5 Inspirational Tips From My 'Day in the Life of Steve Jobs'
Free Book Preview: Unstoppable
That was long before his death, in 2011, which occurred on this date seven years ago today. And all these years later, as I look back on Jobs's famous quote, I wonder how he’d feel to find out that I actually spent a day in his life …
Jokes aside, Jobs was referring to the idea that you should always trust your inner voice, and have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. After his passing, my inner voice led me on an entrepreneurial pilgrimage to seek inspiration, and feel what it was like to live like the great visionary in the famed Silicon Valley.
Over the course of a week, I toured the HP Garage, strolled down El Camino Real and visited each of the places mentioned in his biography, trying to understand how his story unfolded -- and how mine might unfold, as well.
That's why today, on the anniversary of Jobs’s death, I reflect back on that experience, recognizing the role my Silicon Valley sojourn took in shaping me as an entrepreneur. Here are the top five inspirational lessons I gleaned, to hopefully help guide and motivate you on your own entrepreneurial journey.
1. Find someone who inspires you.
It’s not easy to be an entrepreneur. From the outset, leaving a stable job and paving your own way can be frightening; it sets you on a path filled with uncertainty. Then, the journey only gets harder from there.
So, when you inevitably reach that point when you ask yourself if it would be better to give up, drawing inspiration from someone whose values resonate with you can keep you chasing your dreams.
For me, and for countless others, Steve Jobs was -- and still is -- that inspiration. I admire his way of thinking about product design, his commitment to quality and service and his marketing prowess. I even borrowed for my business (at a simple level) his brilliant idea for the Apple stickers, as a way to build brand recognition and cultivate brand evangelists. I'm not alone in this: For entrepreneur Ruschelle Khanna, a photo of Richard Branson on her cell phone served a similar purpose.
In either case, the idea remains the same: As an entrepreneur, you need to dig in each day and work toward achieving your vision. By identifying someone as your inspiration who has already “been there, done that,” you can find the motivation to carry on, and learn from that person's successes and failures.
2. Don’t be afraid of a challenge.
When I landed at the San Francisco airport from Hungary, to kick off my adventure in Silicon Valley, I was met by a highly skeptical immigration officer. When asked the reason for my visit to the United States, I informed him that I had plans to live a day in the life of the late Apple CEO. The immigration guy didn’t buy it.
After several hours of interrogation, I was finally released, and reminded that such challenges are a normal – and invigorating – rite of passage for entrepreneurs. People will always be skeptical of the work you’re doing and the dreams you have; but that shouldn’t stop you from chasing them.
This same idea is one emphasized by Stephen Key, co-founder of inventRight: “Successful entrepreneurs challenge themselves,” Key said. He also said: “The best way to stay competitive is to actively attempt to challenge your preconceived notions.” With that in mind, you should never be afraid of a challenge -- and never let others get in the way of achieving your goals.
3. Never settle for anything less than your vision.
In that light, my trip to Silicon Valley opened my eyes to the sheer amount of imaginative potential that we take for granted. As an entrepreneur, you may get bogged down in day-to-day tasks and lose sight of your larger goals. Nevertheless, it’s critical to stay tuned in to your vision, and never forget that anything is possible.
Recounting a funny anecdote about Jobs, a former Apple engineer explained that when the prototype for the first iPod was complete, Jobs examined it and quickly rejected it for being “too big.” The engineers responded by explaining that the device was a modern work of art and couldn’t be made smaller, Jobs answered back by dropping the iPod in a fish tank, pointing to the bubbles and saying, “Those are air bubbles. That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”
In the same way that Jobs relentlessly pushed his vision, you should never settle for anything less than yours. Silicon Valley may possess some of the brightest minds and engineers, but you can find brilliant people anywhere. In my hometown of Budapest, for example, you’d be surprised at the number and quality of engineers available. That fact illustrates that you can accomplish anything you and your team set your minds to.
4. Join or create an entrepreneurial community.
As I walked the streets in Silicon Valley, the entrepreneurial spirit was palpable. It became clear that by building strong startup ecosystems, like those in Silicon Valley, and surrounding yourself with like-minded people who support one other, you'll find it a lot easier to get ahead.
Moreover, startup ecosystems foster a type of self-perpetuating innovation, as startup employees gain the knowledge and skills they need to later become entrepreneurs themselves.
For example, consider the fact that former Apple employees have gone on to create a number of successful companies, including Nest, Android, Salesforce and many others. Salesforce founder Marc Benioff -- who only spent one summer working at Apple in the 1980s -- even noted the profound impact the experience had on him, writing, “That summer, I discovered it was possible for an entrepreneur to encourage revolutionary ideas.”
For this reason, actively participating in your local startup community is of utmost importance. By gathering together community members, trading war stories and sharing tips for success, these people are integral for the inspiration of young entrepreneurs. Such communities can exist anywhere, too. For example, while our startup ecosystem in Hungary is very young, that doesn’t change the fact that it crucially serves to keep entrepreneurs, such as myself, motivated and inspired.
5. Pick up a book, and don’t stop reading.
Each time I travel by plane, I try to stop by the airport bookstore to pick up some reading for the flight, and my trip to Silicon Valley was no different. However, when I left the airport, I was truly surprised by the sheer number of bookstores that lined the streets. Frequently, I would wander in, order coffee and leaf through something in the business section -- a practice I found to be both incredibly mentally stimulating and rewarding.
And, of course, I’m not the only one. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg and a whole host of other world-class entrepreneurs are known for their shared habit of reading. Gates even publicly recommends five books for summer reading each year. And it makes sense that such successful entrepreneurs share this habit; one study found that a whopping 88 percent of financially successful people read at least 30 minutes per day.
Ultimately, reading not only makes you smarter, but can serve as a tool for inspiration. In my case, the books Delivering Happiness, by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, and The Accidental Billionaires, which tells the story of Facebook, were both incredibly inspiring, and reminded me that anything can be accomplished. So while "reading" may seem to be a simple recommendation, it’s also an indispensable practice for every entrepreneur.
Wrapping it all up.
We often take for granted the opportunities, resources and inspirations we have available to us. And usually, it isn’t until we lose them that we are able to recognize their importance.
While I had always admired Steve Jobs, it wasn’t until his passing --and my subsequent pilgrimage to Silicon Valley -- that I recognized just how fortunate I was to be an entrepreneur, and how important it is to be inspired. So keep these tips in mind throughout your own journey as an entrepreneur, and never lose your inspiration.