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Inspired by Steve Jobs

Everyone who had the good fortune to work at or around Apple has a “Steve Jobs Story.” After Steve resigned as Apple’s CEO on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 there was a flood of “Steve Jobs Stories.” Some really good ones; I encourage you to search and find them. At that time I wondered if his eulogy was already written in those days following his resignation.

His eulogy hadn’t been written–that reaction to his resignation was the tip of the iceberg. Even more stories with an outpouring of support, grief, love and admiration poured out online and in the mainstream news as we all learned of Steve passing on Wednesday, October 5th. Personally, I got choked up explaining to my children what he meant to me personally and to us as region, country and world. More than anything, he is and will probably always be the closest human representation of what I preach to them daily: The Power of an Idea. Carl Jung liked to quote the Chinese Master saying “a man thinking rightly alone in a room can be heard thousands of miles away.” Steve Jobs made those thoughts reality to our greater benefit.

Here’s one “Steve Jobs Story” I’ve paraphrased and likely mangled in translation that came to me from a friend. I found it inspiring and a little insightful:

My friend was going to present internal communications programs to Steve Jobs—you know, the kind of stuff you see by the elevators and in the cafeteria for large corporate campuses. He previously had success with an employee referral program that was well received, captured the culture and delivered the message. And, of course, it was beautiful. The VP, concerned they needed to convey scope in their preparation and thinking, asked for 10 different campaigns in addition to the one in place. You know the drill: panic, long-hours, ideation, preparation. Then the big day. As nearly a dozen full-designed campaigns circled the room, Steve Jobs entered the room in classic black mock tee and jeans with blown-out knees. He had a friend in tow. Without missing a beat with a dismissive sweeping arm gesture Jobs declared:

“Uninspired.”

He then sat down, carried on a conversation for nearly 30-minutes with his friend about what made great culture and internal communications. At some point, Jobs mentioned something that caught his eye from past work. My friend pointed to his original campaign and Jobs nodded his approval, stood and exited the room.

What was “uninspired?” The work or the presentation format? Or too much of the same—you know how some ideas are too thin or simply deserve to die? Or a lack of conviction to narrow the selection and lead with a strong perspective? Your guess is as good as anyone’s–pls add to comments below.

So here’s to inspired work. To inspiring others. To changing the way people think when they see and interact with your work. To thinking different. To the confidence to live it. To joining in bringing a culture that inspires. Be Great.

Or as Steve quoted from Whole Earth Catalog in his now-famous Stanford commencement speech:  “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”