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7 Life-Changing Lessons Steve Jobs and Apple Taught Us

“Think Different!” – This duo-syllable statement has been an iconic slogan of Apple. Its co-founder and one of the greatest innovators of all times, Steve Jobs, ‘thought differently’ when arranging the bricks to build Apple from sand and dust.

And, this ‘think different’ approach helped Apple become a 2 trillion dollar company in 2020.

Just like Rome was not built in a day, Apple took years to reach this milestone, and its journey has been quite the roller coaster ride. However, one thing that remained constant about Apple is that it continued to hold the premium user market, single-handedly competing for the expansive Android market with its multiple players.

What made Apple the Apple it is today is a lesson that can guide all other entrepreneurs.

Without beating too much around the bush, let’s take the same roller coaster ride back in time when Apple was just a prototype in Steve Jobs’ mind.

When Apple was still a Distant Dream…

The ‘Apple’ didn’t just drop from a tree! Steve Jobs entered the market with blue box phone phreakers, which were used solely to make free calls across the nation. Of course, it was Steve Wozniak’s brainchild, but Steve Jobs, who was then just a seventeen-year-old High School Senior, had a lot to contribute to their ‘Eureka’ moment.

The business of selling blue box phone phreakers started from inside their dorm rooms, but it soon phased out.

For the duo-techies, these ‘illegal’ phreakers were a stepping stone. One thing led to another, and soon enough, they laid down the foundation for Apple I, a kit for building a PC.

Apple I fared well, but it was Apple II that attracted venture capitalists. Finally, their efforts and patience bore fruit, and Apple, as a company, was officially incorporated in 1976.

Two years later, Apple was churning out $2 million in profits.

The rest is history…

If we take a step back and focus only on the lessons the tech-duos taught us; you might as well want to dump your textbooks.

Afterall, Steve Jobs never learned his entrepreneurial rules from white pages and scrawled texts. But, he taught the world one very important lesson –

Lesson #1: “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”

When your marketing strategist says, “let’s ask our users,” you should be concerned!


This is because customers are not experts in designing a solution to their problem – no offense meant. If they do, there would have been a zillion startups in the market, one for every problem.

That’s exactly what Steve Jobs had suggested. He shunned away from the concept of focusing on group-type research entirely. Instead, he directed people to observe silently what customers are trying to do.

So, if you can find out two things –

  • What are customers trying to do with _________?

  • How are they trying to accomplish this outcome?

Maybe, your ‘Eureka’ idea might lie somewhere in between the answers to the above questions.

Lesson #2: “The device that can eat our lunch is the cell phone.”

True to his earlier statement, the immense success of Apple’s iPod in 2005 got Steve Jobs thinking again.

He witnessed one singular fact about iPods – the iPod owners had to carry two devices – a phone and the iPod. This very observation made him think that like digital cameras, which were forced to stay back in the cold storage after cell phones started shipping with built-in cameras, his iPods would meet the same fate sooner or later.

Post the unsuccessful attempt at synchronizing Motorola, Apple, and the wireless carrier Cingular into a singular prototype, the ROKR (ancestor of iPhone); Jobs focused on modifying the iPod itself.

After months spent on R&D, challenging their intellect, and negotiating with other players, the first iPhone was launched in 2007. It was one of the breakthrough innovations that recorded a spectacular sales figure by the end of 2010.

Yes! The first model of the iPhone was successful in reaching 90 million users.

Lesson #3: “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.”

This is probably one of the most pattern-interrupting quotes from Steve Jobs.

There’s so much truth hidden amidst those words – a lesson for all!

Let’s cite an example here – The advent of digital cameras pushed Kodak to bankruptcy.


This unfortunate incident occurred simply because Kodak failed to understand the change that was happening all around.

The market is volatile, and so is technology. But, change is always constant. Unfortunately, Kodak failed to disrupt its find due to lack of foresightedness and eventually struck the final nail to its coffin.

Steve Jobs did not want the same fate for the iPod. So what he did was to position Apple at the center of the next wave of technology.

The iPhone’s success ate the iPod’s market gradually, but it also pushed digital cameras out of the market.

Lesson#4: Focus on building something that you would want to use

This is exactly what Steve Jobs and his team focused on, which became a strong motivator for all.

After the massive failure of Plan A (the ROKR), Steve Jobs decided to build their phone – something that they would want to use. This motivator pushed the team to nudge their grey cells even further.

So, their Plan B was to build the framework themselves and ship the device to any wireless service provider that’s interested. They had their Plan C ready too!

Plan C was to purchase any willing wireless provider if a carrier turns them down.

The team went ahead with Plan C eventually when many carriers, including Verizon, turned Jobs down. He acquired AT&T as the wireless carrier partner.

Post the successful launch and sales of the iPhone, AT&T’s subscribers and revenues grew substantially.

This was the most regretful moment for carriers like Verizon.

Lesson#5: Steve Jobs’ “Bet-the-Company” Moments

This is probably one of the favorite tactics followed by Steve Jobs all through his life. All the major decisions that he took were taken in that ‘bet-the-company’ moment.

And, such a cross-section arrived for Jobs and his company in late 2004. Steve Jobs faced two alternatives to choose from –

  • “Enlarge the capabilities of an iPod into an iPhone.”

  • “Shrink the capabilities of a Mac into an iPhone.”

Instead of taking the decision himself, Jobs planned an internal competition between the iPod team led by Tony Fadell and the Mac team led by Scott Forestall.

After several iterations, brainstorming and demonstrating different prototypes, Steve Jobs was smitten by the immense possibilities of the Mac approach with a touchscreen.

He said, “We all know this is the one we want to do. So let’s make it work.”

Instead of following a simpler route of modifying the iPod into an iPhone, Steve and his team embarked on an uncertain path that might never work out for the company.

But, it was the leap of faith and ‘bet-the-company’ moment for Jobs that paved for a brighter future for Apple iPhones.

Lesson#6: “Simple can be harder than complex.”

‘Smart yet simple’ architectural approach of Joseph Eichler, truly connected with the hidden designer in Steve Jobs. His appreciation of the architecture’s approach was paramount in his statement, “It was the original vision for Apple. That’s what we tried to do with the first Mac. That’s what we did with the iPod.”

That’s the approach Jobs had when he designed the first Macintosh computer prototype. He wanted his users to move around their computer screen using the mouse and not rely solely on the standard arrow cursor keys of the keyboard.

Apple’s Macintosh 128K was designed primarily to change how consumers perceived computers back in those days. Job’s vision was to give them a more affordable, personal, and portable device instead.

The first version was launched in 1984, and since then, Mac has worn different shapes and sported different features. It became slicker but more advanced than its predecessor.

Like the iPod and iPhone, Mac’s products were simple in design but more complex and feature-laden than its competitors.

That’s innovation for Steve Jobs and his baby, Apple.

Lesson#7: “Be a yardstick of quality.”

This is one lesson that applies to us all, entrepreneurs and regular employees.

Steve Jobs loved what he did. This passion made him strive for perfection and excellence.

What if you are not passionate about what you do now?

You will never achieve excellence. You are likely to get lost in the ‘average crowd.’ Apple survived simply because Steve Jobs was not only passionate about building them, but also he challenged his innovation to reach the level of excellence he aspired for.

That’s the reason why Apple remained one of the most successful and highly innovative companies in the world. The rest just followed what Apple showed the world to do.

That’s how your business idea will unfurl beautifully into a profit-churning business.

True to what has been penned down earlier in the article, Apple and its godfather, Steve Jobs, had a lot to teach new entrepreneurs.

Still, their success will depend on how innovative their business ideas are.

So, Steve Jobs’ statement, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” should be your ‘Lesson Number 8’.

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