Love him or hate him, no one can ignore the incredible influence Steve Jobs has had on the technology, entertainment and creative industries, as well as on business leaders worldwide.
Here we revisit his approach to creativity, technology, work and life through his most memorable and inspiring quotes.
We’ve also added links to the “Think Different” Apple TV commercial and a video of Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address at Stanford University in 2005.
The list of quotes is long. So, pour a drink, sit back and take in some of the thinking that has made Apple what it is.
And, as Steve Jobs said, remember to “Stay hungry, stay foolish”…
The quotes — Steve Jobs on…
• Life, Dreams and Death
• Perseverance and Dealing with the Hard Times
• Creativity and Design
• Keeping It Simple
• Bill Gates and Microsoft
• Predicting the Future
• Leading Apple
• And One More Thing…
On Life, Dreams and Death
“I want to put a ding in the universe”
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
“You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down…”
Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
“Don’t be trapped by dogma”
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 other’s 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.
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me…”
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.
“And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it”
“Death is very likely the single best invention of life… It is life’s change agent”
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.
“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right”
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose”
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because 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.
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“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking”
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.
Playboy: Are you saying that the people who made PC jr don’t have that kind of pride in the product?
SJ: “If they did, they wouldn’t have made the PC jr.” Playboy Interview 1985
“We just want to make great products”
It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do. We just want to make great products.
“The products suck! There’s no sex in them anymore!”
“They’re not going to learn slash q-z any more than they’re going to learn Morse code”
The manual for WordStar, the most popular word-processing program, is 400 pages thick. To write a novel, you have to read a novel––one that reads like a mystery to most people. They’re not going to learn slash q-z any more than they’re going to learn Morse code. That is what Macintosh is all about. Playboy Interview 1985
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected“
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On Perseverance and Dealing with the Hard Times
“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith…”
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life… It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.
“A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets”
“We were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people”
We’ve had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place – the last thing we were going to do is lay them off.
“The problem… isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it”
The problem with the Internet startup 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.
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance”
“I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year…. It’s very character-building“
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On Creativity and Design
“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back”
When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.
“Some people think design means how it looks. But of course… it’s really how it works”
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.
“Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation”
In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.
“Creativity is just connecting things”
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.
“The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have”
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.
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups… people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”
For something this complicated, 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.
“We didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves”
We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.
“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them”
“Processes… that’s not what it’s about”
The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient.
“This is not just engineering and science. There is art too”
“Click. Boom. Amazing!“
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On Keeping It Simple
“Simple can be harder than complex”
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.
“If you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions”
Look at the design of a lot of consumer products — they’re really complicated surfaces. We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.
“Focus means saying… no to the hundred other good ideas that there are”
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.
“It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important”
And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.
“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do“
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“It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it”
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.
“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate”
The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament. 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.
“Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea”
But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower“
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On Bill Gates and Microsoft
“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”
“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”
“Unfortunately, people are not rebelling against Microsoft. They don’t know any better”
“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste”
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.
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On Predicting the Future
“We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people”
The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people––as remarkable as the telephone. Playboy Interview, 1985
“Eventually, Microsoft will crumble because of complacency”
It’s like when IBM drove a lot of innovation out of the computer industry before the microprocessor came along. Eventually, Microsoft will crumble because of complacency, and maybe some new things will grow. But until that happens, until there’s some fundamental technology shift, it’s just over. Wired, 1996
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On Leading Apple
“Are they going to fall in love with Apple?”
When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, “Are they going to fall in love with Apple?”. Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.
“My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better”
“My job is to create space”
The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay
“I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do“
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And One More Thing…
Not a Steve Jobs quote, but the words to the “Think Different” Apple commercial:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
The commercial is available to view here: Think Different
Also well worth viewing is Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address at Stanford University in 2005, available here: Steve Jobs Commencement Address
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