Just a minor fact check — Steve Jobs was a huge success at Apple before 1984 with the Apple II…
Weston Catron

Excellent point. Of course, no one is arguing that people who quit their jobs won’t succeed. There are definitely those who do. But was Steve Jobs one of them? Maybe. More to the point of this article, was he an overnight success? Setting aside what he said about himself, let’s look at the events:

  • First, Jobs’s friend Steve Wozniak re-programs the game Pong for fun while working at Hewlett Packard.
  • Then, Jobs passes this off as his own work to Atari and Atari hires him. While working at Atari, he designs the game BREAKOUT at night whole collaborating with Woz. This experience is reminiscent of their “blue box” business in 1972, which Jobs later said influenced the creation of Apple.
  • After this project, Woz and Jobs get inspired to design a personal computer begin attending the Home Brew computer club. They design the Apple I.
  • Jobs and Woz launch Apple, start working on Apple II, eventually go public, etc. The rest is… history?
  • While working at Apple, Job gets bored and starts working on a new project that becomes the Mac and basically cannibalized the entire organization’s resources to release this revolutionary PC.
  • Then Jobs is ousted from Apple and starts NeXt which fails (except for the fact that Apple later acquires the operating system). He uses his Apple money to fund Pixar, which eventually makes him a billionaire and gives him bargaining leverage when Apple wants him back.

What I find interesting in this story is Jobs is always working on the next thing, using the resources he has at his disposal. He is always moonlighting. His work at Atari trains him for Apple. Apple funds Pixar. NeXt gives him the OS that helps save Apple (well, that, and the decision to re-hire Steve and simplify everything).

Anyway, the point is this: Steve Jobs was not an overnight success. Neither is he the paragon of patience and long-term strategy, but that’s somewhat besides the point. None of us succeeds by ourselves or in one quick decision. Success is often hard fought over the course of years of even decades. This does not preclude someone from occasionally hitting the jackpot with a reckless “Jerry Maguire moment.” But that doesn’t mean such moments are the norm for launching a dream. In fact, I believe they are the exception to the norm. And certainly, this does not appear to be what Steve Jobs did.

Was Jobs a success after Apple II? Sure. But following that, Apple produced the Lisa and a series of other duds. So by no means would this one success have led to long-term profitability for the community. What is hard to argue with, however, is the influence on the Mac on all of what Apple would become. And that success is hard to argue with.

All that to say, I could be wrong. :)

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