Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wise words from Steve Jobs

Thanks to the Copy Writer's Roundtable for this
Wall Street Journal interview with Steve Jobs:

"I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired.

"How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him.

"So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

"I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley.

"But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

"I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

"During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world.

"In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

"I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.

"Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Doing the right/write/white stuff

By Christian Lander, Author of 'Stuff White People Like' - from Stuff White People

We all have a fantasy of something incredible happening to us by accident. It's impossible not to be captivated by the story of Lana Turner, sitting on a stool at a drugstore one moment, acting in Hollywood movies the next.

Well, you could say that I am Lana Turner . . . of the internet (the latter tag is important for clarifying any misconceptions about my physical attractiveness). I am the author of the accidental New York Times bestseller and popular blog Stuff White People Like, and this is my story.

On 18 January 2008, my friend Myles and I were having an instant messenger conversation about The Wire. Myles, who is Filipino, said he didn't trust any white person who didn't watch the show. I agreed with him, so we started talking about what white people might be doing instead of watching The Wire. Going to therapy, watching plays, doing yoga and getting divorced were the first things that popped into our heads. For some reason, the idea that a white person was too busy getting divorced to watch television was particularly hilarious to me, so I started a blog about it.

Originally, my plan was to take this instant messenger conversation and turn it into something that would make Myles and two other friends laugh. There was no expectation that it was going to be anything bigger – I wasn't even sure it would make them laugh. I just went to, gave it the title "Stuff White People Like", and started writing.

The first few entries were short and almost completely directed at people Myles and I knew from our high school. The first entry, on coffee, was about the male students who would proudly attach a refillable mug to their backpacks as a gesture of their maturity. Man, we hated those guys.

But the more I started writing, the more I realised that I wasn't writing about other people, I was writing about myself. And I was full of far more self-loathing than I had expected. Within a week the site was up to 25 entries.

I thought it was entertaining enough to send to my (20) friends as a mass email, asking them to read it. But then an amazing thing happened. The readership started growing.

It's not hard to get your friends to forward on your web project, largely out of guilt or obligation. But when their friends, the ones who don't know you, start forwarding it to their friends, you have something special. I watched as the site traffic grew from a few hundred hits a day (mostly misguided searches for organic fair trade coffee) to more than a thousand. Then, somehow, it wound up on the blog for Good Magazine (published by Al Gore's son) and Comedy Central's Insider (the official blog for the US cable channel). Traffic jumped to 30,000 hits a day. From there it spread exponentially; soon it was crossing a 100,000, then 300,000 and 400,000. Every day I would just stare at my computer and say, "It can't get any bigger than this."

I began receiving emails from literary agents in New York City and Los Angeles. They wanted to turn the site into a book. I was floored. I knew that people spent their entire lives trying to get the attention of a literary agent, yet they were coming to me to turn my silly little blog into a book. By early March – less than two months after the blog started – I had chosen an agent. By the end of the month, I had a book deal in place. On 31 March, I quit my job.

Over the next year, the book would go on to be a New York Times bestseller, while I appeared on Conan O'Brien's talkshow and gave lectures at Google, Harvard, Brown – and now the London School of Economics. So in case it's something you'd like to happen to you too, here are a few thoughts on the matter:

• Be lucky I can't stress this enough. I would say it is responsible for approximately 41% of my success.

• Be true to yourself When you try to create something that you think will please everyone, it ends up pleasing no one. People can see through attempts to do something with the sole intention of getting famous. When you start your blog, do something that entertains you – and live with the expectation that your only reward will be writing the blog.

• Be Canadian People seem to like us.

• Be perceived as racist by idiots This will lead to more traffic than you could ever imagine. I would, however, strongly recommend not being perceived as racist by smart people. That will end poorly.

• Have an email address on your site This is how every agent and media outlet reached me. It is also how every piece of hate mail reached me. For the majority of blogs, the ratio will likely be one agent email for every 200 pieces of hate mail. Successful blogs can expect that ratio to be 1:400. Super successful blogs can expect some of the hate mail to come from agents.

• Be nice to everyone It may surprise you that being famous on the internet does not last for ever. Apparently, people have short attention spans nowadays. However, one thing that people will remember is if someone marginally famous was a jerk to them. I still remember and hate the baseball player who refused to sign an autograph for me when I was 15. Also, it will be less humiliating to ask them for help in finding a job once your internet fame is over.


Monday, August 17, 2009