Ex-Apple engineer reveals what it was like to pitch Steve Jobs

From 1983 to 1987 and again from 1995 to 1997, I was employed by Apple. It was a privilege and an honour to work there, even if I refer to these assignments as “two tours of duty”. In many ways, Steve Jobs and Apple are to thank for who and where I am now.

Jobs unexpectedly showed up at my office with a man I didn’t know one day in 1984. Jobs wasn’t big on manners, so he didn’t introduce him. He changed the subject and questioned, “What do you think of a company called Knoware?”

Most people would have taken a long pause before answering. Would I be punished for giving my actual (and harsh) opinions? Or should I give a neutral and safe answer?

I went with the truth.
I told Jobs that the company’s products were mediocre, boring, and simplistic, and that the company was not strategic for us. After all, they didn’t take advantage of the Mac’s graphical user interface and other advanced features.

“In the Macintosh Division, you had to prove yourself every day, or Jobs got rid of you.” –Guy Kawasaki, author, “WISE GUY: LESSONS FROM LIFE”

After my rant, Jobs said, “I want you to meet the CEO of Knoware, Archie McGill.” I shook his hand, and Steve said to him, “See? That’s what I told you.”

Thank you, Steve. If I had said nice things about the crappy Knoware products, Jobs would have, at a minimum, decided that I was clueless, which would have limited my career at Apple. At worst, he would have said that I was stupid and fired me later that day, if not on the spot.

In the Macintosh Division, you had to prove yourself every day, or Jobs would get rid of you. He demanded excellence and kept you at the top of your game. It wasn’t easy to work for him; it was sometimes unpleasant and always scary, but it drove many of us to do the finest work of our careers. I wouldn’t trade working for him for any job I’ve ever had, and I don’t know anyone in the Macintosh Division who would.

Lying won’t get you anywhere.
Here’s what I learned from my experience at Apple and working with Jobs:

Tell the truth: 

Honesty is a gauge of your character and ability. To recognize what is true and have the courage to proclaim it, you must be intelligent. A person’s desire for the truth increases with age. To be pleasant or cheerful, telling people that their product is fantastic doesn’t help them enhance it, much less dazzle or con people like Jobs.

Compared to lying, being honest is not only preferable but also simpler. Being consistent is easy if you’re honest because there is only one truth. If you are not honest, you must fabricate a lie and then monitor your speech.

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva. Previously, Kawasaki was the chief evangelist at Apple. He has written 14 books, including “The Art of the Start,” “Selling the Dream,” and his latest, “Wise Guy: Lessons from a Life.”

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