Exactly 20 years ago, Steve Jobs showed us how to respond to insult


What Steve Jobs has created in the shape of Apple devices, his legacy will continue to impact generations around the globe. There’s absolutely no doubt that the late founder of Apple was a true visionary. His inventions have changed the way we live our lives.

But, success did not come to him easily. He had his own share of ups and down and being kicked out of the company that he founded wasn’t the only insult he faced in life.

However, taking insults in your stride and not allowing them to be a hindrance in your ability to emerge successful is what makes you different from the rest of the crowd.

Twenty years ago, Jobs was taking questions at the AGM of Apple when a member of the audience rose to ask him a question.

What he said was enough to unnerve anyone as he began his question.

“Mr. Jobs, you’re a bright and influential man,” he began.

As if he had sensed the insults coming his way, Jobs murmured, “Here it comes.”

The questioner continued, “It’s sad and clear that on several counts you’ve discussed, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I would like, for example, for you to express in clear terms how, say, Java and any of its incarnations addresses the ideas embodied in OpenDoc. And when you’re finished with that, perhaps you can tell us what you personally have been doing for the last seven years.”

How Jobs replied should be the five cardinal points for any student of management.

First, Jobs paused as he tried to drink water. It took him 11 seconds before he started to respond to the man who desperately sought to heap insult on him.

After he had composed himself, Jobs replied, “You can please some of the people some of the time.” And he pauses again, this time for seven seconds, to be precise before he resumes his answer.

“One of the hardest things when you’re trying to effect change is that people like this gentleman are right in some areas. I’m sure that something that Open Doc does probably even more than that I’m not familiar with.”

Jobs got up and began to walk when he made another profoundly impactful point, “The hardest thing is how does it fit in to a cohesive larger vision that’s going to allow you to sell 8 billion, 10 billion dollars products a year.”

Jobs then moved on to talk about his team and how they were working incredibly hard to achieve the desired results.

He said, “There are a whole lot of people working super, super hard right now at Apple.”

He also named a few senior executives but remembered to acknowledge the ‘hundreds of’ junior level staff too.

His concluding remarks were even more powerful and served as an important lesson both in life and in management. Jobs said it was ok to make mistakes, something most of us are frightened of doing so.

“Some mistakes will be made, by the way. Some mistakes will be made along the way. And that’s good. Because at least some decisions are being made along the way. And we’ll find the mistakes, and we’ll fix them,” Jobs concluded.

So what Jobs taught us even in the midst of an attempt to insult him publicly were the following;

  1. When faced with a difficult question, it’s OK to pause and reflect before you speak. Writing on the importance of pause, write Justin Bariso says, “I’ve written extensively on the value of the pause–a technique that involves taking a few moments (or sometimes more) to stop and think before taking action. The pause is so valuable because it allows you to get your emotions under control and think things through before saying or doing something that you regret.”
  2. Agreeing with others even when he or she is trying to insult you. It often helps you win more than half of the battle.
  3. Looking at the bigger picture
  4. Praising teams and while doing so also acknowledging junior level staff
  5. It’s OK to make mistakes

This video also teaches us an important lesson on to respond to Twitter trolls, who are often paid, particularly in India, to unsettle the critics of the government.



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