Sent to me by someone at work. I have no idea whether it’s true or not, but it’s a good tale.
No one could understand why Steve Jobs was such a fanatic for quality.
Beyond what was reasonable.
Beyond what was cost-effective.
I think it can be explained by what was on the walls of his bedroom.
He had just two things in there, apart from the bed.
A photograph of Albert Einstein.
A photograph of Guru Mahara-Ji.
These represented the two main influences in his life.
The technology of the west.
The philosophy of the east.
And he was extreme in his adherence to both.
It dates from his childhood experience.
Steve Jobs’ father was a craftsman.
In their garage he would restore cars.
Every part had to be perfect, whether you could see it or not.
Steve asked his father why he took such trouble.
The car would work just as well whether the unseen parts were clean or dirty.
His father explained that’s the way a craftsman works.
He does it for himself.
To know he’s done a perfect job.
If a craftsman is making a piece of furniture he doesn’t skimp, he doesn’t use cheap wood on the part that goes against the wall, where no one can see it.
Because the craftsman will know it’s there.
And he’ll always know he did a shoddy job.
And, of course, it’s exactly the same with Zen.
Whatever job you do, you do it the best you possibly can.
Because that is how you hold your life.
If we try to do a cheap job where no one can see, if we try to get away with things, if we cheat.
Then that is how we hold our life, and that becomes our life.
We can’t do a bad job only in one place.
What we do permeates everything we do.
There’s an old joke about two tramps who find a saucepan of soup with a dog turd in it.
The first tramp says “What a shame, shall we throw it away?”
The other tramp says “No, just eat the soup where the turd hasn’t been.”
The joke is, of course, you can’t.
Because it’s polluted all the soup.
That’s a good metaphor for the Zen way of life.
You can’t get away with anything, because it pollutes your life.
Which is why Steve Jobs was fanatical about every single detail of every single product.
He wasn’t working to a timesheet.
He wasn’t deciding how many hours could be profitably allocated to a job.
But, after Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple the first time, John Sculley from Pepsi took over.
He was a bookkeeper by training, and tried to run Apple accordingly.
That’s how he managed to take the company to near bankruptcy.
He thought constantly cutting costs was the way to maximise profit.
By making existing products cheaper, instead of making great products
Until eventually no one wanted to buy Apple products anymore.
And, when Apple was dead in the water, Steve Jobs was brought back.
With the crazy idea that quality counted more than cost.
With the crazy idea that people wanted better products, not just cheaper products.
With the crazy idea that doing a great job came first,
Totally unreasonable, totally against conventional wisdom.
And in fifteen years, with that totally crazy idea, Steve Jobs took Apple from near-bankruptcy to the most valuable company in the world.
For me, Steve Jobs demonstrates the old maxim.
“If you want to pick the fruit, you’ve got to water the tree.”