One more thing

Originally published on the blog on October 6, 2011, the day after Steve Jobs’ death.

When I was young and more than a little foolish, I was lucky enough to join a small team in Cupertino that was building a company called Apple. The year was 1981. I learned last night that during that time Apple jobbed out motherboard assembly to home-workers and housewives in Cupertino (Robert Scoble’s mother built Apple II circuit boards at home as part-time work). Yes, there was a time when Apple was that small a company, a renegade startup with two freethinking founders and an audacious vision to change the world.

I called Apple home for nearly 10 years, riding the ups and downs, learning and being allowed — no, encouraged — to take chances, becoming part of something that I only wish I’d appreciated as fully then as I do today.

I remember the first time I met Steve Jobs. I was 23 and brand new to the company. Our paths crossed in a parking lot on Bandley Drive. He walked over and asked if I worked there, who I was. His presence was so powerful I could barely whisper my reply. Over the months, years ahead, his presence grew, but fortunately — emboldened, I’m sure, by the incredible learning and collaboration Apple facilitated — so did my confidence. Like all of us at Apple I was privileged to have many opportunities to grow under his leadership.

In 1983, as Steve led Apple to its most audacious goal yet, I joined the Macintosh launch team as International Product Manager for Macintosh Accessories. That meant I was responsible for guiding the keyboards, modems, printers and other products that would support the Mac in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and beyond.

I learned many things during this incredible experience, but no lesson has stayed with me more than one that arrived on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper shortly after I moved into my new cubicle in Bandley 4. I received a printout that I was asked to hang in plain sight, something written by Steve and shared with all on the extended Mac team. It read:

“How is the decision you’re making right now
helping us to ship
the greatest personal computer the world has ever known
on January 24, 1984?”

It’s worth reading again. “How is the decision you’re making right now helping us to ship the greatest personal computer the world has ever known on January 24, 1984?”

I may have a word or two wrong — in fact, I’d love to be corrected, and I’d love it more if someone still has a copy of that page. Fool that I was, I didn’t save it.

But if I’ve missed the exact wording, I didn’t miss the lesson. With this simple phrase, Steve Jobs introduced me, and everyone on the team, to a practice that changed the way I saw my world and managed my actions.

We didn’t use words like “mindfulness practice” back then, and my only knowledge of Buddhism had come from college art history classes. Yet this calling-back to consciousness, this art of checking in and course correcting, taught me something my upbringing and education had not: the importance of the “now,” the preciousness of each moment, the essential connection between process and outcome.

As Steve evolved as a leader, he honed this very practice, taking presence and mindfulness to a world-changing level. His sense of purpose and personal impact shone as he continued to create, shape, inspire, and exact exceptional performance in the people he led. His incomparable Stanford commencement speech illuminates the core of his thinking, and helps us all learn from the unique vision that made him, and his life, extraordinary.

I’ve shared the “How is the decision…” mantra with co-workers, clients, friends, and family countless times since 1983. It’s guided choices and actions in strategy sessions, personal planning, and even my kids’ study time at the kitchen table. I’ve shared it wherever I’ve worked — at Google, as an entrepreneur, at Eastwick. Time and again it brings people back to the essential priorities. It eliminates the chaff of distraction, calls us to focus, and cuts through the noise of easy ways out.

Today, I feel deeply grateful to share it here, offering it in hopes that maybe you’ll pick it up andmake it your own. Use it to help shape your own audacious dream, something driven by hunger and foolishness and focus and purpose, because that is what Steve showed us is possible. Use it with the conviction that every life and every moment matters, because we’ve seen that this can be true. Use it to expand your potential to be great — perhaps insanely so — in some way that matters to you.

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