A lot has been written about Steve Jobs since his death that attempts to explain the source of his brilliance and creativity. What was it about him that enabled him to invent or reinvent several industries? What was his unique quality?
I think I figured it out.
I got my first clue from the following except from Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs. What do you notice?
An important clue to what made Steve Job “different”
“‘Don’t be afraid’, Jobs replied. This stunned Weeks, who was good-humored and confident but not used to Job’s reality distortion field. He tired to explain that a false sense of confidence would not overcome engineering challenges, but that was a premise Jobs had repeated shown he didn’t accept. He stared at Weeks unblinkingly. ‘Yes, you can do it,’ he said. ‘Get your mind around it. You can do it.’
“As Weeks retold this story, he shook his head in astonishment. ‘We did it in under six months,’ he said. ‘We produced a glass that had never been made.'”
It’s clear that Steve never accepted it when someone said: “This is the way things are.” He never accepted it when someone said: “This can’t be done. But what was Job’s worldview that had him not accept the statement: “It can’t be done”?
A second clue to what made Steve Jobs “Steve Jobs”
The Gorilla Glass incident gave me one important clue. A video documentary on Jobs (“Steve Jobs: One Last Thing”) provided me the final clue. Steve said during an interview:
“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people who were no smarter than you. The minute that you can understand that … that you can change it, you can poke it, that’s maybe the most important thing.”
Jobs understood something that very few other people do: What most people consider to be a given “reality,” is, in fact, something that people make up. It is constructed largely of people’s beliefs.
Jobs didn’t deal with the same reality most of us deal with
I’ve been saying for years that the biggest problem that most people face is not in “reality” but in people’s minds. Beliefs are our personal view of reality that seem to us to be describing what’s really out there. Many of our beliefs are personal ones, dealing with with life, people and ourselves. I’m not good enough. Life is difficult. Relationships don’t work. I’ll never get what I want. For people who hold these beliefs, these are accurate statements about reality that determine what’s possible and not possible for those people.
Most people hold many versions of an “It can’t be done” belief. Jobs did not. Jobs did not deal more effectively with the same world most people deal with. He interacted with a different world—a world in which almost anything is possible, while most people interact with a world in which so many things “can’t be done.”
The single most common sabotaging belief people in organizations hold is the belief “we can’t ….” We can’t outsource, find financing, find the type of employees we need, do something because of government, etc. Steve never held any limiting beliefs about doing anything at Apple. And because he never had those beliefs, he was able to inspire people who held those beliefs to transcend them and do things they thought they couldn’t do.
The biggest barrier most people have to happiness and success is not an inability to deal with the world “as it really is.” Their biggest barrier is a world filled with many self-imposed limitations. They live in a reality of their own making—a world in which they are inadequate, in which they can’t get what they want from others, in which lots of things can’t be done, etc. And a lot of specific beliefs: a world in which something can’t be made smaller, more powerful, less expensively—a world in which Gorilla Glass can’t be mass produced in six months, etc.
What about you?
So what about you? What is the single most important thing you can do to break loose from your self-constructed “reality”? Identify, challenge and eliminate any belief you have about what you think can’t be done. In fact, go beyond that and eliminate any belief you have about reality that limits you in any way.
Don’t learn how to deal better with the “reality” you have constructed. Change your reality and virtually anything becomes possible. That was Steve Job’s “secret.”
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