Steve Jobs: What is Greatness?

Steve Jobs: This all started with George Lucas. He had a problem. Now to describe his problem let me digress a bit. When you make a copy of an audio cassette tape, let’s say, an analog copy of an audio recording, you get noise artifacts – hiss. Right? We’ve all experienced that.

Well, the same thing happens when you make an analog copy or an optical copy of a piece of film. If you copy optically one piece of film to another, you get hiss, if you will, and in this case the noise artifacts are visual. You get a dirty frame.

Well, when George was making the original Star Wars he had to combine many, many pieces of film together to make one frame. Some with the models, some with the map paintings, some with a human character, some with the special effects.

And by the time he got through combining all these pieces of film to make just one frame of his movie, it was dirty. And he, being the genius that he was, thought: I wonder if I combine them digitally, if they could be totally clean.

Because when you make a digital copy of an analog recording, it’s perfect. And it turns out if you make a digital copy of a piece of film, it’s perfect.

Interviewer: Sharper, clearer?

Steve Jobs: Sharper, clearer, without the noise artifacts. So George hired this guy named Ed Capital, who was at the New York Institute of Technology to come out and build a computer group for him and to figure out how to solve this problem. And they did. And George was the first one to ever do this.

And after this problem was solved, George decided that he’d solve this problem and he decided he would sell this computer group. And I ended up buying them. I met Ed, and Ed told me his dream was to make the world’s first computer animated film. And I bought into that dream, both sort of spiritually and financially. And together, we started Pixar in 1986.

Interviewer: What is your model of business?

Steve Jobs: My model of business is the Beatles. You know they were four very talented guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the sum was greater than the total was greater than the sum of the parts.

And that’s how I see the business. You know, great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people. And we’ve got that here at Pixar, and we’ve got that at Apple as well. And so that’s what lets me do this.

Well, you know with the Beatles, when they were together, they did truly brilliant innovative work. And when they split up they did good work, but it was never the same. And I see a business that way too – It’s really always a team.

Interviewer: Well as a person what’s your biggest strength?

Steve Jobs: I’ve been very lucky in meeting incredibly talented people and hanging out with them. And so, that’s been my greatest strength.

Interviewer: And what’s your biggest weakness?

Steve Jobs: You know, I think all of us need to be on guard against arrogance, which knocks at the door whenever you’re successful.

Interviewer: Have you lived through them?

Steve Jobs: Oh sure, sure.

Interviewer: Now by that, correct me if I’m wrong, you had an incredible high with the initial success of Apple, and then other competitors get in it. It’s sobering.

Steve Jobs: Well, as you may know, I was basically fired from Apple when I was 30. And was invited to come back 12 years later.

So, that was difficult when it happened. But maybe the best thing that ever happened to me- there wouldn’t be a Pixar if that hadn’t happened. And so, you know you just you move on. Life goes on and you learn from it.

Interviewer: We’re at the end here, but you were fired from Apple when you were 30, asked to come back when you were 42. Did you think of that moment how sweet it is?

Steve Jobs: No, I thought at that moment what a, you know, what a circle of life. You know, life is just always mysterious and surprising and you never know what’s around the next corner. So…

(Parts of a video) Thank you. Thanks for coming today.

Interviewer: Let’s talk about Steve Jobs, the person. What drives you, Steve Jobs?

Steve Jobs: I like working with people that make products that will get used or experienced by a lot of people. Where you have a chance to, in a very small way, influence how things go. Influence the way people look at a product or maybe even the world in a small way. And I’m very lucky; I get to do that at Apple.

(Parts of a video) That’s what it looks like. Very thin.

Steve Jobs: You know I still believe that the computer business is in its infancy, that there’s a tremendous amount of innovation that’s going to be coming out.

I’m optimistic as to the future of the computer business.