in 1985, Jobs began a new hardware and software enterprise called NeXT, Inc. The company floundered in its attempts to sell its specialized operating system to mainstream America, and Apple eventually bought the company in 1997 for $427 million.

Unveiling of NeXT Computer (1988)

In 1986, Jobs purchased an animation company from George Lucas, which later became Pixar Animation Studios. Believing in Pixar’s potential, Jobs initially invested $50 million of his own money in the company.

In 1997, he returned to his post as Apple’s CEO. Just as he instigated Apple’s success in the 1970s, he is credited with revitalizing the company in the 1990s.

With a new management team, altered stock options and a self-imposed annual salary of $1 a year, Jobs put Apple back on track. Jobs’ ingenious products (like the iMac), effective branding campaigns and stylish designs caught the attention of consumers once again.

In the ensuing years, Apple introduced such revolutionary products as the Macbook Air, iPod, iTunes and iPhone, all of which dictated the evolution of technology. Almost immediately after Apple released a new product, competitors scrambled to produce comparable technologies.

Jobs’ influence on retail products has revolutionized consumer technology, forcing engineers and developers to create new and innovative products. Consumers have benefited most from increased competition, as products remain modestly priced but boast increased capabilities and features

In 2007, Apple launched iPhone, a product that would change mobile industry for ever.

In 2008, Apple became the second-biggest music retailer in America — second only to Walmart, fueled by iTunes and iPod sales. Apple has also been ranked No. 1 on Fortune magazine’s list of “America’s Most Admired Companies,” as well as No. 1 among Fortune 500 companies for returns to shareholders.

What made Jobs special finally? Lessons learned.

Jobs was a special and powerful personality both admired and criticized for his consummate skill at persuasion and salesmanship which has been dubbed the “reality distortion field” and was particularly evident during his keynote speeches (colloquially known as “Stevenotes”) at Macworld Expos and at Apple Worldwide Developers Conferences.

With this unique aptitude he would craft his own reality, a “distortion field” he would use to persuade people that his personal beliefs were actually facts, which is how he pushed his companies forward. Naturally, he wasn’t right all the time, but he was a master at convincing people he was. So how did he do it? He stood firmly in one position, and if your position was actually better than his, he wouldn’t just acknowledge it: he’d adopt your position as his own, which would throw you off balance.

Another key element that made Jobs special was his astonishing pitching. He would pitch with such passion that would grab people’s attention and would generate strong feelings. People are influenced by strong displays of emotion and by ideas and Jobs knew that. In the end what you sell is the idea behind the product (your why) and the emotions you create instead of just the product itself.

He expressed interest and affection to people. People want to feel important; if you give that to them they’ll give it back to you. And Jobs knew exactly how to use this. “He could seduce and charm people at will, and he liked to do so. People such as (former Apple CEOs) Amelio and Sculley allowed themselves to believe that because Jobs was charming them, it meant that he liked and respected them. It was an impression that he sometimes fostered by dishing out insincere flattery to those hungry for it. But Jobs could be charming to people he hated just as easily as he could be insulting to people he liked” (Isaacson, 2015).

He made decisions quickly even if they weren’t always the best. That allowed him to be a pioneer in whatever he did. He also could see thing other people could not – being a visionary. For instance, when his big bet on Pixar paid off, and the company’s first movie “Toy Story” was a huge success (1995), Jobs decided to take the company public.  Investment bankers said it couldn’t happen, especially after Pixar had hemorrhaged money for five years prior. But Jobs insisted Pixar held its IPO one week after “Toy Story” opened in theaters, and it was a wild success: It exceeded Netscape as the biggest IPO of 1995, and more importantly, it meant Pixar no longer needed to be dependent on Disney to finance its movies.

Furthermore, Jobs demanded perfection and did not settle for anything less. He detested anyone who was ready to make compromises to get a product out on time and on budget. He found adequacy to be “morally appalling”. His goal for Apple was never to simply beat competitors, or even to make money: it was to make the greatest product possible, “or even a little greater”. So, he didn’t do it for the money, he did it because he loved it; he did because that was him, that was his passion. And that is what made him so special after all.

All in all, Jobs was a charismatic leader because of his ideas, his passion and his ability to convince people. He didn’t sell just the products, but he sold his ideas; he was so passionate about it and made people believe in his vision for making the world better, believing “those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that actually do”.

Job’s 1997 speech on Apple’s marketing strategy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.