Whether you’re trying to revolutionize the tech industry or simply trying to be more effective and innovative in your programming and design, you can learn a lot from Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was able to achieve success by constantly innovating and improving, even in the face of criticism and failure.
1. “Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
Any programmer worth their salt knows the difference between something that works and something that is elegant. Steve Jobs built a fortune on creating simple designs that may have had the same functionality as other designs, but did it better. In programming, the simpler solution is always the best solution, as it carries with it fewer potential complications.
2. “Ultimately, it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you’re doing. Picasso had a saying: good artists copy, great artists steal.”
Steve Jobs is hardly saying that we should steal content; instead, he’s pointing out the inherent need to learn from others. In programming more than any other industries, we often trade tools, code snippets, algorithms and more but it’s not enough to just copy and paste. To truly innovate, we also need to improve upon these things.
3. “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.”
Steve Jobs was talking about customers, of course, but we also know that this applies to management. Most of the time, people know what they want to happen but they can’t really express their own needs. We need to intuit not only what they want right now but what they are going to need in the future. Sometimes meeting standards is not enough.
4. “Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice.”
We often know what’s best for our clients, our management and our projects. But it can be difficult to fight for it when we’re dealing with people who may have limited knowledge of technology or what is truly feasible. We need to be able to follow Steve Jobs’ advice and put our foot down when necessary, or we’ll find ourselves constantly chasing mediocrity. Too often programmers lose this battle and simply state, “It’s what the customer wanted.” That makes us an employee, not an innovator.
5. “Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”
Anyone who has dabbled with casual design and apps knows that a single “hit” innovation is far more important than a thousand useless apps. As a programmer, we need to focus on the projects that are most likely to return something great, and often our intuition will tell us just what that is. We also can’t be afraid to move on from something that just isn’t working.
6. “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
When you are managing a team, or simply someone that others look up to, the environment will mold itself and shape itself around you. If you want to get the best from others, you need to be prepared to give that best yourself.
7. “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.”
As programmers, we have the lucky fortune to often be extremely into our work. By following our passions, we can produce truly excellent products. Many people are locked into jobs that they didn’t want simply because they found themselves going down the path of least resistance. You can never truly succeed if you resent where you are.
8. “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.”
We all know someone who was a “one hit” wonder they created a single great app or product and they’ve been coasting ever since. If you stop moving and stop innovating, what happens when that one success eventually peters out? By the time you’ve noticed, you may have been out of the game so long that you find it a struggle to get back.
9. “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”
Don’t just dwell on mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Every moment that you spend dwelling on them is a moment that you aren’t chasing your success.
10. “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.”
These are incredibly sobering words when one takes into consideration the immense legacy that Steve Jobs left behind. We often fear innovation because we worry about failure. Steve Jobs showed that we cannot worry about failure; failure will occur. But we need to strive onward if we are to leave behind our own legacy.
Steve Jobs would never have been able to build his empire if he had worried about failure. As programmers, we encounter thousands of miniature failures every day as we experiment and innovate. It is the successes we will be remembered for and that we need to focus on.