Learning from Steve Jobs

I have tried to avoid commenting on Steve Jobs and his death – lots has been written by people far more knowledgable than me. I have rad a number of things though – this one by John Johnson I only read this week, but it is one of the best and most stimulating. Originally it was published here,

10 Things I Learned from Steve Jobs

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Wired Magazine (via Flickr)

Reading Isaacson’s Steve Jobs has been a pretty amazing experience. I just finished last night. And, like Gordon MacDonald, who recently wrote a piece on Jobs, I regretted getting to the last page.  He has to be one of the most unique men who has ever lived.  Maybe history will place him in the pantheon next to Edison and Ford, for he truly built the world’s most creative company, Apple.  He launched a series of products that transformed whole industries:

  • Apple II
  • Macintosh
  • Toy Story
  • Apple Stores
  • iPod
  • iTunes Store
  • iPhone
  • App Store
  • iPad
  • iCloud

So here are some takeaways from his life:

1Be as meticulous with the unseen as you are with the seen.

Jobs grew up as an adopted child, and lived in a working class home.  His father loved to work with his hands, and work in his garage.  He was meticulous with detail.  He taught his son to craft the backs of things like cabinets and fences, even though they are hidden.  The important lesson he learned was to do things right, to care about the parts you cannot see.  It led him to despise carelessness in a product. He applied this to everything he created at Apple.

2. Never underestimate the formative influence you can have with a middle schooler.

This part of the story scared me, as I think about the words I say as a pastor. Jobs attended a Lutheran church as child, but it came to an end when he was thirteen.  He confronted his pastor with a question regarding human suffering and the sovereignty of God, and the pastor’s answer led him to reject Christianity.  He went on to practice the tenets of Zen Buddhism, mixed with meditation and spirituality, acid and rock.  He followed the basic precepts of Eastern religions.  Until his final days, he never had any real assurance about the things of God. He concluded that different religions have different doors to the same house, and maybe the house exists and maybe it doesn’t.

3. A fly in the ointment can spoil the perfume.

Jobs had an amazing, creative mind.  He was a genius.  He could absorb information and sniff the future winds.  He inspired and challenged the very best from people, and attracted the very best minds in the world. He won people to a cause, and it moved CEO’s from major corporations (like Sculley of  Pepsico-“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”).  He attracted the brightest and bests artists and engineers. He could be charming, charismatic, and even mesmerizing. But he could also be manipulative, brutally cold, and rude.  There was no regulator between his mind and his mouth.  He created unnecessary fears because of his spontaneous temper tantrums and his proclivity to tell people exactly what he thought. Ultimately, his profane and nasty edge hindered more than helped him.

4There is great power in intensity and focus.

Isaacson, after all of his research and interviews came to the conclusion that Jobs’ most salient trait was his intensity.  He set priorities and aimed his laser attention on them.  He could filter out all distractions. Jobs believed that deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.   Because Jobs brought intensity into everything he did, it created its own tension. He was tightly coiled and impatient.  His silences could be as searing as his rants. He either praised you or cursed you.  It was either a great product or it was crap. Whatever he was interested in, he almost always took to an irrational extreme.  But this is a huge part of what made his accomplishments great.  One is left wondering if one can truly achieve at a level of greatness without this.

5. Intuition is every bit as important as intellect.

Jobs learned the value of intuition in his journeys to India.  He came to intuitively know when someone was faking it or truly knew something, and that gained him a great advantage in dealing with people.

The designs of his products also reflected this.  Jobs saw simplicity as the ultimate sophistication.  He wanted to make things intuitively obvious and simple.  It’s why everything I have purchased from Apple has no instructions.  But behind this simplicity is a ton of engineering and design, digging through the depth of complexity. “To be truly simple, you have to go really deep.”

6. It’s not a sin to steal great ideas.

Jobs liked to quote from Picasso—‘good artists steal’, and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.  Most everything I have done in ministry is a reflection of things I have taken from people like Peterson, Collins, Hybels, Crabb, McKnight, Taylor, etc., and I suspect that is true for most of us

7. Ideas mean little without execution.

Ideas, by their very nature, have a high mortality rate.  It takes huge discipline to save the life of ideas and see them become reality.  Jobs was committed to challenging his teams to innovate, create, and then condense the very best ideas down to two or three, and then give everything to fleshing them out.

8. Having high expectations and demands can lead to greatness.

As already noted, Jobs could be both demoralizing and inspiring. He had zero tolerance for under performance. For every person who could not handle Jobs’ withering words, there were others who were not crushed and burned out, and became stronger.  He pressed people beyond their limits, and many rose to the occasion and thrived and did things they never dreamed possible.  He motivated by looking at the bigger picture. He instilled in his team an esprit de corps. He tapped into the human need—not to make lots of money—but to do the greatest thing possible in their field. And those who bought in—who were A+ players came to the same place of not tolerating B level work.

9. Never stop growing.

Jobs saw many who entered their forties and started developing  rigid patterns–stopped being innovative.  He determined to never get stuck in patterns, like grooves in a record, in which one never gets out. He was inspired by artists like Dylan that the best artists and engineers (and pastors) keep evolving, moving, and refining their art. “If you’re not busy being born, you’re dying.”  So Jobs kept making bold moves, all the way to the end. Like Henry Ford, he refused to give customers what they wanted.  As he put it, “Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.” Or as Ford once said, “If I asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse.’”  He kept his eye out into the future, asking himself where the next generation was headed.

10. Greatness has its limits.

Jobs craved control. He could manipulate and stare down people, charm and seduce at will.  He believed the rules didn’t apply to him—that he could even distort reality and will things into existence. But Jobs failed to realize, intuit, that he couldn’t.  That some things are beyond his control, like cancer and death, and how one chooses to spend eternity.

The blog of Shyju Mathew

I have written a few blog posts for a friend of mine, Shyju Mathew. He is a young Indian evangelist who lives in Bangalore and has an extensive travelling ministry both in India and internationally. He is a great guy who loves the Lord with all his heart, he is Pentecostal in theology and practice – I love working with him and supporting his ministry. The current series on his blog is designed to provide foundational teaching for people who become Christians at his crusades, he hopes to publish the teaching as an ebook and also in booklet form to give to new converts. His blog is located here, incidentally my next post appears on March 8th (I think) – it is well worth subscribing to.

What did I miss?

In my daily reading and meditation I am still in Matthew’s gospel. Today in chapter 26 I read this:

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

A lot has been said by far wiser people than me about this passage. We see that Jesus commended her (Mary as revealed in John 12:3) for her abandonment in giving to him, she did not ask anything of or from Jesus, she simply gave with joyful abandonment, surely this was an act of radical worship. I was bothered as much preaching I hear today is about how to get blessed by God – health, wealth, prosperity. I like being blessed by God, I want to be blessed by God.

So my thought was this: When I ask God to bless me what do I mean, what am I really asking for?

A man that God can use

I read this post from Ray Ortlund on the subject of ‘what kind of men does God use’ on the Gospel Coalition website – it is a good read.

Horatius Bonar, writing the preface to John Gillies’ Accounts of Revival regarding the leaders of the First Great Awakening, proposed that men useful to the Holy Spirit for revival stand out in these nine ways:

1.  They are in earnest: “They lived and labored and preached like men on whose lips the immortality of thousands hung.”

2.  They are bent on success: “As warriors, they set their hearts on victory and fought with the believing anticipation of triumph, under the guidance of such a Captain as their head.”

3.  They are men of faith: “They knew that in due season they should reap, if they fainted not.”

4.  They are men of labor: “Their lives are the annals of incessant, unwearied toil of body and soul; time, strength, substance, health, all they were and possessed they freely offered to the Lord, keeping back nothing, grudging nothing.”

5.  They are men of patience: “Day after day they pursued what, to the eye of the world, appeared a thankless and fruitless round of toil.”

6.  They are men of boldness: “Timidity shuts many a door of usefulness and loses many a precious opportunity; it wins no friends, while it strengthens every enemy.  Nothing is lost by boldness, nor gained by fear.”

7.  They are men of prayer: “They were much alone with God, replenishing their own souls out of the living fountain, that out of them might flow to their people rivers of living water.”

8.  They are men of strong doctrine: “Their preaching seems to have been of the most masculine and fearless kind, falling on the audience with tremendous power.  It was not vehement, it was not fierce, it was not noisy; it was far too solemn to be such; it was massive, weighty, cutting, piercing, sharper than a two-edged sword.”

9.  They are men of deep spirituality: “No frivolity, no flippancy . . . . The world could not point to them as being but slightly dissimilar from itself.”

Bubbling away

The college I work at has the NIV as its preferred Bible. (Personally I use the ESV, but all texts I quote in classes I teach I quote from the NIV for the students benefit). Anyhow after the publication of the latest NIV last year which included many gender inclusive revisions and which caused a great deal of fuss I though all comments has quieted down. Reading this I realise it is still bubbling away in the USA.

The trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources voted unanimously to continue selling 2011 New International Version (NIV) Bibles in its bookstores, despite a request from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for the publishing organization not to do so, Christianity Today reports. The SBC passed a resolution at its annual convention in June criticizing the new NIV version as an “inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture” because it removes male pronouns from passages where both genders are contextually implied, and asked LifeWay, which is owned and operated by the convention, not to sell the Bibles. However, LifeWay’s trustee executive committee ruled this month that the organization will continue to sell them. “From a retail perspective, we do not believe that we should cease carrying and make available to the public the 2011 NIV,” said committee chairman Adam Greenway. “We do not believe the 2011 NIV rises to the level where it should be pulled or censored or not carried in our retail chain.”

Being a child of God

I read this brilliant (although challenging) quote from JI Packer,

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means he does not understand Christianity very well at all.


No toilet

Having no toilet is common in the villages of India. For most Indian men I meet there is no embarrassment at all in urinating wherever and whenever you want, recently in the midst of a (practice) football match one player did it in the middle of the pitch as play went on around him. India, it seems, has few hang ups about this matter. So I was surprised to see this report of a woman who left her husband until he got a toilet – the full report is here. The BBC has more here on India’s struggle with sanitation. This is an important issue in modern India – the lack of sanitation leads to spread of the disease often caused by using the same water (stream, river etc.) for washing, drinking and toilet.