Before the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod, before the famously simplistic uniform of blue jeans and a fitted black turtleneck, there was simply Steve Jobs: a 30-year-old man who had co-founded Apple Inc., only to be gracelessly dropped from its ranks for just over a decade.
In 1985, Jobs was ousted from Apple by then-CEO John Sculley, a man who, just two years before, Jobs himself brought into the Apple fold. Though angered and deeply wounded, Jobs was far from defeated by the event.
As Brent Schlender posits in a Fast Company feature called "The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes," the years following his firing from Apple may have actually been the "most pivotal" ones of Jobs's life. As evidence to support his theory, Schlender presents information he collected from extended interviews with Jobs recorded on around three dozen tapes and conducted over the course of 25 years.
Among the unique insights into Jobs' business savvy, Schlender's interviews with Jobs illustrate just how much Jobs' years outside Apple -- particularly those spent at hardware/software development company NeXT, which Jobs founded in 1985, and at animation studio Pixar, which Jobs acquired in 1986 -- reshaped his management style and primed him for the success he would enjoy after returning to Apple in 1996.
For example, in October 2004, Jobs offered Schlender a fascinating glimpse at the dynamic that existed among Pixar's top brass. Said Jobs,
My model of management is the Beatles. The reason I say that is because each of the key people in the Beatles kept the others from going off in the directions of their bad tendencies.[...]They sort of kept each other in check. And then when they split up, they never did anything as good. It was the chemistry of a small group of people, and that chemistry was greater than the sum of the parts. And so John kept Paul from being a teenybopper and Paul kept John from drifting out into the cosmos, and it was magic. And George, in the end, I think provided a tremendous amount of soul to the group. I don't know what Ringo did.[...]That's the chemistry [at Pixar] between Ed [Catmull] and John [Lasseter] and myself.
While it seems Jobs never really grew out of the controlling behaviors for which he was well known, traces of this same kind of collaborative attitude can be seen in his work on the game-changing iPod. As Walter Isaacson wrote of the device's creation in his popular biography "Steve Jobs":
Every night Jobs would be on the phone with ideas. Fadell and the others would call each other up, discuss Jobs's latest suggestion and conspire on how to nudge him to where they wanted him to go, which worked about half the time. "We would have this swirling thing of Steve's latest idea, and we would all try to stay ahead of it," said Fadell. "Every day there was something like that....With his style, you needed to work with your peers, watch each other's back."
Furthermore, it seems Jobs also learned the value and importance of pacing at Pixar. As a perfectionist, Jobs often spent more time and effort than others might have on the very smallest details. Walter Isaacson recently told BBC's Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty in an interview:
When he would stare at you and be rough, it would be because he would say, 'I want the boot-up time of the Macintosh to be 10 seconds shorter,' or 'I want the screw inside -- those screws -- to actually be more beautiful.' And people say, 'Well, Steve, you cannot see the screws inside the Macintosh.' He said, 'Yes, but you will know. We have to be artists.'
However, his pursuit of perfection, attention to detail and willingness to spend time and effort on projects are what transformed Apple into what it is today. Under Jobs's intense yet intelligent leadership, which lasted from his return in 1996 until his death last October, the company released more streamlined, innovative products -- such as the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010 -- which helped to bring Apple back to life. As he told Schlender back in June 1995, before he returned to Apple:
Pixar has been a marathon, not a sprint. There are times when you run a marathon and you wonder, Why am I doing this? But you take a drink of water, and around the next bend, you get your wind back, remember the finish line, and keep going.[...]Fortunately, my training has been in doing things that take a long time....With what I've chosen to do with my life, you know, even a small thing takes a few years. To do anything of magnitude takes at least five years, more likely seven or eight. Rightfully or wrongfully, that's how I think.
Jobs would soon find out why he ran the marathon that was Pixar and how his efforts would eventually pay off. Looking back, Jobs himself realized the opportunities his "failure" at Apple had afforded him -- and he made sure to share what he learned. Jobs told Stanford University's class of 2005 at a Commencement address on June 12, 2005:
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.
What do you think about what Jobs has had to say about his work and life? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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