Steve Jobs is one of the most inspirational entrepreneurs of all time. A week after his birth on February 24, 1955, in San Francisco, California, his biological parents gave him up for adoption. His biological mother made his adoptive parents promise one thing: he would go to college. Jobs didn’t entirely fulfill this wish. While he attended college at Reed College for one semester, he felt this type of structured education wasn’t worth draining his hard-working parents’ savings. In his commencement speech for Stanford University, he said, “The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.” He took classes in calligraphy, dance, Shakespeare, all of which inspired his artistic vision for Apple.
That’s the thing about Steve Jobs. He wasn’t just a technology mogul, he was an artist dedicated to excellence. As a creative genius, he brought his grand vision to life through focus, resilience, perseverance, passion, drive, and tenacity. He’s a motivational leader because of who he was and what he represents: an entrepreneur with a big dream that when fulfilled, changed the world. His self-belief was unshakeable. It’s an admirable quality that gained him respect and influence.
Additionally, Steve Jobs spoke to the heart of those searching for belonging—those who also felt they were meant to achieve great things in life. Whether talking directly to customers through Apple’s ads or when building a team, he urged people to do so. When recruiting Pepsi’s former president John Sculley he asked him, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” He was the ultimate challenger of prompting people to make a real difference through their work.
For this, he became one of the most inspiring leaders of the 20th century. To get into the spirit of creativity, innovation, and passion, take a closer look at 25 of Steve Jobs’ most inspiring quotes for leaders and business owners.
Steve Jobs’ Best Quotes
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
“That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology—not the other way around.”
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.”
“It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do. We just want to make great products.”
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long.”
“I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed.”
“Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”
“Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
“Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
“If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”
“You should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.”
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me . . . Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful—that’s what matters to me.”
“If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.”
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”
Keep Chasing Your Passion
Steve Jobs is an example of an entrepreneur who pursued passion and purpose wholeheartedly. Yet, as a business owner, this journey isn’t an easy one. You’ve got to be willing to get back up and keep fighting for your passion in life. There was a time when Jobs’ legacy could’ve gone a very different way, but he chose to rise. In his Stanford commencement speech, he referenced his forced departure from Apple in 1985. “I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating . . . I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over . . . getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again,” he explains.
Jobs reminds us that even the most successful people in business can experience massive setbacks, but what defines a true leader is a resilience to keep pursuing their passion and purpose.
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