- Steve Jobs launched two of the most valuable companies — Apple and Pixar.
- Successful leaders like Google cofounder Larry Page and former Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang both went to Jobs for leadership advice.
- Jobs believed that smart leaders will focus on only one goal each year, instead of making a list of what they want to achieve.
- Concentrating on one goal at a time can allow leaders to obtain greater focus, Jobs said.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In the fall of 2007, newly appointed Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang went to Apple CEO Steve Jobs for help turning the floundering internet giant around.
Jobs gave him, and Yahoo’s top executives, a simple but profound piece of advice.
At an off-site meeting with about 200 Yahoo execs, Jobs explained in a presentation that many companies will make a list of 10 things they want to achieve in a year, but “the smart companies will take that list and shrink it to three or four items,” Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson wrote in his book “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!“
Then Jobs said, “This is how I do it. I take a sheet of paper, and I say, ‘If my company can only do one thing next year, what is it?’ Literally, we shut everything else down.”
Much like any company founder, Jobs faced many obstacles getting Apple off the ground. The tech giant, now at a $1.92 trillion market capitalization, was actually struggling in the 1990s after experiencing a series of bad financial results. That is until Jobs returned as the company’s CEO and ultimately built it up to the company it is today. The firm could be the first to reach a $2 trillion market value.
Jobs was an assertive, but at times ruthless, leader. Following a hearing on antitrust concerns about Apple and other tech companies like Google and Facebook, the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Antitrust released a series of Jobs’ emails during his time as CEO of the tech giant.
These internal messages showed Jobs blocked other companies from offering digital bookstores for Apple products unless they gave the company a cut of their revenue and forced developers of subscription-based apps to use his company’s payment service, Busines Insider previously reported.
Jobs was tough after former developer Joe Hewitt objected to Apple’s plan to write apps for the iPhone and iPad in the native programming language instead of translating with a software tool.
“I’d suggest we just cut Joe off from now on,” the founder advised his subordinates in an email.
The Apple founder used manipulative tactics to ensure company victories, particularly in boardroom meetings with some of the most powerful company executives in the world. For example, he wasn’t afraid to demand perfection and refuse compromises out of his products. In fact, the late founder thought adequacy was “morally appalling.”
When Google cofounder Larry Page was about to become CEO in 2011, he turned to Jobs in the same way Yang had. Jobs, who was nearing the end of his life, decided to be gracious with Google, an Apple competitor.
“The main thing I stressed was focus,” Jobs told Isaacson.
During his second, famously successful run as Apple CEO, Jobs applied this strategy to the “top 100” retreats he would hold with Apple’s leadership, biographer Walter Isaacson writes in the Harvard Business Review.
On the retreat’s last day, Jobs would stand in front of his employees with a whiteboard and write down suggestions for what Apple should be doing next. Jobs would then cross off the ones he considered “dumb,” Isaacson said, and “after much jockeying” finally come up with a list of 10. Then he’d cross out the bottom seven for the final list.
Before starting your day, Ferriss advises in an episode of his podcast, write down three to five things causing you the most stress. Ask yourself about each point, “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?” Then ensure that you do whatever it takes to accomplish that task.
“If I have 10 important things to do in a day, it’s 100% certain nothing important will get done that day,” Ferriss said.
This strategy is remarkably simple but allows people to take the abstract concept of “focus” and boil it down to a practical application.
Richard Feloni contributed to an earlier version of this post.
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