Steve Jobs wasn't always Steve Jobs. Along the way he learned to take an unconventional path and do things other people typically don't -- or won't -- consider. He learned about the power of asking for help. He learned that belief can motivate and inspire. He learned to embrace the "no excuses" rule of leadership.
His experiences turned Steve Jobs into Steve Jobs.
So what experience does he give the most credit for the later success of Apple?
Making, with Steve Wozniak, so-called blue boxes.
A blue box worked by producing the tones used by telephones to switch long distance calls. A blue box let you fool the telephone system into thinking you were a telephone computer and make long distance calls, even international ones, for free. (Using a blue box was like using a hacked cable box to get TV channels you don't pay for.)
Jobs and Woz sold approximately $6,000 worth of blue boxes before they were almost caught by police. But that early (albeit illegal) entrepreneurial success wasn't the real lesson.
According to Jobs:
We were so fascinated by (the blue boxes)... that Woz and I figured out how to build one. We built the best one in the world. The first digital blue box in the world...
It was the magic of the fact that two teenagers could build this box for $100 worth of parts and control hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure in the entire telephone network in the whole world -- (and all) from Los Altos and Cupertino, California.
Experiences like that taught us the power of ideas: The power of understanding that if you could build this box, you could control telephone infrastructure around the world. That's a powerful thing.
If we wouldn't have made blue boxes, there would have been no Apple. Because we would have not had not only the confidence that we could build something and make it work -- because it took us six months of discovery to figure out how to build this -- but we also had the sense of magic that we could influence the world.
That "magic" didn't result from a master plan. Jobs and Woz didn't need to see an end before they saw a beginning.
That confidence, that sense of belief, that magic came from trying something.
Try Something. Try Anything.
People who eventually find success start by trying things. Lots of things.
Sometimes they succeed. More often, they fail.
And that's okay. In fact, that's more than okay: You learn much more from mistakes than you do from successes.
The past is just training. It doesn't define you. Think about what went wrong -- but only in terms of understanding how, the next time, you will get it right.
Try one thing. Try another thing. Keep trying things. Trust that you'll figure out how to react and respond to barriers and challenges. Trust that every experience will make you a little wiser. Trust that you'll gain more skills and more connections.
Sure, you'll fail more than you succeed... but each time you'll learn and grow and develop the confidence that you, like Jobs and Woz, can do something and make it work.
And maybe you will find that sense of magic -- that sense of belief -- that you too can influence, in whatever way you choose, the world around you.
Which sounds like a great way to define "success."