Stop comparing yourself with Steve Jobs

22 Sep 2010 | in Steve Jobs personality

The prestigious Harvard Business Review recently published an interesting article: Stop Comparing Yourself With Steve Jobs by Dan Pallotta. The main idea is that you should draw inspiration from the people you admire, but certainly not compare yourself with them. The reason the article uses Steve Jobs is explained in the first paragraph already:

Comparing yourself with Steve Jobs is not healthy. Never mind that it’s probably the pastime of every alpha male and female businessperson on the planet these days.

There are two reasons why the article caught my eye:

– one, some people who (sadly) don’t spend enough time on the website think that the section “Being Steve” refers to “how to emulate Steve Jobs”. Maybe the name is a bad choice — though I like it and don’t intend to change it, sorry folks. But if you spend a couple minutes on the website, you’ll see it’s a description of Steve’s personality, things that have to be dealt with on all about Steve Jobs but have nothing to do on the biography. So — no, it’s not a manual on how to “be like Steve”.

– second, and more importantly, during my current studies in business school, I do have often heard Steve Jobs quoted in many a class by my teachers as a great inspiration. This is quite ironic to me.
I have been a Mac user and Steve Jobs admirer for several years. And let me tell you that back in 2000, talking of Steve Jobs and Apple as models was odd to say the least. The prevalent idea was that Macs were expensive toys for losers and that it was a good thing Windows was ruling the world. I can’t imagine how it was back in the 1990s, when Steve was struggling with NeXT. At the time, he was a common example of what a manager must not be and a model never to follow. Read the biography Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing by Randall E. Stross and you’ll see what I mean.

The interesting thing about Steve is that he hasn’t changed much between the 1990s and today. His ideas and management style during his NeXT years are not all that different from his current ones. Yet at the time he was failing, and now he’s on top of the world. I think there are two reasons that explain this change: the world has caught up with his vision (the come-together of computers and consumer electronics, hence the succes of iPod and iPhone), and luck (with Pixar, which he never thought would be that successful, and made his return possible).

Conclusion: don’t believe what you read in business articles and books (especially if they start mentioning Steve Jobs ;)). There are no rules in how to be successful, have a good strategy, and so on.