One week before the first Macintosh computer was supposed to ship, Steve Jobs’ engineers told him they were running behind and could not make the deadline. On a very uncomfortable conference call, the engineers explained that they would need an additional two weeks’ work before it was ready.
Jobs responded calmly, explaining to the engineers that if they could make it in two weeks, they could surely make it in one. There was no real difference in the timeframe, and, more importantly, they’d come this far and done such good work, there was no way they would not ship January 16th, the original ship date.
Jobs’ expectations and insistence continually pushed his engineers past what they thought was possible. The engineers rallied and made their deadline.
Early in life, Steve came to find that reality was a collection of falsely hemmed-in rules and compromises that people had been taught as children. Through continued practice, Jobs came to develop a much more aggressive idea of what was or wasn’t possible. To him, the combination of vision and work ethic could make much of life malleable.
Those who worked closely with him, called it “Steve’s reality distortion field.” His sheer drive, ambition and motivational tactics made him notoriously dismissive of phrases like “It can’t be done” or “We need more time.”
In the design stages for a new mouse, Jobs wanted it to move with more fluidity in any direction – a new development for a mouse at that time. The lead engineer was told by one of his designers that this would be commercially impossible and what Jobs wanted was not realistic and would not work.
The next day, the lead engineer arrived at work to find that Steve had fired the employee who’d said that. His replacement’s first words were: “I can build the mouse.”
Jobs often channeled Napoleon, shouting to his soldiers: “There shall be no Alps!”
Our perceptions, self-esteem, and what we’ve been taught earlier in life can have a great effect on what we believe we are and are not capable of. When we believe in the obstacle more than the goal, which will eventually win?
Apple’s products often brought a sense of wonder, feeling almost impossibly futuristic and intuitive, to their customers. This because Jobs had pushed through what others thought were hard limitations, and as a result, Apple continually created products most people did not believe could exist.
Jobs learned to reject the first judgments and objections because they almost always were rooted in fear. When he ordered the special glass for the first iPhone, the manufacturer couldn’t believe the aggressive deadline.
“We don’t have the capacity,” they said. “Don’t be afraid,” Jobs replied. “You can do it. Get your mind around it. You can do it.” Nearly overnight, manufacturers transformed their facilities into glass-making behemoths, and within six months they’d made enough for the first run of the phone.
Landscape radically changed.
Obstacles illuminate new options, and for those who press on, what is and what is not possible.
Keep calm and Fund on.