Steve Jobs on Saying No

“That’s been one of my mantrasfocus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”Steve Jobs

We all pride ourselves these days on being able to multitask, but maybe that’s because focusing is one of the hardest thing to do. Now imagine trying to concentrate if someone brought a multimillion-dollar idea your way. That’s exactly what happened to Steve Jobs at the beginning of his career and what did he do? He said No.

In 1977, the year Apple II was released, American cardiologist George Diamond pitched an idea to Jobs that could’ve potentially had an Apple computer in every doctor’s office around the country. Diamond wanted Jobs’ help to expand his program that would help diagnose diseases based on inputting their symptoms.

Diamond remembers Steve’s response after he pitched the idea:

“He said he was very impressed with what I had done, and that he agreed about the potential for the future, but ‘frankly I’m not interested in working with you on this.’ I asked why. He said: ‘You have to understand. This is something that nobody in the world yet understands. I can’t be distracted.I’m trying to make the best hammer I can make, the best hammer in the world.

You can use my hammer to tear something down, or you can use it to build something up. I really don’t care what you do with my hammer. I just want to make the best possible hammer. And what you are doing is a wonderful bit of construction, but to me it’s a distraction.”

Maybe, like Steve, you’ve been offered a job that would look great on your resume, but doesn’t put you any closer to your end goal. Maybe you’ve said no to projects that would be fun because you’re busy trying to make that goal a reality. Maybe you’ve said no to a great opportunity that didn’t align with your personal beliefs and values. Either way, that’s okay.

There’s a million things we could be doing to make a million dollars, but you’d be amazed what you can achieve when you invest yourself wholly into one thing. Sometimes that may mean shutting the door on someone else’s great idea because it’s their dream and not yours.

You can say no. You can choose you. Find your focus and like Steve Jobs did with what is now a multibillion-dollar empire, you might find you can also ‘move mountains.’