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Barbara Goldberg

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What Steve Jobs Taught Me About Stepfamilies

Posted: 10/10/11 08:10 PM ET

Steve Jobs made people feel as if they could do anything. He energized and inspired his people and the world. He defined "cool" by living his belief in innovation. Steve could make you believe that everything Apple did was special. He was about the details.

Great business leaders can teach us much about how to manage our families, especially our stepfamilies. Fifteen years ago Apple was broke, and today Apple is the second most valuable company in the world. If you are sitting in your home right now and feeling as if your family is broke, don't give up.

Take these three lessons from the life of Steve Jobs.

Innovate.
At the core of innovation is an understanding of what people need or want. Steve Jobs had a keen eye for his consumer. He understood the concept of convenience and design. How great to be able to carry all of your music with you and have it packaged in a sexy way?

The art of managing a stepfamily demands this same sense of innovation. What do your family members truly need? How can you package the solution in a fun, noncompetitive way? Here's one idea for a stepparent to try. It's Wednesday night and the kids are coming for dinner. Decorate the kitchen like a fun café. Name the café and make a sign. Cook dinner. Serve the dinner and then disappear, allowing the children to have an evening with their biological parent, alone. Tell them that you will do the dishes later. This seemingly small event has elements of convenience (dinner), design (your cool café) and compassion.

Be Unstable.
Steve Jobs was a genius, but he also had a crazy streak. He lived in an unfurnished 17,000 square foot house for years. He kept a motorcycle in that living room. He drove a car with no license plates. In 1993, he was named to Forbes America's Toughest Bosses list.

Steve's eccentricities taught us a critical lesson as parents. It is good to be viewed as unstable. No one is quite sure what you will do or what you are willing to do. Children listen to unstable people. They wonder, "Will she really go on TV and talk about what we are doing?" The answer is, "I'm not sure, but who wants to take the risk?" To all parents and stepparents, take a lesson from Apple. Have fun, take risks and do the unthinkable.

Have a Bold Vision for Your Family.
Steve had a bold vision for Apple. He envisioned an innovative company that would change the way people viewed the world. Even when Steve was fired from Apple and the company was bankrupt, he maintained his core vision. I bet that Steve Jobs always knew that someday Apple's valuation would be $300 billion dollars.

Have a bold vision for your family. As stepfamilies, we often minimize our chances of success. The fact is that we are the most common form of family unit and will determine the future. With that in mind, here is my vision for our family and for the world. We will save the planet, one stepfamily at a time, by showing the world that love knows no boundaries or biology.

What is your audacious vision for your family?