Interviewer: Ed, what, when you think about Steve’s career,when you work with him very closely at Pixer,and why was he so successful?
Ed Catmull: Well, um…..I’d have to say that over the time in those 26 years as he was forced out of apple that he went through let’s say some very distinct phases.In the first phases where he had this reputation, I think people misunderstood him in what he was doing.
But when I found out that when he was learning from those mistakes. But Steve for the last several years that I knew was very, very kind, he was very empathetic with people, and when he negotiated with Sandro, Walt Disney. There was a notion of fairness in partnership which is very strong. Those things weren’t there earlier, but he was so smart that he learned how to do it.
When you test the boundaries which some people do, he was the first one who did tested the boundaries. When you do that, what will you do with it?
Or let’s take something which you hear a lot about, that is people and CEOs say
“My employees are my most valuable asset, and the culture is extremely important.”
But what Steve, he built the building,
And the building I think is one of the the most extraordinary work environment I have ever seen.
Interviewer: Is that at Pixer?
Ed: Pixer building. And this was Steve’s design, and it was very cultural.
That was because he thought about what it meant to say that people was the best, and the culture was the best. And it translated into environment. That was unlike what other CEOs would do. Who would use the same words.
Larry Ellison: Uh,,,he had a single mindness and an attention to detail unlike anyone I ‘ve ever seen. And if you look at, he insisted on. He was a bit of control freak.
Interviewer: He was?
Larry: Little bit. Just a little bit, and he wanted to engineer every aspects. Of the user experience, let’s say for the i-pod. Every excruciating detail. He was personally involved. I don’t think I really understands.
Edison had this comment, you know, it’s 1 % of the inspiration and 99%perspiration. Steve was a god of perspiration I mean Steve worked incredibly hard. It wasn’t just his intellectual gift which were enormous, but how he took it at that horsepower and applied it. Tirelessly until the entire problem was solved. I’ve never seen anyone like that.
Interviewer: Was there something different about his ability to focus or was there this controlled freak thing? or what?
Larry: I’ll tell you….Let’s talk a little bit about Pixer. Steve was my best friends for about 25 years. We know him for about the same length of the time. Very interesting how we met when we are in the neighborhood , woodside. His peacook wandered on to my property, and woke me up.
Not the way to start the relationship.
His girlfriend had given him a peacock and I came over to complain about the peacocks. He said, “You don’t like that bird, either.”
It’s not that he just put off the error, if you have stayed up all night, night after night after night,
I will get, he would call me up let’s get together. We saw each other a lot. He comes over to my house like he would go over to your house. You see I’m not coming over. If you make me watch Toy Story again.
I’ve watched 73 different versions of Toy Stories.
I know the new version of random menace 4% better than the one I saw last week
But I’m not watching this thing again. (So there ) You won’t believe what the different shadows look.
But that was Steve till that was perfect.And then once it was perfect uh…And he (moved on) to the next problem but working working obsessively until he had a solution.
That was insanely great. That what Steve was all about. Ideas good, there are a lot of good ideas.
Interviewer: There are a lot of good ideas？
Larry: Since there are a lot of good ideas. Translating a good idea into a great product.
It’s unbelievably hard. But Steve was translating good ideas. Not always his good ideas.
But he would translate good ideas into finished products.
Unlike any one else in our industry. You have to admit it. Henry Ford who did invent the car, and he made it cheap, he made it popular, he made it accessible to the American people.
Steve had translated good ideas into finished brilliant products.
Ed: It’s a thing. I think people don’t understand about Steve is that Steve was a master story teller.
Interviewer: Story teller?
Ed: He was a story teller. And a Good story teller is working on uh,,,,who makes up stories.
He’s working on the component of it and try something new and then commit to it.
So Steve comes up the idea, and he would commit to it. He will roll out to the people. For some people that commitment was like Whoa it’s just like when Steve spoke. The fact he wanted was the push back.
So people argue back with him and if it didn’t work he would go back and re-do it. First I knew it’s hard intellectually was in apple. That was clear all along, there was something where he self- identified with. But he appreciated the passion there, but he was so brilliant. He knew the difference. He knew when he needed to be in it, cause that was him. And he knew he needed to support us, and because he knew the difference.
He could succeed in both fronts which are very different from each other.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about story teller. Do you think that applied to an apple?
Larry: Well I’d like to emphasize with the things I have just said which was Steve did wanna debate, I think. Steve didn’t think it’s important if it’s his ideas or someone else’s ideas as long as the best idea. Steve has definitely wanted the people with best ideas won.
Now he had a,,,You had a very smart guy. You had to be able to persuade him. But he would listen if he thinks someone is better than he is in a certain area. I mean he was very good at listening. If he thinks uh,,,you are full of it. He will tell you.
Ed: Phenomenal to watch flip because he really would flip. You just saw this and he would argue something and yet he had to force but he wanted somebody argue back.
He didn’t respect somebody. If they didn’t have a point of view, and push it hard.
Larry: He was a very inspirational, charismatic leader. That people believed it that they wanted to be on this team. Because his team was doing very important things.
Ed: I think the Macintosh which is so clearly far superior to what windows was. Didn’t win because other elements weren’t there.
When I see Steve learn, ‘cause he had that gene, it’s like I agree there. But he learn those other skills by the time he got back to apple who was able to take the script like
Basically blow it forward because he was no longer weak in those other areas.
Larry: Yeah, I think he’d lost his job probably because he didn’t negotiate with board well enough. I agreed that he made himself vulnerable. Because he relied so much on what he did.
How brilliantly he did it. That he expected the apple boys recognize that he was kind of irreplaceable.
Interviewer: How would you advise someone who wanted the model, Steve jobs career, Steve jobs method or Steve jobs success. Basically what they wanted to model would you tell what to do? I mean could be people in this room could be people who watch this video.
Ed: Yeah,,I mean, to me tying to copy Steve is gonna stop at the surface. I mean conceptionally copying the Steve is the wrong thing to do. Partly because some people are so unique that to copy him is just to copy him in some ways.
In the ways doesn’t work. And he truly was unique.trying to be like him
Interviewer: What does that mean?
Ed: I do think there are principals how you think about thing, how do you explore for the boundaries, how you keep self getting caught up and in a conservative way of thinking.
And way you keep yourself for being blind from things Steve had the facility to do that. Most people don’t.
They can work on their personal view of life. How they tackle problems and how they open themselves, themselves up. And they’ll have a great result..
Larry: I think you cannot copy Steve. I think you ask yourself some basic questions if you are like him . I mean if there is a unsolved problem at your work, you’ll think about anything else. If you wanna know if you are like Steve jobs, it’s very simple.
You are unable to think about anything about these serious problems at work and you, that’s all you can do. You obsess about it until you solve it. And move on to the next thing, you obsess about that until you solve it. You obsess about this until you solve it. It is that obsessive compulsive personality Combined with this incredibly…and obsessive and compulsive personality are not all that rare for successful people.
Obsessive compulsive personality combined with this peculiar genius of Steve’s
Which was those aesthetic when we talk about the building.
He loved architectural design.
You know he loved I mean I mean He was an amateur architect. He loved product’s design. he was a….
Interviewer: Wasn’t he an engineer, though? He wasn’t a coder.
Larrry: He wasn’t a programmer and you know I’m a programmer. And, and, but he had a enough knowledge of what went into, you know. What went into the product.
What there was a micro-professor, the operating system , he had a pretty good knowledge about all of that technology.
Very smart boy. He learned very fast. might not have been a professional programmer. But his understanding of the complete system that can start the whole thing. Whole system. How to put pieces together.
If you had that kind of obsession, combined with the cause of aesthetic. And that is his inventiveness. Then you’re the next Steve jobs.
Interviewer: So that’s the test.
Larry: Easy. You know, I mean this guy is not, you know, when I..
Interviewer: So there really are no lessons to take from it unless you
Interviewer: Take that little test in you.
Larry: No I think there are a lot of lessons but, you know, to say to try to model yourself after Steve Jobs, I mean again it’s like, what do I have to do, I’d like to paint like picasso.
What should I do? Should I use more red? Apple became the most valuable company on the earth.
It wasn’t even one of Steve’s goals:
He never..you know…he wasn’t trying to be rich.
He wasn’t trying to be famous. He wasn’t trying to be powerful.
He was obsessed with the creative process
and building something that was beautiful