How Steve Jobs Learned to Embrace Failure and Saved Apple

Steve Jobs Unveils Apple iPhone at Macworld Expo
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David Paul Morris / Stringer / Getty Images

In the early days of Apple, Steve Jobs was well known for his intense perfectionism. Apple spent nearly three years developing the original Macintosh computer, as Jobs demanded final approval of every single detail. This pursuit of what he perceived to be perfection infamously led him to fire talented employees without hesitation for not conforming to his design aesthetics, and to scrap nearly-finished projects that didn't meet his standards for elegance. 

While it's certainly true that his attention to detail and relentless drive led the company to create some of the most beautiful (and best) technology products the world has ever seen, his style of leadership was less than admirable in the beginning and had adverse effects on those working at the company. Eventually, Jobs' demeanor and an internal power struggle over disagreements on philosophies between him and CEO, John Sculley, led to his ousting from the company. In Jobs' eyes, this event was devastating.

Jobs’ Life After Apple and the Significance of His Return 

Jobs saw his ousting from Apple as an incredible personal failure. He had been pushed out of the company he had worked so hard to grow into a recognizable brand. Before eventually returning to Apple in 1997, Jobs went on to found NeXT and spin Pixar off into its own entity after purchasing the animated division of Lucas Films. 

By the time he returned to Apple, Jobs had learned the importance of tempering his obsession with control, and he was much better at empowering his talented employees to do what they do best. Without a doubt, this change in his leadership style is a very significant contributing factor in Apple's return to the spotlight after suffering through some major setbacks during his absence from the company.

Once he returned, he led the charge on Apple's new OS, which redefined how personal computers function, the iPod, which completely revolutionized the music industry, and the iPhone, which has been equally as important in the evolution of personal technological devices.

What We Can Learn From Jobs and His Early Failure

Although Steve Jobs is no longer with us, he truly changed the world with the products he helped shape, and lessons he imparted along the way. As an entrepreneur, Jobs taught us that it is challenging for a leader to be successful if they’re too reckless or unshakable in their way of thinking. 

This intense drive for perfection often leads to the failure of young technology companies, that should be focusing much more seriously on validating their core product offerings, as opposed to perfecting them straight out the gates. Leaders do need to take risks along the way, pushing for the results they want to see in business while also accepting that there will be failures at times. 

In the case of Jobs, he didn't allow his initial failure at Apple to define his life. He went on to learn from his experiences, create more businesses, and eventually return to help make Apple great again. Embracing his failure gave him the motivation to move further forward.