50 Quotes from the Genius Behind Apple

By Michael Cramton
October 05, 2011

It wasn't that long ago, about 20 years, in fact, that the personal computer was considered a glorified Etch A Sketch. People didn't know what it was or what to do with it.

They certainly couldn't imagine that it would evolve to be the size of a deck of cards, fit in your pocket and perform functions a million times faster than the smartest computers at the time. Or that everyone would want one.

But one person did. Steve Jobs was fascinated by computers from a young age, and the first time he encountered a rudimentary mouse-based system at the Xerox (NYSE: XRX) PARC facility in 1979, he knew the future of computing. And he wanted to be at the center of it.

It wasn't long after that his young start-up, Apple Computers, developed a machine that would revolutionize the computing world. Along the way he captured the hearts and imaginations of people everywhere -- developing products people didn't even know they needed -- and berating any employee who didn't meet his standard of excellence.

Today, Apple, Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) sets the standard for what a personal computer can be and do. As the genius behind Apple steps down, his replacement, Tim Cook, will have big shoes to fill.

There's a lot we can all learn from Steve Jobs -- from his '60s-style idealism to his '80s-style business savvy -- and to start with, here are 50 inspirational quotes from the mastermind of the personal computer.

1. "Older people sit down [at a computer] and ask, 'What is it?' But the child asks, 'What can I do with it?'"

2. "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."

3. "When I went to school, it was right after the '60s and before this general wave of practical purposefulness had set in... The idealistic wind of the '60s was still at our backs, though, and most of the people I know who are my age have that engrained in them forever."

4. "This revolution, the information revolution, is a revolution of free energy as well, but of another kind: free intellectual energy."

5. "[A computer] takes these very simple-minded instructions -- 'Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it's greater than this other number' -- but executes them at a rate of, let's say, one million per second. At one million per second, the results appear to be magic."

6. "The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We're just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people -- as remarkable as the telephone."

7. "But good PR educates people. That's all it is. You can't con people in this business. The products speak for themselves."

8. "The Web is not going to change the world, certainly not in the next 10 years. It's going to augment the world. And once you're in this Web-augmented space, you're going to see that democratization takes place."

9. "The people who built Silicon Valley were engineers. They learned business, they learned a lot of different things, but they had a real belief that humans, if they worked hard with other creative, smart people, could solve most of humankind's problems. I believe that very much."

10. "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough -- it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices."
 

11. "There's an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love: 'I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.' And we've always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very, very beginning. And we always will."

12. "We've had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren't going to lay off people, that we'd taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place -- the last thing we were going to do is lay them off."

13. "I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."

14. "A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets."

15. "The minute I dropped out (of college) I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting."

16. "I didn't see it then, but it turned out that 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, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. "

17. "Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on."

18. "I was lucky -- I found what I loved to do early in life."

19. "Woz (Steve Wozniak) and I started Apple in my parents' garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees."

20. "You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers."

21. "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."

22. "For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

23. "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

24. "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."

25. "Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking."

26. "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice."

27. "My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that's what I try to do."

28. "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."

29. "Apple's goal isn't to make money. Our goal is to design and develop and bring to market good products… We trust as a consequence of that, people will like them, and as another consequence, we'll make some money. But we're really clear about what our goals are."

30. "We did not enter the search business. [Google] entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won't let them."

31. "I thought deeply about this. I ended up concluding that the worst thing that could possibly happen as we get big and as we get a little more influence in the world is if we change our core values and start letting it slide, I can't do that. I'd rather quit."

32. "I want to put a ding in the universe."

33. "I've always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do."

34. "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works."

#-ad_banner_2-# 35. "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."

36. "Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?"

37. "Be a yardstick of quality, some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected."

38. "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."

39. "Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations."

40. "I'm the only person I know that's lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year.... It's very character-building."

41. "I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do."

42. "Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles."

43. "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

44. "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."

45. "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?"

46. "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."

47. "I was worth over $1 million when I was 23, and over $10 million when I was 24, and over $100 million when I was 25, and it wasn't that important because I never did it for the money."

48. "My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better."

49. "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."

50. "I mean, some people say, 'Oh, God, if [Steve Jobs] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble.' And, you know, I think it wouldn't be a party, but there are really capable people at Apple."