I wrote and delivered the following speech when I was a student at Weber State University sometime between 1998–2000. My public speaking instructor was Joel Passy. One glaring error in the essay that stands out to me now: Steve Jobs did not found Pixar. He bought it from George Lucas. :-) If there are any other errors that stand out to the reader, feel free to comment.–JLP
The man I’m going to talk about today is known as much for his ego as he is known for his charisma. He is the founder of three companies that have indelibly left their mark on the world of computing and entertainment. The first was Apple Computer. The company which practically invented the Personal Computer as we know it today. The second company was NeXT, which was later acquired by Apple, and manufactured the machines used in the invention of the World Wide Web. The last company he founded was Pixar. The animation studio that brought us the films Toy Story and A Bug’s Life. The man is Steve Jobs.
But Steve Jobs is more than just a man with the salesmanship and capitol required to found multi-billion dollar companies. To many he is a cultural icon. His ability to motivate is legendary. He’s been known to look over the shoulder of a software engineer, see what he’s working on and declare, “That’s shit.” Was the engineer offended? Probably. But he was also inspired to do the job better the next time. How do we explain this. What is it about Steve Jobs that allows him to be offensive and inspirational at the same time? It’s been referred to by many an industry pundit and observer as the Jobsian Reality Distortion Field™. In short, it is his charisma. When he approached John Scully of Pepsico to come and be the CEO of Apple, Jobs put it to Scully like this:
“Listen, John. Do you want to sell sugar-water for the rest of your life or do you want change the world?” Scully served as Apple’s CEO for ten years.
Jobs has an incredible ability to take what some might call, the gravest of circumstances, and turn it into opportunity. The most recent example is his turnaround of the company he co-founded in the 1970s, Apple Computer. Having left Apple in 1985 to found NeXT and, later, Pixar, Jobs returned to the Apple fold when Apple acquired NeXT in late 1996. His new position at Apple was that of “Strategic Advisor.” Eight months later, Apple CEO Gil Amelio agreed to resign so that a new CEO, one who was more charismatic and with more marketing savvy, could take the reigns of the company and lead it back into profitability. Bottom line: CEO Amelio was out and Interim CEO Jobs was in.
Among the first items in the new Jobsian Agenda for Apple Computer, was getting a commitment from Microsoft, already the largest developer of software for the Macintosh platform, to continue developing Microsoft Office for the Mac for at least the next five years as well as investing $150 Million dollars in Apple in the form of non-voting stock. $150 Million dollars is a mere drop in the bucket to a company like Apple, which has about two billion dollars in cash, but it was worth a lot more in political capitol. Steve Jobs also announced a new ad campaign for the company he co-founded. The slogan: Think different.
The first ad that Apple released with the Think different message, showed black and white images on film and video of historical figures that, in Apple’s opinion, thought differently. People like Albert Einstein, Buckminster Fuller, Pablo Picaso, Mahatma Ghandi, Ted Turner, Richard Branson, Bob Dilan and others. It didn’t matter that there was no Apple Computer or Macintosh during the lifetimes of people like Einstein or Ghandi. Apple, which is to say, Steve Jobs, wanted to celebrate the ideas that they stood for. The fact that it was through their different ways of thinking that they had an impact on the world. And the hopeful thought that if there had been an Apple Computer or Macintosh, that it would have been their computer of choice because they stand for those same ideals.
As these images flickered across TV screens for the first time during the network television premiere of Toy Story from Disney and Jobs’ own company Pixar, Academy Award winning actor, Richard Dreyfus recited the following narrative:
"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them. Disagree with them. Glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones. We see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."
Apple’s critics, and there are so many of them, and even some of Apple’s fans, thought that this was the beginning of the end. They thought that “Think different” was a joke. That a campaign with such touchy feely sentiment was totally wrong for selling computers.
What these critics didn’t realize, however, was how important it is for Macintosh users to be unique. Something that Steve Jobs, who helped make the Macintosh a reality in the early eighties, understood all too well. He knew that he was taking a big risk with this campaign. But consider the courage that it took. At a time when the whole computer industry and the business community in general is crying out for Apple to conform, to be like everybody else, to sell computers in the same fashion as Compaq, Hewlett Packard or even Microsoft, Apple, under Steve Jobs’ leadership, effectively stood up and said, “No!
“We will not conform. Our strength is in that which sets us apart from everyone else. We take pride in being different from you. Thinking differently is what made us successful in the past and it will make us successful in the future.”
After having been written off by many of those pundits and critics, let’s fast forward about a year and a half later. Apple computer is getting ready to report its sixth consecutive profitable quarter. The number one selling computer for the last quarter of 1998 was Apple’s iMac. The brainchild of Apple’s iCEO, Steve Jobs. The news outlets, when reporting on Apple Computer no longer refers to it as a “Struggling computer maker,” but as a “Resurgent,” or “successful computer maker.”
And what did Steve Jobs get in return for this turnaround of the company that has always been his first passion? Bill Gates, who is worth close to $100 Billion dollars, receives of salary of almost a quarter of a million dollars a year for his role as CEO of Microsoft. A billionaire in his own right, with stock in Apple and as the single largest shareholder in Pixar, Steve Jobs, in 1998, for his services as Interim CEO of Apple Computer, received a whopping one...Dollar. Talk about thinking differently.