Steve Jobs’ Legacy: Real Artists Ship

October 6, 2011 — Leave a comment

“Real artists ship.” — Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

That was one of Steve Jobs’ early mantras for his team of geniuses. What did he mean? Jobs meant that it doesn’t really matter how beautiful your dreams are, how simple your lines are, or how ergonomic your next product is in your mind’s eye. Real artists ship. They produce. They deliver.

Delivering great products will be one of Steve Jobs’ enduring legacies. Did you know that Steve delivered the Apple II computer in 1977, when he was a 22 year old college dropout? Like Michael Dell and Bill Gates (two other college dropouts who began to change the world before they reached 25), Jobs seemed to me an eccentric positive deviant whose ideas were initially resisted by the establishment. Cultural inertia tends to norm everything to average: average grades, average products, average levels of initiative. Jobs inspired and delivered, redefining “normal” for millions of people. For example, I find it totally normal to have my entire music and video collection of 5,913 items in my pocket, going everywhere I go, every day. That wasn’t true ten years ago.

Here’s a thought in the same spirit: Real leaders lead. Real leaders make stuff happen. They don’t just daydream, strategize, plan, and cast vision. Real leaders deviate from the system. They reset their culture’s “norm” needle. They make deadlines and hit targets. Not perfectly, and not every time. But often enough to build legitimate expectations and set new standards among their followers. Things are different after they leave.

Nehemiah was another leader who delivered. Burdened by reports of the desolation of his hometown, Jerusalem, he inspired and motivated hundreds of ordinary citizens to refortify the city’s wall and gates. He endured attacks from external foes and dissent from within. Yet “the wall was finished… in fifty-two days” (Nehemiah 6:15).

Real artists ship. Real leaders lead.

What is stopping your dream from shipping?

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