What struck me profoundly about Steve Jobs in high school was his outsize expectations. He would relentlessly pursue big plans that usually exceeded his experience, resources, and knowledge, and then always make it clear to others that his goals were just the beginning of something bigger.
This pumped-up characteristic of entrepreneurs--both the successful ones and, frankly, those that don’t go the distance--is well distinguished in Think Big, Act Bigger, a best-selling book released this week by Jeffrey Hayzlett, serial entrepreneur and host of C-Suite on Bloomberg TV. I caught up with him as he was launching the manuscript:
Thompson: Every successful entrepreneur has this split personality, with brutal reality and humility on one side and irrepressible, irrational exuberance on the other!
Hayzlett: Think about it. You’re not going to break away from your competition unless you push farther and be bolder about what’s possible. If they aren’t laughing at you at Apple and Microsoft, you’re not trying hard enough.
Thompson: You reminded us of the megatrend of the 21st century that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs almost missed.
Hayzlett: It’s important to remember to push for the audacious, beyond what’s been attempted before. When Peter Friedman started and ran Apple’s first internet services division--what we today call social media--it wasn’t an easy sale. He presented his idea to the executive staff at Apple in 1994, saying that "For now this will be used by some Mac and PC owners, but eventually online communities will be much, much bigger than personal computers. They will be in phones, TVs, cars, and devices we haven’t thought of yet. Everyone will use them in all aspects of their lives."
Thompson: Apple embraced such forward thinking out of the gate, right?
Hayzlett: Wrong! The room was quiet except for some grunting. When Friedman, who today is chairman and CEO of LiveWorld, a social media solutions company, turned around, he could see they were covering their mouths because they were laughing at him. Not anymore.
Thompson: Big thinkers, as you describe them, know that’s when you must be relentless, accelerating your efforts as they chuckle behind your back?
Hayzlett: Personally, I’d prefer people to laugh in my face. That way I can see everyone I need to wave at as I pass them by doing what Peter did: employing a little "irrational leadership," swinging the pendulum way out there, stressing the system in such a way your people move faster and harder than have before.