How Steve Jobs turned his biggest problem into his biggest opportunity

Steve Jobs was an imperfect human being like the rest of us. But during his short life he managed to achieve more of the goals he set himself than most of us do.

In his famous 2005 Stanford commencement address Steve talked about how he achieved this. And he described how the biggest challenge of his life also turned out to be his biggest opportunity.

When he was 30 years old, the company he had co-founded and worked in all his adult life fired him.

It was, he said,


and for a few months he felt he was

“a very public failure.”

But then he reflected…

Getting fired from Apple, he said, didn’t only turn out to be a good thing:

“Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me… It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life… It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.”

Steve Jobs’s biggest problem led him to find his biggest opportunity. And once he had found what he really wanted to do, that gave him the inspiration and motivation to turn a tiny, struggling computer company into the most valuable corporation on the planet.

So how did he find what he really wanted to do?

Steve said:

“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love… If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

When we face our biggest challenge it forces us to make choices and discover:

  • What are we willing to let go, because it’s not that important to us?
  • What are we willing to work and fight for?
  • What do we love?

And when we know the answers to those questions then it’s not a ‘fight’ any more: it’s just us being who we are, doing what we love, doing what we are here to do. Because this is what has meaning for us — whether it seems ‘difficult’ to other people or not.

And when we know that then we become antifragile. And this is the greatest opportunity of them all.

Have you found what you love? Do you use the challenges you face to become clearer about what it is and inspire yourself to achieve it?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

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