Steve Jobs is most famous for founding Apple, and he should be. He turned it into one of the biggest companies in the world and the most valuable brand ever, but Apple has the effect of overshadowing some of Jobs's other accomplishments.

Jobs was awarded with the National Medal of Technology in 1985--the same year he founded NeXT Inc. One year later, he funded what would become Pixar for $10 million, and in 1987 he received the Jefferson Award for Public Service. As the 1980s came to a close, he was named Inc. magazine's Entrepreneur of the Decade.

The success continued into the '90s. Apple bought NeXT for $427 million in 1996, and the tech visionary was reinstated as the permanent CEO of his original venture in 2000. Fast-forward to 2006, and Disney acquires Pixar (that $10 million investment) in an all-stock transaction valued at $7.4 billion.

The One Habit of Success

While it's easy to believe that everything Jobs touched turned to gold, he had an altogether different take on his success. At the 1997 Worldwide Developers Conference, he explained that the secret to his Midas touch was primarily about touching fewer things. In his own words:

"Innovation is saying 'no' to 1,000 things. You have to pick carefully."

Say what, now? Yes, no matter what you're building, whether it's a career, a network, or a list of goals for the new year, it's easy to get carried away by all of the possibilities. You could say "yes" and take on dozens of exciting new projects at work, attend a different networking event every Friday without fail, or come up with goals for your finances, friendships, fitness, and faith.

The problem is, no one--not even the next Steve Jobs--can do it all. All those work projects will burn you out and none will succeed. Those new relationships you form every week will be impossible to maintain, let alone nurture. Those 10, 20, or 100 goals will compete for attention, and by the end of the year, you won't accomplish any of them.

As Jobs put it, "Focusing is about saying no."

Lest you get the wrong idea, he acknowledges that it isn't easy, revealing that "I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done."

Buffett Backs Him Up

The advice feels counterintuitive, but Jobs isn't the only prominent figure who has advocated a narrowing of focus. Just ask Warren Buffett, who's happy to point out that "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything."

If you're ready to subscribe to the advice of these leaders (and others), invest time and energy into making a list of your top 20 priorities in life.

Now pick five, and actively avoid the rest.

You'll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Published on: Nov 4, 2019
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