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How to live, and die, like Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, in his trademark black turtleneck, lived a life based on specific guidelines.
Steve Jobs, in his trademark black turtleneck, lived a life based on specific guidelines

How to be rich

Steve, despite his financial success, was frugal. According to Isaacson, a former chairman of CNN, Steve said of money, “I did not want to live that nutso lavish lifestyle that so many people do when they get rich.” As a result, Steve’s home wasn’t particularly huge and he famously embraced minimalism.

“I saw a lot of other people at Apple, especially after we went public, how it changed them.”, Steve said in a recorded interview. “And a lot of people thought that they had to start being rich. I mean, a few people went out and bought Rolls Royces, and they bought homes, and their wives got plastic surgery. I saw these people who were really nice simple people turn into these bizarro people. And I made a promise to myself to myself, I said I’m not gonna let this money ruin my life.”

Steve wasn’t completely opposed to having expensive things, however: He drove a Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG.

How to dress

Steve’s frugality showed in his simple wardrobe, too: a pair of jeans and a black turtleneck. Jobs embraced this look for its simplicity — allowing him, perhaps, to focus on more important things. “He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style,” Isaacson said of Steve’s look. Jobs had enough of the turtlenecks to wear them for his entire life.

His frugality played into Jobs’ clothing choices as well. Former Compaq chairman Ben Rosen recalled in his blog this week a meeting he had with Jobs on a bitterly cold day in Manhattan. Rosen noticed Jobs did not have a coat, and the two went to a clothing store to purchase one. Jobs found a coat he liked, but balked at the price. “That much for an overcoat? Too much. Besides, I’ll never use it in California,” he said. The pair left the store, with Jobs tolerating the freezing cold rather than spending money on a coat he wouldn’t wear again.

How to handle authority

Living like Steve involves having a healthy disregard for authority. Jobs’ penchant for breaking the rules was best summarized in Apple’s 1997 “Think Different” ad campaign: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.”

Jobs questioned authority his entire life, even choosing to drive without license plates. Isaacson asked Jobs why he didn’t have plates, to which Jobs initially replied it was for privacy reasons. When informed that having no license plates would actually attract attention, Jobs replied that he didn’t have license plates because he didn’t have license plates.

How to die

Jobs’ philosophy on death was that it may ultimately be a good thing: “Nature’s change agent,” he called it.

In a 2005 Stanford commencement speech, Jobs said of death: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.”

And yet Jobs may have altered his views as he faced his own mortality. According to Isaacson, Jobs said he was “50-50” on whether he believed in God.

“Ever since I’ve had cancer I’ve been thinking about it more — and I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of, maybe it’s because I want to believe in an afterlife, that when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on. But sometimes I think it’s just like an on-off switch — click and you’re gone,” Jobs said. “And that’s why I don’t like putting on-off switches on Apple devices.”

To live — and to die — like Steve Jobs, then, is to live simply, to challenge the norm, to never let success change you. Most of all, it’s to live in the knowledge that you’re going to die. As Jobs said of mortality: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

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Filed under: Memorable Quotes

The 10 Most Memorable Quotes From Steve Jobs

  1. “I was worth over $1,000,000 when I was 23, and over $10,000,000 when I was 24, and over $100,000,000 when I was 25, and it wasn’t that important because I never did it for the money.”
  2. “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” – Wikiquote, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal (Summer 1993).
  3. “Unfortunately, people are not rebelling against Microsoft. They don’t know any better.” – Wikiquote, Interview in Rolling Stone magazine, no. 684 (16 June 1994)
  4. “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.” – YouTube
  5. “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Businessweek, 1998
  6. “I feel like somebody just punched me in the stomach and knocked all my wind out. I’m only 30 years old and I want to have a chance to continue creating things. I know I’ve got at least one more great computer in me. And Apple is not going to give me a chance to do that.” – Playboy, 1987
  7. “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.” – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address
  8. “My job is not to be easy on people. My jobs is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” – All About Steve Jobs
  9. “I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year…. It’s very character-building.” – Wikiquote, as quoted in Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company (2004) by Owen W. Linzmayer
  10. “The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” – As quoted in Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company (2004) by Owen W. Linzmayer

Filed under: Memorable Quotes

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