Within the last year, I’ve been compared to Steve Jobs four times, twice directly and twice by proxy. The first time I laughed, the second time I scoffed. The third I listened and finally, I’ve paused to figure out what the heck they meant.
After more thought, I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the analogue. All four of the folks who said this are smarter, better, and more complete engineers than I am.
Jobs has been studied and fawned over more than probably anyone in the modern computer era he helped invent. He wasn’t the most technical engineer (like Woz), nor was he the most competent designer (like Ive). He often displayed abysmal tactlessness. Depending on the particular occurrence and one’s perspective he either had amazing or horrible soft skills.
Jobs had one thing in spades. He had it more than anyone else I can think of.
He had vision. He knew something good when he saw it, and he could convince others of the possibilities. He saw the home computer market before anyone else. He believed in the design of computers before anyone else. He saw that the phone (and tablet) could be the most powerful and accessible computer in history barely ten years after science fiction was still using the Tricorder in Star Trek: Next Generation.
Once he saw a vision, he also had the capacity to remain undaunted. The Apple I flopped before the Apple II. So did the Lisa before the Macintosh. I’ve no idea how many designs it took to get the original iPhone, but it was not a few. It required persistence to fulfill that vision so that others could see it too.
Persistence is the muscle that builds vision until others can also see it.
People that can inject vision into otherwise beige and boring circumstances seem fairly rare. But just like any other, vision must be a skill with latent potential. We’ve all heard of the term “visionary”, but I don’t think I’ve ever considered this a skill per se; its always seemed like something magical. Now that I’ve been thumped over the skull with it - in other words, after a lack of vision (har, how meta, and thanks if you’re reading) - I’m eager to investigate growing this skill. Hopefully I will be persistent in doing so.