Listen to any interview with Steve Wozniak and you’ll hear a limitless number of observations, anecdotes and opinions about technology.
But in listening carefully to Woz, I’ve discovered there is a far more impactful aspect to this genius that is little known – yet filled with messages of inspiration, hope and living the right way.
In fact, it was “Woz” and not Steve Jobs, who provided insights that allowed me to keep going in my career and business, despite a few setbacks.
The always talkative, down-to-earth Apple co-founder loves technology. Everything Woz talks about is related to the techie-world. But deep down is a highly principled, disciplined soul whose integrity has served him well.
Those are the qualities I detected under the surface of his many interviews from which I have benefitted enormously.
Allow me to explain.
“Even if I did something illegal and wrong, I would tell my parents so they would trust me”.
Which “Steve” would you trust more? Jobs or Wozniak? Even in childhood, Wozniak was transparent, instinctively knowing that it’s the key to building trust. Taking a page from Woz’s book, I recently fully disclosed some errors on the part of my business to an important client. Rather than cutting us off, the client was appreciative and said it made them trust us more.
“I think everything I have done in my life, my reasons at the time were right no matter how things worked out.”
It is not well known but the Woz did something you would never imagine would be on his resume: he taught elementary school children. Woz is a man of principle and does what he feels is right, no matter the outcome. It didn’t matter that teaching school kids might dilute his image as a tech pioneer. For Woz, his belief in education was more important than what others may think about him. Doing what we feel in our heart of hearts is right should always over-ride ego.
“My goal wasn’t to make a ton of money. It was to build good computers.”
It was this statement from Woz that literally turned around my business. For years, I struggled, pre-occupied by money. But the day I decided to simply produce the best product I could, with standards beyond those of my clients, is the day that my business finally gained traction. Put your best effort before money, and the cash will take care of itself.
“Don’t worry that you can’t seem to come up with sure billion dollar winners at first. Just do projects for yourself for fun. You’ll get better and better.”
You can sense, when listening to Woz, that he had fun building computers – and is still having fun today as a tech observer and advocate. I have to constantly remind myself to find ways of making my work more stimulating and enjoyable to combat what can easily become tedium. Having fun is essential to career and business success.
Despite all the accolades of the now late great Steve Jobs, it was the Woz who single-handily built the Apple I in 1976, launching what is now one of the greatest corporations on earth.
Despite this, he still lives in the shadow of Jobs – with actor Seth Rogen recently admitting he had not even heard of Steve Wozniak when chosen to play Woz in the movie “Steve Jobs.”
Indeed, Woz has accomplished a great deal, but it’s even more amazing when you consider he has a disability: face blindness (prosopagnosia), a condition which prevents him from recognizing people’s faces.
Even a plane crash couldn’t stop the workaholic Woz. In 1981, he was the pilot of a Beechcraft plane that crashed soon after take-off in California – injuring Woz and three other people. He had no memory of the crash in the weeks and months that followed, attributing games on the Apple II computer to eventually stimulating his brain to help him regain some of his memory.
I have learned from Steve Wozniak that doing the right thing is what a meaningful life is all about. Despite all his talent and knowledge in technology, it’s his character that has influenced me the most.
We should all follow his example.