Here’s the crucial lesson Steve Jobs taught Apple’s Jony Ive about focus

Jony Ive, the chief design officer at Apple, is the man Apple CEO Steve Jobs once called his “spiritual partner at Apple,” and on Friday, he talked with The New Yorker‘s David Remnick about the creative process and focus Jobs instilled in him for the magazine’s TechFest.

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How to stay focused like Steve Jobs

The partnership between Ive and Jobs famously led to the ubiquitous aesthetically-pleasing designs of Apple products — including the iMac, MacBook, iPod, iPhone, and iPad — that millions of us hold in our hands and use every day. Remnick compared the synergy that led to these innovations as “Lennon-McCartney” breakthroughs. Ive said that when he and Jobs were clicking on all cylinders they were able to communicate their ideas in an “almost pre-verbal way.”

Jobs and Ive were not just business partners, but also close friends who ate lunch and vacationed together. And as friends and business partners, Jobs gave Ive blunt advice: If Ive wanted to work at his best, he would need to stay focused at all costs.

“I remember sort of early on when we were working, and he was saying that, ‘Jony, you have to understand there are measures of focus, and one of them is how often you say no,'” Ive said Jobs told him.

The power of refusal

Jobs believed in the power of refusal so much that he would ask Ive to tell him how many times Ive had said “no” during the day.

It was an “incredibly patronizing deal,” Ive admits, but he also acknowledges that this kind of tunnel-vision focus works.

“The art of focus is even if it is something you care passionately about, focus means ignoring it, putting it to the side. And often, it’s at real cost. And [Jobs] was remarkable at that,” Ive said.  “It takes so much effort and is exhausting to sustain, but all of the good things we’ve done have required that sort of focus.”

Setting your focus

To organize your life, you’ll need to prioritize what matters to you and clear away the clutter.

You may need to make big sacrifices to achieve this level of Steve Jobs-focus, but your reward may be having an idea as a great as an iPhone.

This article originally appeared October 9, 2017.