Both Steve Jobs and Apple have been in the new a lot lately. Steve famously died a little over a year ago, on October 5th, 2011. I say famously, because, by all accounts, it should not have happened to someone who was only 56 years old and with so much to live for. That he died in his prime seems to support the old adage that life isn’t fair. And it isn’t.
Over a year ago he died, and it seems like he is still here. This of course is due to the fact that Apple, the company he co-founded with the Woz, Steve Wozniak, owns the global iPhone market, not to mention its ownership of iTunes and founding of Pixar. This trifecta makes Jobs unusual by any standard. But he was also a free spirit who for most of his life made his own way by dint of his determination and vision.
Apple, of course, continues to keep Jobs’ name in the news. Apple is in the unique position of having more than a half trillion dollars in capital and a 100 billion dollars in cash reserves. If Apple were a country, its revenues would top countries like Sweden, Poland and Saudi Arabia. Not bad, but what is next?
Tim Cook, the man who replaced Jobs, is on TV the other day, being interviewed by Brian Williams. Tough act to follow. What did W.C. Fields say? Something like, “the Marx Brothers were the only act he couldn’t follow on the live stage.” If you saw Steven Spielberg movie, Lincoln, then you realize how Andrew Johnson must have felt trying to fill Abe’s size 13 shoes. Tim Cook is at the top of Mt. Kilamanjaro and there is really no place to go but down.
Well maybe, Steve Jobs would certainly see another mountain to climb and he would be off at a trot or a sprint.
So what are Tim Cook and Apple to do?
Tim cook didn’t show his cards. Steve Jobs would have liked that. But what he did say spoke volumes about the man Steve Jobs and the way he looked at the world. First, he said that Apple was in the process of bringing the idea of manufacturing back to America. Labor costs were not the issue in deciding to manufacture in China, it was the ability to organize labor and management to produce goods that America had lost. And to get it back America is going to have to relearn how to make things. Good point.
The second thing he said was that the best advice he got from Steve Jobs before his death was, “Never second guess yourself.”
That, friends, is sound advice. And if you are going to be number one in anything in life, then you better follow that advice. Simply said, but what does it mean? Four words that defy comprehension in most settings.
Here, I have to stop for a second. What follows is advice only for the innovators like Steve Jobs who have the confidence in themselves and their ideas to be successful You know who I am talking about and if you don’t then I wouldn’t bother reading on. These individuals include Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, and Michal Jordan. Go figure.
Not second guessing yourself doesn’t mean “full steam ahead hell or high water.” It simply means letting others think that you are right and they are wrong. Success in life is mostly a matter of confidence. And Bill Gates would agree that there were other operating systems out there that could have become the Microsoft, but for Bill’s vision and Paul Allen’s ideas.
Leaders lead, Steve might say. They come up with an idea and they make it happen. Those who finish second get to sit on the sideline and watch. The world moves on. Only those with vision and determination continue to dominate the market. And in the world of technology the half life of a new product is six months.
Look at Microsoft, which once was as dominate as Apple.
Look at Yahoo, which once owned the search business.
I am still wondering what Tim Cook and Apple are going to do next. I don’t know, but I do know that it has to be something. And that something has to capture the imagination of tomorrow’s consumer. It has got to be cool.