Apple (AAPL -1.38%) co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs may have his share of detractors, but he would certainly appear on more people's lists of the world's all-time great business leaders. And as investors, we can learn invaluable lessons from the words of such iconic individuals.
Fortunately for us, he wasn't shy about sharing his musings on life, technology, work ethic, passion, and much more. Picking from among his memorable and brainy quotes isn't an easy job, but we took a shot. Here are just a handful of Steve Jobs' top quotes.
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Steve Jobs on business
Perhaps, more than anything else, under Jobs' guidance, Apple became famous for its obsession for building the best products possible. If fact, Jobs often disregarded market research on consumer preferences, trying to push the envelope beyond what consumers thought possible. Here's how Jobs summarized his thinking on product design and its relations to business strategy:
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.
However, Apple's brilliance under Jobs extended beyond designing great products. He was also one of the most adept and shrewd marketers. His vision for and ability to project Apple's brand in creative ways to consumers is why Apple ranks as the world's most valuable brand. Though long, the following quote from Jobs about Apple's Think Different campaign beautifully captures his philosophy on marketing .
To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. This is a very noisy world, and we're not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. And so, we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us ....
The way to do that is not to talk about speeds and feeds. It's not to talk about bits and megahertz. It's not to talk about why we're better than Windows.
One of the greatest examples of marketing the world has ever seen is Nike. Remember, Nike sells a commodity; they sell shoes. And yet, when you think of Nike, you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads ... they don't ever talk about the product. They don't ever tell you about their air soles, and why they're better than Reebok's air soles. What does Nike do for their advertisements? They honor great athletes, and they honor great athletics. That's who they are. That's what they're about.
Apple, at the core -- its core value -- is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. A lot of things have changed. The market's a totally different place than it was a decade ago, and Apple's totally different, and Apple's place in it is totally different.... And we understand that. But values and core values, those things shouldn't change. The things that Apple believed in at its core are the same things that Apple really stands for today.
Steve Jobs on technology and innovation
Though he borrowed from the work of others , Jobs helped usher several technological revolutions into the mainstream. One of the defining characteristics of Apple's approach to technology has been its commitment to an integrated hardware-software product strategy. This preference ensured Apple would lose the PC war to IBM clones running Microsoft's operating systems, but it's also what allows Apple to capture nearly all of the profits from the smartphone market today. For better or worse, it's easy to tell where this strong preference originated:
I've always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do.
However, Apple's competitive advantages extend beyond technology. Jobs attracted a deep bench of talent across software engineering, hardware engineering, operations, design, and more. Being able to lure and motivate the best of the best became a self-sustaining advantage for Apple, and that's something that Jobs appreciated:
Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, 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.
Steve Jobs on life
Jobs' perspective resonates with people because of its emotional slant. Regardless of your opinion of him -- and he was both complex and imperfect -- it's undeniable that Jobs viewed his work at Apple on a personal level. No quote that I know of better captures that this sentiment better than a passage from his 2005 commencement address at Stanford University:
You've got to find what you love, and that is as true for 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 and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.
However, this merely scratches the surface of his perspective toward life and work. Here's an older quote from Jobs that echoes the same strain of optimism:
So the thing I would say is... when you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is, and your life is just to live your life inside the world and to try to not to bash into any of the walls too much, to try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money ...
That's a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is, everything around you that you call life was made up by people no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use... Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.
Though he could be ruthless or petty about certain financial matters, Jobs' public commentary generally framed business pursuits as a pathway to achieving meaning in life. Even after he became a billionaire, he still appeared far more motivated by the personal impact of his work than the financial windfalls it produced. This quote speaks to where his priorities lay:
My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.
Lists of great Steve Jobs quotes can go on indefinitely. However, the sampling above nicely encapsulates the qualities of Apple's late leader. And given his enduring popularity, his words and thinking on business and life will remain relevant well into the future. So as the man himself famously quoted, "Stay hungry. Stay Foolish" (with a very intentional capital F).