Welcome to the John Up Dots Timeline Looking At
Steve Jobs, CO-Founder of Apple
This is Part Two Of The Steve Jobs Story, You Can Find Part Three Here
When we dissect the Steve Jobs biography, the journey towards success seemed almost an easy path to take.
Steve Jobs had found all the skills to become a supremely talented businessman placed in front of him, to pick up and consume at will, like one would pick an apple and take a bite.
As we had already discovered in Part One of the Join Up Dots take on the Steve Jobs story, he was born at the right time, the right place, with the right interests, and the rest as they say is history.
He co-founded Apple Computer when he was 21, and by the time he hit 23 was a millionaire.
In just two years, Steve Jobs had become a wildly successful, fabulously wealthy global celebrity.
Not bad for a man who just a few years before, had travelled the continent of India, unsure of his path in life, seeking spiritual enlightenment, whilst seeking as many mind altering drugs as he could get his hands on.
And then, at 30, Jobs had the kind of humiliating defeat that for so many would signal game over, he was made to leave the company that he had helped create.
He was in the most harshest of environments hung out to dry in the newspapers, and reports across the world.
Total humiliation was forced on a man who had became legendary, and it seemed could do no wrong.
But why persist to put yourself out there, and face the world’s media and consumers head on, if in all sense and purpose you had already made it, and could quite easily live the dream.
But Steve Jobs, was a man unable to seek an easy version of his future and as Alan Deutschman, author of “Change or Die, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs. tells
“Steve Jobs persisted, he had this incredible tenacity. He held on and came back with triumph after triumph, driving the company to new heights, creating the greatest corporate success of our time. It’s a unique story.”
So how did it occur?
How did everything that Steve Jobs had worked so hard to build, be taken away from him?
And looking back was this the key to his later success, or just another obstacle to climb over as he followed his passions and interests within the computer world.
Well we need to step back a few years in time, when this fledgling company was tittering on financial collapse to gain a clear understanding of the path that Steve Jobs was unknowingly about to undertake.
As amazing as it seems now Apple Computer was a home enterprise, and a bootstrapped company that was prone to the same issues that all new home start ups endure.
Cashflow is the killer of so many dreams, and to raise the money they needed to get the Apple II off the ground, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak knew that they needed to bring in investors.
Interested outside parties who had the kind of financial clout they needed to see their visions begin to prosper.
Finding these people in a myriad of locations, their much needed investments stabilised the company, and allowed the continued development of the Apple II, which just a few months previously had been in question.
However as the two Steve’s discovered during this period, most of the investors were not too keen to see their money handed over to the two computer whizzkids without some semblance of control on their part.
Why would you simply hand over the money for others to use as they see fit, if you also had business experience, and a background of success in the financial and industrial markets of the world, to help direct the returns from those investments?
Why wouldn’t you seek a place within the company to really keep things moving in your direction?
And that is what occurred, with many of the investors claiming themselves a place on the board.
And this is fascinating part to the Steve Jobs biography, to which you can clearly see the first division of the dreamer and activator Steve Jobs, and the board of Apple.
Moneymen, believed the way to grow a company was to protect the bottom line, and to hell with the vision of consumer perfection that so intoxicated the budding entrepreneur.
Make the products, shift the products and move on.
Whilst Steve Jobs wanted to change the world and create a legacy.
The skills that Jobs would display in such astonishing fashion upon his return to Apple years later were sorely missing at this time, and the board were of the opinion that Steve Jobs was brilliant, but quite simply too young and temperamental to run the company.
He had not yet learned how to balance the desire and (occasional) ability to create insanely great products with the need to also ship them — preferably on time and on budget. The lack of this skill doomed not just Steve’s tenure as the head of Apple’s Mac division, but also one of his subsequent projects, NeXT.
And also as most young men are, he was headstrong, full of his own importance, and of the belief that his products were the key to the success of everything.
It was his god driven right to bring his ideals and visions to the world, which would be the saviour of the company.
Which in all honesty was probably right, but there is a way to go about bringing this desire for perfection to the world, which Steve Jobs had not mastered.
He was petulant, abrasive, and likely to steamroller the weaker members of his teams, even though he loved nothing more than people standing up to him. Even presenting awards to the one who showed this brave trait each year.
He would argue, shout, demand and put the most amazing pressure on his teams, with very few thriving, and many falling by the wayside.
In a fascinating interview many years later Steve Jobs reminisces about an old man who lived down the street when he was a young boy. The man showed him a rock tumbler, and he and Jobs went out and got a handful of plain old rocks, then put them into the can with liquid and grit powder. They closed up the rock tumbler, turned it on, and then the man told Jobs to “come back tomorrow.”
The next day, the man opened the can and inside were these “amazingly beautiful polished rocks. The same common stones that had gone in through rubbing against each other like this (clapping his hands), creating a little bit of friction, creating a little bit of noise, had come out these beautiful polished rocks.”
Jobs goes on to say how that is a “metaphor for a team that is working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s that through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these beautiful stones.”
People can only find their greatest strengths, and polish their inherent talents by being tested and challenged constantly. By being placed into the Steve Jobs tumbler they ultimately would find what they are capable of. Providing Steve Jobs and Apple with the kind of groundbreaking products that the world cannot get enough off.
So realising, that at that moment Steve Jobs was not the man the board wanted to run the company, Jobs himself set out to find someone that could demonstrate the skills, characteristics and behaviours that he would want in place of him.
And he found that very man, in 1983, when he recruited Pepsi executive John Sculley to run Apple, famously asking him “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”
John Sculley was inspired by these words and accepted this position. Not realising that less than three years later, he would also be changing Steve Jobs life too.
Things did not seem doomed for collision when the relationship was first formed, as both considered the other a close friend. Being on the same wavelength, it was a common occurrence for one to finish the sentences of the other.
They thrived in each other’s company and were seen to many as a dynamic duo that contributed greatly to the amazing press that the company was receiving across the world at that time.
They complemented each other personally, but professionally were very different.
They had their own responsibilities and demands on their time and energies that neither could possibly understand.
Within the walls of Apple there was no getting away from the fact that things were turning for the worse.
Jobs was Apple’s chief visionary, a role that put him in charge of the team developing Apple’s next revolutionary product, the Macintosh computer.
John Scully on the other hand, was interested in appeasing the views of the concerned board members who saw Jobs as a loose cannon, and ensuring that the vision of Jobs did not ultimately become the death warrant of Apple.
The Mac debuted in 1984 to rave reviews but disappointing sales, putting a financial strain on the company -– and fraying Jobs’ relationship with Sculley.
Jobs basically had created his own team to create his own product, the Macintosh. His team actually having its own building. He even flew the pirate flag there.
As he often would say, ‘It is better to be a pirate, than to be in the navy.’
What Steve Jobs had done was ultimately created a company-within-a-company, that became pitted against other parts of the company that actually made money. The cracks were growing wider and wider by the day.
The downfall came soon, when buoyed by Steve Jobs largely overestimated expectations of the Macintosh sales, they found that their euphoria about the revolutionary Mac, which they thought they would ship 80,000 units by the end of 1984, and had produced anything but euphoria.
They had built, developed and stored 80,000 computers ready for the rush, but encountered a return just a quarter of what was expected.
And not only was the figure disappointing, but so was the performance of the Macintosh, that Steve Jobs had deemed as perfection in the making.
In fact with its 128 KByte RAM it was not simply not powerful enough, and there were hardly any software applications available yet.
During the annual board meeting in 1985, it became clear that the work that Steve Jobs deemed as important was not as important to what truly mattered: the financial bottom line.
Compared to the continued sales of the Apple II, Steve Jobs new masterpiece only accounted for 30% of the sales of Apple. It was a dead duck, and to many simply not worth pursuing with.
Steve Jobs became more and more angry and aggressive because of the continuing drop in Macintosh sales, and made sure that he blamed everyone for its failure, other than himself.
So blinkered was he to the world he had created, that he couldn’t see what everyone else would consider to be obvious. The failure was not with the product, but was with Steve Jobs belief in the product. The problem was with him.
In the end, he blamed even Sculley for the crisis and wanted to lead the company himself. But this seemed impossible to everyone else: “Steve was a big thinker, an inspirational motivator, but not a day-to-day manager. What was sad was that he could not see it.”
When Sculley was informed that Jobs intended to remove him from the company, he was quite concerned, but then decided to choose the company’s welfare over his friendship to its visionary co-founder.
Supported by Markkula and the other members of the board, in May 1985, he dismissed Steve from his positions as the vice-president and as the leader of the Macintosh division; Jobs did not have any managerial power anymore.
The record books make it clear that Steve Jobs wasn’t sacked, but was demoted. But such was his ego, and love for his creation that is a mute point.
Steve Jobs could no longer be seen as someone that could make the company fly high. His wings had been severely clipped, and now like the Macintosh was a dead duck. Perhaps not dead, but a shadow of what he had been previously.
Jobs, took awhile to decide on his next move, and by and large spent much of 1985 travelling around Europe and the Soviet Union under the orders of Sculley promoting the Apple II.
It was during these endless journeys that Steve Jobs lost interest in what he was doing. He lost interest in the company that he had co-founded. He was depressed and lost.
The charismatic young man from just a few month previously forgotten. He stopped coming to work and resigned from Apple.
Jobs said during the speech at Stanford in 1985 that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that ever happened to him. “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; I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple,” Jobs said. “It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.”
And so started the third part of the Steve Jobs biography. The ability for him to assess, refocus, play, and learn from his weaknesses.
It was during this period when Steve Jobs, as we see everyday on the Join Up Dots interviews, came back stronger than ever. The darkest periods of his life, showed him the light that would lead him to blaze even more brightly than he had thought possible.
He would change from the petulant, abrasive, visionary, to as John Sculley himself says “The Greatest CEO the world has ever known”
But how did he do this?
How did Steve Jobs pull himself from the dark despair that hung all around him, and start to fight back? A despair so intense that some of his close friends were worried for his safety, and considered his moods suicidal in their depth.
Once again, as we need to do time and time again with this tale, we need to step back a few months to review the version of Steve Jobs who hadn’t yet decided on his next move.
The Steve Jobs that was still struggling to come to terms with his demotion from Apple, but not yet brave enough to walk away.
The telling part of the story, is the period when Steve Jobs began failing to turn up for work, and started looking around him.
Freed in many ways from the constraints of his responsibilities, he had time to think.
“Apple was founded when Steve was just 21 years old. So he never really had time to think about big picture, life issues. He obsessed on the same questions over and over: “What went wrong with Apple. What did I do wrong?”
It was an important question to ask, and within its few words would hold the answer to his true world changing legacy, ready to be unleashed on the world twelve years later.
After Jobs returned from the Apple II tour, he met with The Graphics Group, a team of 3D computer graphics technicians gathered by Star Wars director George Lucas.
Steve Jobs began to believe that the high-end 3D graphics business was going to be huge. “These guys were way ahead of anybody,” he said. “I just knew in my bones that this was going to be very important.”
He suggested to the Apple board that it consider buying the company — later called Pixar — from LucasFilm. But the board wasn’t paying attention to Steve anymore, and less than graciously decided to pass on the deal.
Jobs then floated. He spent more time with his daughter Lisa. He gardened. He mused about running for public office. He applied to fly on the Space Shuttle as a civilian, but that didn’t work out.
He went to Europe on business, but made time for museums. He spent a lot of time by himself, or with his girlfriend.
In Europe Steve Jobs met with heads of state, university presidents, artists. He’d been humbled in California, but was having his ego stroked in Europe, where he was still thought of as a “revolutionary business figure.”
Although none of these conversations, and museum visits were on their own important, they were in fact a series of dots, leading to the big dot.
The one that would create the inspiration within him, to go again.
Ready to return to the U.S. hungry for the next big thing.
He began meeting with scientists, who were telling him that they needed a personal computer with enough power for real research and modeling — “a radically new high-end computer ‘workstation.’”
Although far way from the Jobs family garage, where Apple was born, the same passion and ability for creative thinking was ready to ignite again.
Steve Jobs was on the march, and went straight into the boardroom of Apple, to declare that he was leaving start a new company, and would also be taking some low-level Apple employees with him.
And what came next, was NeXT.
This is Part Two Of The Steve Jobs Story, You Can Find Part One Here