How a Failure Can Save Your Dream: Immortal Advice from Steve Jobs

How a Failure Can Save Your Dream: Immortal Advice from Steve Jobs

“Getting people to have big dreams (Wishing to affirm a friend who’s going through a bad time at work)”

— Managing Director

Now that we have intellectual humility out of the way, getting people to dream big should be a piece of cake.

On the surface, one has nothing to do with the other. The two traits don’t even seem compatible. Can a person be intellectually humble and ambitious at the same time?

Sure. Anyone can have big dreams. But, all other things being equal, the intellectually humble have a better shot at success. That’s because they are better equipped to get the help they need from others.

Big dreams require more than an individual effort. As long you rely on yourself only, your dream stays out of reach. But when you’re willing to admit to your weaknesses and blind spots and turn to others for help and advice, the picture shifts dramatically. There’s no longer a reason to give up!

That’s why we are never so close to our dreams as when we think we’ve failed. In our desperation, we realize we don’t know what we are doing. A new clarity sets in and helps us regain our footing. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me.

Eventually I’ve learned my lesson. In the wise words of Anonymous, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Not knowing is not a problem. In fact, not knowing can solve many problems. If I don’t know how something is done, then I don’t know that it can’t be done. If I don’t know that it can’t be done, I am not desperate.

So I bypass the desperation and go straight to “I don’t know.”

That’s where all my big dreams live. And not just mine.

Whether you think Steve Jobs was a mega-genius or a mega-jerk, you probably agree that he was a master of dreaming big. It might be the reason that his 2005 Stanford commencement address inspires so many people to this day. In it, Jobs mentioned the challenge we are talking about today. (You can read the whole speech here.)

He too went through “a bad time at work:”

“I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired…”

Then he realized that his failure actually saved his dream:

“…I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”

Finally, he explains how he got himself to dream big:

“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. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

That’s it. I have nothing to add.

Thank you, Managing Director, for leaving a heartfelt comment. I hope these words help your friend get through the tough time and find the dream again.


If you like to dream big, you might like my book, because it brings you one step closer to your dream.

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Written by

Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.


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