It’s as applicable today as it was when Jobs said it nearly 25 years ago.
In a 1995 interview with Computerworld Information Technology Awards Foundation, as part of an oral history project, interviewer Daniel Morrow asked Steve Jobs this question: What are the factors for success for young people today? If you’re playing the role of elder statesman, what pitfalls should they avoid?
I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.
Ever met someone with such steady and unwavering commitment in pursuing a cause or course of action, you found that person’s tenacity utterly inspiring? Perhaps that’s you. If so, you and Steve Jobs have something in common.
In spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement from battling cancer, Jobs understood that perseverance comes in a package deal with purpose and a calling; it’s what keeps people going to the end. For Jobs early on, it consumed most of his day. He stated:
If you’ve got a family and you’re in the early days of a company, I can’t imagine how one could do it. I’m sure it’s been done, but it’s rough. It’s pretty much an 18-hour-day job, seven days a week for a while. Unless you have a lot of passion about this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up.
While we’ve learned to value more our personal and family priorities and our health and well-being since 1995, carving out your path to success still demands hard work and long hours.
But, as Jobs alluded, you can’t do it without passion. It is the engine that puts perseverance into overdrive to think up big ideas, solve big problems, and make the world a better place. Yes, passion is half the battle.
Perseverance is not a lone ranger
Jobs also knew he had to learn to leverage the power of perseverance in others to pursue the lofty, earlier Apple mission under his reign, which stated: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
I’ve read something that Bill Gates said about six months ago. He said, “I worked really, really hard in my 20s.” And I know what he means because I worked really, really hard in my 20s too. Literally, you know, 7 days a week, a lot of hours every day. And it actually is a wonderful thing to do, because you can get a lot done. But you can’t do it forever, and you don’t want to do it forever, and you have to come up with ways of figuring out what the most important things are and working with other people even more.
During his last years on earth, Jobs understood his place in the information age when he famously quipped:
It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.
It’s a great lesson still applicable for leaders today, whether you’re in a tech firm, a bank, or a hospital. That is, to intentionally get out of the way, to let your knowledge workers persevere and take care of their business in a non-micromanaged setting.
The fruits of a team persevering together to the end are as sweet as a peach in the middle of summer. When Jobs presented the Macintosh at the Apple shareholders’ meeting in 1984, he recalls everyone in the auditorium giving it a five-minute ovation. He later shared in an interview with Playboy magazine:
What was incredible to me was that I could see the Mac team in the first few rows. It was as though none of us could believe we’d actually finished it. Everyone started crying.
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