I bought a copy of FastCompany Magazine to read on a flight on the way home, and read a fascinating article about how Steve Job’s time away from Apple is what made him a much better leader to take it over later.
After being fired from the company he founded, Job’s initial motivation in creating his company, NeXT, was to get revenge on Apple by creating a computer targeting the education sector that Apple was famous for. In reality, NeXT was a flop as a business, although it would eventually be his ticket back to Apple.
I was fascinated by how the article told about how many mistakes Jobs made and how many things he did wrong. For example, he scoffed that the idea that people would pay to rent music by downloading it from the Internet. When NeXT computers turned out to be too expensive for the marketplace, he had to find other revenue opportunities. Some of his engineers invented WebObjects, which laid the foundation for the system iTunes used for selling music, videos and books.
Obviously a huge thing he did right was to buy what became Pixar from George Lucas. That is where he learned how to merge creativity, technology and business. But in the early days, Pixar was struggling to make it. In 1991 he fired most of the staff and decided to just focus on making full-length feature movies. “Let’s go for it,” he told the remaining employees. “It’s a higher risk strategy, but the rewards are going to be much higher, and that is where our hearts are.”
During this hiatus from Apple, Jobs settled down, had a family, and raised his kids. He grew up, matured and became much less selfish and more collaborative. Interestingly, seeing what makes a good movie through the eyes of his kids was a great advantage.
Jobs’ success at Pixar and selling NeXT to Apple lead him back to Apple on a temporary basis. His title was Interim Chief Executive Officer, or iCEO for short. Now you know where the i comes from in the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad. The guy must have had a dry sense of humor.
My lesson learned: if something happens to you that seems to be a disappointment or unfair, if you keep up your passion and pursuing your dreams, it might just be what will help you accomplish even more in the long run.
Source: “The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes,” FastCompany, May 2012 pp. 72-82