Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Steve Jobs has been an important figure for a good chunk of the 20th and 21st centuries. He helped pioneer one of the biggest companies on the face of the planet and managed to turn aesthetics into a key component of why people buy the technology they buy, even to the point of sacrificing functionality or value. This is Jobs’ legacy: one of visual luster centered around sending a message rather than just selling a product.
Such priorities make sense, coming from the untamed man who partially accredited LSD to his life successes, had a history of arrests, and even had a daughter whom he rejected on the grounds that “28% of the male population of the United States could be the father,” as he himself put it. That wasn’t the only colorful quote produced by the perplexing magnate, though—he had many more, three of which we’ve decoded the meanings of. From graduation quotes to quotes in an Apple conference room, here are the three wildest Steve Jobs quotes (in our opinion!) and what they mean.
1. There’s no sex in the products!
One of Jobs’ most famous quotes is, unsurprisingly, “The products suck! There’s no sex in them anymore!”
As Apple historians may recall, Jobs said this in 1997 when he returned to Apple after reclaiming CEO status from Gil Amelio. This comment about the lack of sex in Apple’s products was Jobs’ explanation for why the company hadn’t been performing to his satisfaction during Amelio’s time as CEO and why Apple as a whole needed him back in the driver’s seat.
Jobs’ quote says a lot about the importance of maintaining an image. His quote emphasizes that the value of sex appeal—the ability of a product or person to make someone else feel cool and attractive when the two are in close proximity—can’t be understated.
To give an example of what happens when something lacks sex appeal, look at the virtual reality industry. VR headsets have been making strides in recent years, but there’s a reason they still haven’t hit the mainstream. The HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Valve Index all suffer from one fatal flaw: they lack sex appeal. They force you to wear a brick on your head. Therefore, no matter how sophisticated the technology or immersive the experience, VR won’t be a household item until it looks sexy to casual consumers.
That VR example translates directly to people, too. Jobs’ quote can be boiled down to this: if you can’t market yourself as the trend-setting, stylish, must-have commodity in whatever field you’re passionate about, you’re going to have a much harder time making a splash.
2. Being a beginner is the best
Another killer Jobs quote was this gem from his 2005 Stanford University commencement address:
“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.”
The guy was happy he lost his job! And therein lies the positive message hiding behind his seemingly wild words: the great thing about being a rookie is that the only place to go is up, and you get to define how you get there. When you’re at the top of your game, everyone will try to knock you down and expectations will be both specific and colossal—but when you stumble and fall back to ground level, well, there are no expectations anymore. People aren’t so keen to see you fail or so hungry to see you succeed. You’re free from a lot of external pressures.
On a personal level, take this in whatever context you’d like: if you’re unemployed, bask in the comforting knowledge that you’re not tied to a job—you’re free to apply anywhere or strive to be whatever you want to be. If you’ve recently separated from a partner, embrace the fact that you now have the freedom to see who you want to see from a pool of seven billion people. When life knocks you down, enjoy the fact that you now have the ability to choose how you get back up.
3. Don’t be narrow
“I wish him the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”
These were Jobs’ wacky words about Bill Gates, as mentioned in the book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. To simplify his comment, Jobs was essentially calling Gates a tunnel-vision-entrapped businessman with not a lot of creative juice. What he was likely saying in a more general sense was that people like Gates (as he perceived him) couldn’t cut it as visionaries because they were too focused on the existing realities of situations.
Jobs’ quote here challenges those hearing it remember that thinking outside the box is the only way to be a visionary and a leader. In order to substantially progress and improve your lot in life, you have to be able to imagine what’s currently impossible and have the guts and imagination to try to achieve it anyway.
Jobs’ quotes, while pretty nutty in phraseology, aren’t actually saying anything all that crazy. His words’ tips are simple: be the sexiest version of you possible, appreciate the benefits of getting knocked down a peg, and then think creatively about how to climb the mountain of life all over again when said knockdown occurs. It’s straightforward stuff. Look your best, sound your best, be your best. Have some perspective and look for all opportunities. Chart your life’s course aggressively and imaginatively.
While it’s easy to feel momentarily inspired by these quotes, the game changers of the world feel this sort of drive at least once a day. So once you’ve digested Jobs’ words, think long and hard about it and how you want to apply them in your own life.