12 Ways To Be Like Steve Jobs

As we learn more about the life of Steve Jobs, lessons emerge. Here are 12 ways that you can channel Jobs' genius.
November 01, 2011

When Steve Jobs passed away, I read everything I could about him—including Guy Kawasaki’s recent contribution here at OPEN. Why did I do this? Like millions of other people, I have been a fan of Steve for more than three decades. So when he passed, I felt this inner urge to glean any lessons I could from him. I wanted to find out what made this man so great. Why was he so cool? Is it possible to integrate his brilliance into our work ethic? How can we make the world a better and more inspiring place to live?

In attempting to find the answers to these questions, here’s what I discovered from Steve himself, and thought-leaders who knew him:

1. Push people out of their comfort zones

“He was someone who did not read the polls, but changed the polls by giving people what he was certain they wanted and needed before they knew it; he was someone who was ready to pursue his vision in the face of long odds over multiple years; and, most of all, he was someone who earned the respect of his colleagues, not by going easy on them but by constantly pushing them out of their comfort zones and, in the process, inspiring ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

— Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning author

2. Encourage experimentation

“We can look at and learn from Steve Jobs what the essence of American innovation is. What other nations typically lack is a social environment that encourages diversity, experimentation, risk-taking and combining skills from many fields into products that he calls “recombinant mash-ups,” like the iPhone, which redefined the smart-phone category.”

— John Kao, innovation consultant to corporations and governments

3. Draw from diverse experience to generate insights

“It is often people like Steve Jobs who can draw from a deep reservoir of diverse experience that generate breakthrough ideas and insights.”

— Hal B. Gregersen, a professor at the European Institute of Business Administration, or Insead

4. Do your best work to meet challenges

“I lived in fear that Steve would tell me that I, or my work, was garbage. In public. This fear was a big challenge. Competing with IBM and then Microsoft was a big challenge. Changing the world was a big challenge. I, and Apple employees before me and after me, did their best work because we had to do our best work to meet the big challenges.”

— Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, bestselling author, and former evangelist of Apple

5. See two worlds that productively collide

“I worry that we miss something in hailing him as either a master salesman or a master designer, though he is clearly both. His real gift, from an early age, has been the ability to see that these two worlds could, and should, productively collide. It isn't just that he made computers cool or put them in pretty boxes. It's that he put those computers in new conceptual boxes.”

— Steve Johnson is the author of seven books, most recently "Where Good Ideas Come From."

6. Make the world a better place

“Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”

— Apple

7. Take big risks

“He was willing to take big risk on new ideas, and not be satisfied with small innovations fed by market research.”

— Walt Mossberg, journalist who is the principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal

8. Figure out what you want, and control the whole process

“Steve Jobs’s magic was to marry clever code with a fanatical devotion to aesthetics, rare in the tech world. How did he pull this off? By figuring out what he wanted and controlling the whole process until he got it. Very few buttons, like Mr. Jobs’s clothing.”

— Andy Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author most recently of “Eat People” (Portfolio, 2011)

9. Follow your heart

“The relentless intensity and total commitment that Mr. Jobs brought to his work, former colleagues and friends agree, had a simple explanation: he genuinely enjoyed what he did and found it worthwhile.”

— Steve Lohr, technology, business and economics writer for The New York Times

10. Look cool

“What Steve did was, he added the fashion flair to technology. The fact that it looked cool was a big part of it all. Nobody else has really captured that.”

— Scott McNealy, co-founder and former CEO of Sun Microsystems

11. Love your work

“But Steve loved his work, he loved the products he produced, and it was palpable. He communicated that love through bits of steel and plastic.”

— Larry Brilliant, the former director of Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org and a longtime friend of Jobs'

12. Be beautiful

“He told the computing industry: Take off that lab coat, lose the plastic pocket protector, stop fidgeting with the damned calculator, shake out your hair. Who would have thought it? You’re beautiful! He turned the industry into a supermodel: elegant, classy, incomparably desirable, with money to burn.”

— David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale University