Reward of One’s Convictions


Friday’s San Jose Mercury News had an article speculating over Disney’s and Pixar getting together and the rumors have continued to fly (and become less… rumor-ular) over the weekend, culminating in today’s announcement that Disney’s board met to “mull,” as the Financial Times called it, “the transaction.”

Those of you who may know me, know that I’m not a big fan of Apple-the-company, or their two major platforms, the Macintosh and the iPod.

The company sports legendary legal and marketing departments, the former of which is responsible for arguging some of the worst precedent-setting cases in software law (when it’s not suing Mac rumor websites and little old ladies) and the latter of which is on par with Microsoft in terms of the amount of spin and obfuscation they’ll inject into a product announcement or discussion of an issue. The quality of their products isn’t particularly impressive (to me, anyway, especially given their “markup” relative to comparable industry products), and they tend to optimize for “style” and “hipness” as opposed to quality. (At least they best Microsoft in this regard, who always chooses profit and market-control over quality in their optimization equation.)

The worst display is the nexus of these not-particularly-flattering traits that is MacWorld, which from an onlooker that hasn’t imbibed the Koolaid, seems to me to just be a “reality-free zone” for three days. Steve Jobs’ showmanship during this event remains unchallenged throughout the industry, but the constant clapping at every statement and the uncritical thinking regarding every announcement reminds me every year of that famous iProduct parody, which just nailed it: “Steve Jobs could take a dump, put it in an off-white plastic case, add two grey buttons and a small LCD display, and you’d pay $600 for it.”

But there’s one thing I’ll give Steve Jobs…

… no matter what you think of the man or the companies he’s created, he has stood by his convictions for over two decades. And what’s more, standing by those convictions has produced results.

Look at the evidence: Jobs’ departure in the 80s when Apple’s board sided with “The Sugar Water Salesman” gave way to NeXT computer. Selling all of his stock in disgust and letting the company simmer for ten or so years, allowing Apple enjoy the mediocrity of leaders who don’t really understand what the company and its market were about and Jobs enjoyed a trumpeting return to the company he once left.
Jobs’ leadership, based on his vision for the industry and technology in general, continues to leave Apple with ever-improving prospects for its existence.

With the Pixar announcement, we see the same pattern emerging: the prospect of an unknown of studio challenging the leader in children’s entertainment, the great Disney, was absurd… a certain suicide. But a focus on technology to produce a quality art form that was able to be enjoyed on multiple levels by its audiences left Pixar in a position to slap Disney in the marketplace, a position created out of leadership of a man following his dream about how technology could (and should) transform entertainment, a conviction that could now make Jobs Disney’s largest shareholder.

In a more familiar context, it makes me wonder what the real value of simply being honest about and following one’s convictions is. Common sense and planning be damned!

Of course, it’s never that simple… but there may be something to the “make a quality product that people want and the market and the money will fall into place as a result”-model of business execution. From what little history I know of MoFo and MoCo, it’s a familiar model to us and our contributors.

It’s also a scary, unsure model.

But as far as honesty, sincerity, and executing on a set of conceived and considered convictions and sticking to a set of core beliefs goes, it’s right on that mark.
And if Jobs’ career illustrates anything for us, it’s that while such a model is often tumultuous and unsure, it’s not only possible, but it’s possible to be very successful while doing it, reaping rewards beyond what could’ve been imagined at some point in the past.

And all for the price of merely standing by what you believe in… and executing daily on it.

That’s a powerful lesson.