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The 25 Smartest Things Steve Jobs Ever Said

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One of coolest things about Steve Jobs was his willingness to respond to customers' emails. And some of the responses were legendary.

One customer wrote complaining about Apple Care after spilling water on his MacBook. "It sounds like you're just looking for someone to get mad at other than yourself," Jobs replied. Another complained that the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone 4 loses reception when cupped in your hand. "Just avoid holding it in that way," Jobs advised.

Jobs openly shared his thoughts with the public. And he was more quotable than many think. In honor of Apple's visionary, who passed away on Wednesday, here are 25 of his best lines.

25. "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed saying we've done something wonderful ... that matters to me."

24. "I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list ... That didn't look so good, but then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And a man on a bicycle blew the condor away. That's what a computer is to me: the computer is the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with. It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds."

23. "In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service."

22. "I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do."

21. "We don't get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we've all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it."

20. "My model for business is The Beatles: They were four guys that kept each other's negative tendencies in check; they balanced each other. And the total was greater than the sum of the parts. Great things in business are never done by one person; they are done by a team of people."

19. "The system is that there is no system. That doesn't mean we don't have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that's not what it's about. Process makes you more efficient. But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we've been thinking about a problem. It's ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea. And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We're always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important."

18. "I wish [Bill Gates] the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) 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.''

17. "My self-identity does not revolve around being a businessman, though I recognize that is what I do. I think of myself more as a person who builds neat things. I like building neat things. I like making tools that are useful to people. I like working with very bright people. I like interacting in the world of ideas, though somehow those ideas have to be tied to some physical reality. One of the things I like the most is dropping a new idea on a bunch of incredibly smart and talented people and then letting them work it out themselves. I like all of that very, very much."

16. "Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it."

15. "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

14. "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."

13. "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

12. "We're gambling on our vision, and we would rather do that than make 'me, too' products. Let some other companies do that. For us, it's always the next dream."

11. "The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament."

10. "A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets."

9. "When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don't put in the time or energy to get there." 

8. "That's been one of my mantras -- focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex."

7. "We didn't build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren't going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build."

6. "Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected."

5. "We've never worried about numbers. In the marketplace, Apple is trying to focus the spotlight on products, because products really make a difference. ... You can't con people in this business. The products speak for themselves."

4. "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

3. "Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they've had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people."

2. "Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

1. "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Microsoft. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Apple, and International Business Machines. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft and Apple, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (23) | Recommend This Article (190)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 07, 2011, at 5:40 PM, pastreet wrote:

    From his speech at Stanford Commencement, "Live each day as if it's your last. Someday, you'll be right."

    Rest in peace, Steve. And thanks. See a tribute to Steve Jobs here:


  • Report this Comment On October 07, 2011, at 5:50 PM, joaquingrech wrote:

    "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." it's not his. It's probably the most wrongly attributed quote of Steve Jobs. He mentioned publicly at the end of the Stanford speech that he saw that as a farewell on a book that he loved, so he repeat it aloud to the audience. But it's not his any more than you reading out loud any line of a Shakepeare book and then people saying that it's yours because you said it on tv. Ironically, it's your #1 quote.

    People should get the original book, because he mentioned it was one of his favorites.

  • Report this Comment On October 07, 2011, at 5:56 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    Thanks for putting this together Morgan. I should have listened to this man more when he was alive.


  • Report this Comment On October 07, 2011, at 6:48 PM, TMFRhino wrote:

    "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

    Love this one, so much of what defined Apple over the last decade.

  • Report this Comment On October 07, 2011, at 11:38 PM, alec920c wrote:

    @joaquin - one thing Jobs did say was that good artists copy and great artists steal (which I believe he stole from Picasso). He's openly admitted that's he's never been afraid to steal a good idea so I don't think he'd mind being credited with this quote! Besides it fits in so nicely with Motley Fool vernacular!!

  • Report this Comment On October 08, 2011, at 12:37 AM, Maraith wrote:

    The #1 quote is from Stewart Brand and is on the back cover of his publication The Last Whole Earth Catalog (a compendium of useful and important items and ideas). Jobs gave credit to Brand when he quoted it in the Stanford speech. You should do the same.

  • Report this Comment On October 08, 2011, at 3:33 AM, joaquingrech wrote:

    wowowo, i don't want to start a war. I just wanted to clarify. Same way that I see Warren Buffett miss-quoted several times. @Maraith mentioned the original source.

  • Report this Comment On October 08, 2011, at 8:39 AM, scanlin wrote:

    What about "insanely great" and "one more thing..."?

  • Report this Comment On October 08, 2011, at 4:25 PM, Maraith wrote:

    I was agreeing with you, Joaquin. My comment was aimed at the compiler of this list of 25 things. Sorry if it seemed I was aiming at you.

  • Report this Comment On October 08, 2011, at 5:12 PM, terracomm wrote:

    just saw "pirates of silicon valley" again.

    just as good as i remember.

    and the quote about bill gates struck me.

    because for every apple, there's a microsoft.

    and we need both, really.

    great job, steve.

    i hope you're giving god design headaches in heaven.

  • Report this Comment On October 08, 2011, at 11:56 PM, Merton123 wrote:

    I like his focus on simplicity.

  • Report this Comment On October 09, 2011, at 2:23 PM, XMFConnor wrote:

    Even if he did say the last quote.. it seems wrong to quote it as "Foolish" with a capital F. Since that is not what he meant at all.

  • Report this Comment On October 09, 2011, at 6:06 PM, glennallout wrote:

    "Steve Jobs Dies, Apple Products Stop Working"

    Millions of Apple products, including iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Mac computers, suddenly stopped working on Wednesday when Apple founder Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer late that night. Apple issued a statement saying that they are working 'round the clock to devise and implement a solution, though they said it is proving difficult to devise and implement anything very successfully without their genius leader.

  • Report this Comment On October 09, 2011, at 6:35 PM, TMFDarwood11 wrote:

    I'm looking forward to the article "the 25 dumbest things Steve Jobs ever said."

    It's time to get down to business, people. Let the popular press and the talking heads at MSNBC, CNN, etc, give us this stuff.

  • Report this Comment On October 09, 2011, at 8:09 PM, TMFTomGardner wrote:

    Darwood, one hundred years from now, when Jobs' work and philosophy and life is being studied in universities around the will become clearer why we ran a simple article like this.

  • Report this Comment On October 10, 2011, at 3:37 AM, Puffin100 wrote:

    The most apropos quote to from Mr Jobs is,

    "No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new."

    -Stanford University commencement speech, 2005

    Thanks Steve


  • Report this Comment On October 10, 2011, at 5:01 PM, billh13850 wrote:

    One of the most telling quotes of Jobs' vision, in my opinion, isn't in his own words, but him quoting Henry Ford: "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse." Pretty much says it all.

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2011, at 12:37 PM, Tygered wrote:

    Me thinks the government should follow number 11.

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2011, at 4:06 PM, icrazy wrote:

    #18 is an odd thing to say about Bill Gates, considering he bailed out Apple when Apple was about to go belly up. This was before the government provided bail outs. If you like your iPhone, iPod, iPad, and your ibuyanything with"i"infront of it, then send Bill Gates flowers.

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2011, at 4:37 PM, catoismymotor wrote:
  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2011, at 2:15 PM, ronsoldcars wrote:

    I have heard it said, "If you enjoy what you do, you'll never work a day in your life". Just as I do every day, I am sure Steve did the same thing, instead of going to work, we go to FUN every day. Steve, May you rest in peace.

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2011, at 2:15 PM, thidmark wrote:

    "He'd be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.''

    Great message for kids!

  • Report this Comment On October 19, 2011, at 10:30 AM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    Thanks Mr. Housel for this compilation. My favorites are 8 and 9. After many early adopters invested in initial product offerings, Apple would finally achieve that simplicity by including all the stuff found on three year old Windows computers. Do we see firewire on any Windows computer?

    How can Apple TV be simpler than an HDMI interface on the side of a laptop? When Jobs returned to Apple, his inspiration was to put lipstick on a pig; Hollywood bought it and sold the image as cool because it was expensive and therefore perceived as exclusive.

    I agree, thidmark. That would support his Beatles idolization. A thought just occurred; has the world improved since the Beatles?

    Tygered: When will you and career bureaucrats ever learn that government and innovation are oxymoronic concepts.

    Icrazy: If it wasn't for all the third party accessories plugged into my Macs (which at 1/3 of cost, Window machines already include) none of my 3 Macs would be able to produce anything. Why do I have 3 Macs? They were all given to me by users after they purchased a Windows computer. I still ended up buying a Windows computer.

    In all truth, keyboard shortcuts are cool, but there are fewer on newer Macs than OS 9.22 units.

    The Apple platform before Jobs' return was the most innovative of its time. Windows saw that and rapidly adapted.

    Job's success is owed to image and its appeal to pop culture.

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