I’m reading Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson.
It’s very, very hard to put down and, when you do, it draws you back.
The book is like Jobs himself: magnetic.
You ask yourself: how could one man revolutionise six entire industries:
How does one man do all of that?
The answer is in what those who knew him referred to as his ‘reality distortion field’.
He didn’t look to reality to tell him what was possible.
He dictated to reality what was possible.
Now obviously this doesn’t always work.
50% of the time you’re going to have some unpleasant surprises.
For instance, he was fired from his own company.
But it does allow you to accomplish things that people who wait for permission and agreement can’t.
Because 50% of the time it does work.
And if, like Steve Jobs, you can take the rough with the smooth, you can accomplish much, much more than conventional wisdom says you ought to.
There are two examples of his ‘reality distortion field’ that really struck me.
Steve Jobs was fanatical about perfectionism.
This was fine for him, but how do you carry other people along with your vision?
The people who actually have to do the work.
Jobs often turned circuit designs down because the lines weren’t perfectly straight.
The engineers didn’t understand why.
It would work just as well, whether the lines were straight or not.
And no one would ever see them.
But Jobs insisted.
He wanted it perfect whether anyone would see it or not.
It meant working days, nights, and weekends non-stop for the engineers.
But eventually they finished.
And the end product was great.
Then Jobs got all twenty engineers together and asked them to sign their names on a sheet of paper.
Then he told them that every computer made would have their signatures engraved on the inside, like artists.
No one else would see it, but they’d be there.
On every single computer that went out.
To recognise that it was their creation.
That’s why people did the impossible for Steve Jobs.
Another engineer, Larry Kenyon, explained an example of the ‘reality distortion field’.
Steve Jobs told him the new computer was taking ten seconds too long to boot up.
Kenyon said shaving ten seconds off wasn’t worth the effort it would take.
But Jobs cut him off.
He said “If it would save a person’s life, would you shave 10 seconds off the start up time?”
The engineer thought it was a silly question.
Jobs said “If I could show you a way you could save a person’s life, would you do it.”
Jobs was so intense that Kenyon said, he guessed he’d have to find a way.
Jobs started writing numbers.
He said “Okay, we know around 5 million people will be using this computer every day.
We know that 5 million times 10 seconds, every day, is roughly 300 million hours a year.
So we know that by cutting 10 seconds off the startup time, you could save the equivalent of at least a hundred lifetimes a year.”
Larry Kenyon just sat there open mouthed.
He couldn’t argue with it.
He’d never thought of it like that.
He suddenly saw the world of computers from Steve Jobs’ perspective.
Not that tiny things didn’t really matter.
But that tiny things mattered incredibly.
Two weeks later Larry Kenyon came back with twenty six seconds shaved off the startup time.
And that’s Steve Jobs’ ‘reality distortion field’.
And that’s how you revolutionise six industries.
You have to get people to want to do the impossible.