How Steve Jobs turned his biggest problem into his biggest opportunity

Steve Jobs saying, "I want to put a ding in the universe"

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 many of us do.

In 2005, in his famous Stanford commencement address, Steve talked about what it was that enabled him to do this. 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 hard in all his adult life suddenly fired him.

It was, he said,


And for a few months he felt,

“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 was what led him to find his biggest opportunity. And once he had decided what he really wanted to do, then he had the inspiration and motivation to turn what at the time was a tiny, struggling computer company into the most valuable corporation on the planet.

How did he achieve that?

Steve’s answer was:

“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 confront:

  • What do we really care about?
  • What are we willing to let go?
  • What are we willing to work and fight for?
  • What do we love?

And when we find 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. And that is the biggest opportunity for us all.

Finding it is another step to making us antifragile.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? Did you use it to help you find what you love?

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

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