Steve Job’s Impossible Achievement

Steve Jobs and his most incredible, impossible 'Achievement'. The moment I ask you to think of his biggest, most incredible achievement then what do you think of?

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I hope you had a great week and are excited and ready for another incredible story. I have been loving the responses I am getting from you all. It keeps me pushing to find stories that make a real difference in our view of the ‘Impossible’. If you have anything constructive to share, don’t hold back. 

Today, we will speak about Steve Jobs and his most incredible, impossible ‘Achievement’ and also about an Impossible Project which I am contemplating on and you can potentially be part of (for free). More on that at the end. Right now, let’s get to the story of the day.

The moment I ask you to think of Steve’s biggest, most incredible achievement then what do you think of?

Is it starting Apple from from basement of a Garage?

Or is it when he launched the iMac or MacBook Air?

or is it that point when he pulled out the iPod from his pocket?

or Is it the moment he showed the iPhone on the giant screen?

Yes, most of them are out-of-the-world, industry-defining creations and on another day, they can be the centre of our discussion of why they were ‘Impossible’ creations.

But, not today!

Why? Well, because Steve jobs did something even more incredible which almost no other founder had done until then. And, in fact, without this Impossible Achievement, none of the amazing products above would have become a reality.

Yes! it’s that important. So, let’s explore that!

Part 1: The Unexpected Ouster

Now, let’s start at the beginning. In 1976, Steve and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computer in a garage and within 4 years they took the company public. In 1983, Steve hired PepsiCo’s John Sculley as the CEO to run the day-to-day affairs. Apple launched the Macintosh in 1984, a groundbreaking computer, but it didn’t make the expected dent in the market. 

A year goes by and Apple reports its first quarterly loss and lays off 20% of its employees. Within months, Steve and the CEO, John at odds with each other on the direction and focus of the company. The board of directors sided with Sculley and Steve gets ousted from the company he passionately built. It’s a devastating blow, both personally and professionally.

A MidJourney generated Image of Steve leaving Apple

“It was like somebody punching you in the stomach, and it knocks the wind out of you and you can’t breathe.”  said Steve in an interview after his exit from Apple.

Part 2: The Impossible Return

Steve was down but not out. In 1986, he started a new company called NeXT to create more powerful computers. In 1988, NeXT released a superior computer but it was late to market and it was expensive too. Without many takers, his founding team deserts him, and he lets go of 200 of his staff from NeXT.
Meanwhile, Apple struggled to find its footing without Steve’s visionary leadership. CEOs change, and the company try different things, but nothing works. The company’s stock plummets and brings it to the brink of collapse.

In 1997, Apple, in need of a good operating system, shockingly acquired NeXT for $429 million. No one at Apple or NeXT expected this to happen. However, with this, Steve Jobs comes back to Apple as an Advisor to the CEO, Gil Amelio. And, within months, the incumbent CEO was out and extraordinarily, Steve was back as the Interim CEO of Apple marking the beginning of Apple’s incredible rise. 

It is extremely rare for a company to throw out their founder. However, it is even extraordinary for the same company (and that too a public limited company with several stakeholders) to bring back the founder as the CEO again. Steve did not think this would happen, but thanks to two unsung backers (more on them in a bit), the second union of Steve and Apple became possible. And, when the opportunity was presented, after resisting initially, Steve realised that he had to take it.

“I can’t join Apple. I’m the CEO of Pixar. We have all these wonderful employees. We have these shareholders. I can’t desert them. So I can’t do this. I’ll help you any way I can, but I can’t.”  said Steve to a board member who wanted him back as the CEO.

Without this near-impossible return of Steve to Apple, every amazing product that was produced from there on would not have become possible. The iMacs, the iPods and the iPhones would never have become a reality.

Don’t you think?

A MidJourney Generated Image of Steve’s Second Coming to Apple

Part 3: The 3 Incredible Lessons

So, Steve accomplished feats that transcend conventional imagination, perpetually inspiring people worldwide. His remarkable journey imparts invaluable lessons, and here are my top selections learned from Steve Jobs’ journey.

1. Growth is invisible and non-linear: Our today’s struggle may not make sense; we may feel stuck or even moving backwards. However, Steve’s story and his advice (on connecting the dots) remind us that every blocking hurdle is teaching something. And, if we are not moving forward despite our best efforts, it just means that there is something more for us to learn. All we need to do is to seek help.

2. One Person Can Change Your Life (or Maybe Two): While we hero-worship Steve and his incredible contribution to the world, he needed 2 heroes to achieve the impossible comeback. The first person is probably Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle who did his bit to orchestrate a boardroom coup to throw out the CEO, Gil and get Steve back in his place. For this to happen, we needed the second hero – a nameless employee at NeXT who, suo moto, initiated the conversation with Apple for the deal to acquire NeXT. Take these two people out of the equation, Apple’s and Steve’s history would have been a lot different today.

3. Don’t Seek All the Answers ‘Now’: Steve knew that Apple needed a better CEO, but he thought it could not be him as he was already the CEO of Pixar. However, Steve agreed to take on the interim CEO’s role for 90 days because of his love for Apple. The 90 days of experience as the Interim CEO gave him the clarity and the motivation to go full-time. So, like him, you may not get the answers to some tough questions right now. If possible, kick the can down the road with partial commitments and let the journey unlock the wisdom and the answers.

If you love to read more about Steve and his story, here is an amazing resource. It has rare photos, transcripts of his emails, what he said about different events at different points in time and so much more. So, yes, If you are a fan of Steve or Apple, you will love it.

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