Success stories

Steve Jobs in his own words: 20 of his best quotes

By Oliver Milman
Thursday, 06 October 2011

Steve JobsIt really shouldn’t have been such a shock. Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a notoriously harsh version of the disease, in 2004, and whispers of his impending demise have circulated ever since.


But such is Jobs’ impact been on the worlds of business, technology and innovation, his loss, at the age of 56, is a blow to the legions of entrepreneurs who have, directly or indirectly, been aided by his vision.


As we pointed out when Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO in August, start-ups can glean a great deal from his focus on customers, talented staff and learning from failure.


Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum, says: “Steve Jobs was an iconic figure, and one whose impact on the technology industry and the world at large are hard to measure.”


“In just the last four years, he has reinvented the smartphone and the tablet computer, and previously he had also changed the music industry dramatically with the introduction of the iPod and iTunes.”


“His death will be felt deeply at Apple, the company he founded and recently led for 14 years, but also throughout the industry.”


Plenty of other pundits will have their say in the coming days. But what about the man himself? We’ve pulled together 20 of his most insightful quotes on life, death and everything in-between.



On technology

“It takes these very simple-minded instructions – ‘Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it’s greater than this other number’ – but executes them at a rate of, let’s say, 1,000,000 per second. At 1,000,000 per second, the results appear to be magic.”


Playboy, 1985.


“I think it’s brought the world a lot closer together, and will continue to do that. There are downsides to everything; there are unintended consequences to everything.”


“The most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen is called television — but then, again, television, at its best, is magnificent.”


Rolling Stone, 2003.


“Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything… One is very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career. Apple’s been very fortunate it’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world.”


Announcement of the iPhone, 2007.



“We think when people look back some number of years from now, they’ll see this as a major event in personal computation devices. What’s been really great for me is how quickly people have got it.”


“You know, I’ve gotten a few thousand emails from people I’ve never talked to before just telling me how much they think this product is going to change their lives and what they do. People are getting it very quickly.”


Apple event for iPhone 4.0 software, 2010.


On innovation

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.”


“The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it.”


“It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.”


“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”


“That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.


“Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences.”


“So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”


Wired, 1996.


“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”


Fortune, 2000.



On money

“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.”


The Wall Street Journal, 1993.


“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D.”


“It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”


Fortune, 1998.

On entrepreneurship

“The problem with the internet start-up craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it.”


“That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations.”


“That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are.”


“So when these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they’re gypping 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 newfound wealth in perspective.”


Fortune, 2000.



"My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects.”


“And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be."

CNN, 2008.


“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.”


BusinessWeek, 1998.



On customers

“I get asked a lot why Apple’s customers are so loyal. It’s not because they belong to the Church of Mac! That’s ridiculous.”


“It’s because when you buy our products, and three months later you get stuck on something, you quickly figure out [how to get past it].”


“And you think, ‘Wow, someone over there at Apple actually thought of this!’ There’s almost no product in the world that you have that experience with, but you have it with a Mac.”


“And you have it with an iPod.”


Bloomberg Businessweek, 2004.


"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."


BusinessWeek, 1998.


On rivals

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.”


“I am saddened, not by Microsoft’s success — I have no problem with their success.”


“They’ve earned their success, for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third-rate products.”


Triumph of the Nerds, 1996.


“Apple’s the only company left in this industry that designs the whole widget.”


“Hardware, software, developer relations, marketing. It turns out that that, in my opinion, is Apple’s greatest strategic advantage. We didn’t have a plan, so it looked like this was a tremendous deficit.”


“But with a plan, it’s Apple’s core strategic advantage, if you believe that there’s still room for innovation in this industry, which I do, because Apple can innovate faster than anyone else.”


Time, 1999.


“I wish him the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”


On Bill Gates, The New York Times, 1997.


On life

“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. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”


Stanford commencement speech, 2005.



On his legacy

“If Apple becomes a place where computers are a commodity item, where the romance is gone, and where people forget that computers are the most incredible invention that an has ever invented, I’ll feel I have lost Apple.”


“But if I’m a million miles away, and all those people still feel those things… then I will feel that my genes are still there.”


Newsweek, 1985.



On the end

“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. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away.”


“Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true."


“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.”


Stanford commencement speech, 2005.


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