Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

Tonight I watched Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview with my always-indulgent wife. You can click that link to view it yourself in iTunes. It's a $3.99 rental, and it's worth you four bucks and 60 minutes. Anyone who knows me knows that Steve was one of my childhood heroes. The other one was Steve Wozniak. I am incredibly fortunate to have met both of these men at one time or another.

This interview was done in 1995. At the time Steve had been away from Apple for 10 years, and he had not yet come back. Just a few minutes of this video appeared in the documentary "Triumph of the Nerds," but this particular footage was believed to be lost. I'm glad it was found, despite some online grumbling that it's only available for rental.

We were on a mission from God, ya know, to save Apple.

There is a great temptation for many people to deify Steve posthumously. I am certainly in that group. What's refreshing about this interview is that it is unedited, and it's not part of a PR push. This is Steve as frank has he is in person, when there is no particular agenda. So, while he was no Business Immortal, it is also clear he was a person of singular genius. This is an interview almost 20 years old, and he had insights that most of us are still struggling toward.

Here's a few takeaways from my viewing:

  • Steve was inspired by space flight. He made frequent allegories using rocketry and trajectory. He was a man steeped in the knowledge of what it takes for man to put things on other planets. I am once again reminded that we need to have a focus on spaceflight as a society. One of the great success stories in American industry was born out of a man who dreamed of traveling to other worlds.
  • Steve had put to bed and solved business issues that most companies are desperately wrestling with now.
    • He talked about the relationship of process and content, and spoke of the ways we tend to glorify the process of how something is made while minimizing the importance of what was made. The content matters, the process only matters in that it enables you to build something. Process is easily replicated. Good ideas and brilliant executions are born out of great sacrifice, risk and conflict.
    • He had great respect for people who made amazing products. He had no respect for people who wanted to use sales and marketing to make money without emphasis on product. He cared about money only in that it allowed you to focus on things that don't have an immediate revenue payout.
  • He believed that products made with taste could actually teach people to appreciate more subtle and beautiful things. That people could love objects and be changed by them.
  • He had no respect for the status quo. He always asked "Why do we do it this way" and he compared business to folklore. He said there was an opportunity to upend the model just by asking tough questions and doing hard work to make things better.
  • In 1995, he clearly saw what the web would do to commerce and socialization. He spoke of social media more clearly and earlier than anyone else I have seen.
  • He talked about humans being toolmakers, and that is what made us special. A human on a bicycle is more efficient at movement than any animal. He believed that computers were our greatest tools yet, and that they have the power to elevate us as a species.
The way to ratchet up our species is to get better things to more people -products with spirit and creativity.
Was Steve Jobs unique? I believe he absolutely was. Most of us don't have that level of insight combined with the ability to lead people to execute against a vision. However, I also think most of us sell ourselves short. We operate out of fear.

I spend a lot of my time very frustrated. I am deeply in love with humanity, but I also see we tend to let fear be our masters. We make decisions based on fear of loss, and fear of rejection and fear of failure. Steve taught us that if you let go of that, you can do great things.

We debate a lot about which brand of American politician is best. Or what kind of soft drink. Or maybe about who will win the Super Bowl. We tend to make these judgements based on the opinions of others, and we rarely do the very hard work of looking at the hard facts and histories behind that data.

But Steve looked at the world and saw that everything here was made be people. We all have the same fundamental abilities. We all have the ability to change some of the world right now. Steve learned about problems, he did tough homework that often changed him. He was happy when he was proved wrong because he'd learned something.

And from understanding he began to create. An adopted, middle class kid in California disrupted multiple industries and created the largest company in the world.

All because he wasn't afraid.

Stop being afraid.

Start asking hard questions.

Then become a wrecking ball on whatever you see as wrong with the world today.