Because Steve Jobs had visited the AllThingsD D conference stage so many times over the course of the past decade, organizers Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher decided to pay him tribute by inviting two of his friends for 25 years, Dr. Ed Catmull and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, to talk for the closing hour about “The Lessons of Steve Jobs.”
When both men were asked by Mossberg about what advice they had for aspiring entrepreneurs who’d like to replicate Jobs’ success, both had similar answers but Ellison, who was Jobs’ next door neighbor in Woodside, dominated the conversation. Want to be like Steve Jobs? Well you’re not going to get there by trying, Ellison asserted.
“Trying to copy Steve means you’re going to stop at the surface,” said Ellison, who met Jobs when Jobs’ peacock (seriously) accidentally wandered into his yard, “Some people are so unique that copying them doesn’t work.”
Ellison said the best thing an aspiring Jobs could do was attempt to stay away from a conservative mindset, fully commit to making projects successful and be obsessed with product. Then he broke down, “If you want to tell if you are like Steve, ask yourself, ‘If there’s an unsolved problem at work, can you think about anything else?'”
“If you think about the benefits about being famous and rich then you’re missing the whole point,” said Ellison, who also happens to be rich and famous, “If you’re laying awake at night obsessed with the problems at work, and when you solve one you move on to the next problem, and then when you solve that move on to the next one then you might be similar to Steve. He described Jobs’ personality as “obsessive compulsive + Peculiar genius.”
“If you’ve got Picasso’s aesthetic and Edison’s inventiveness and then you are the next Steve Jobs,” Ellison told Mossberg, asserting that while there are a lot of lessons to be learned, trying to model yourself out after Steve Jobs is futile, “It’s like saying you want to paint like Picasso, then asking, “Should I use more red”?
“He wasn’t trying to be rich,” Ellison went on, “Apple became one of the most valuable companies on earth and it wasn’t even one of Steve’s goals. Steve was always talking about products. He was a creative artist, engineer and entrepreneur unlike anyone else,” he mused, relaying an anecdote about how when Apple passed Oracle in market cap, Steve called up and joked with him about how CEOs in Silicon Valley measure their manhood in market cap. “He noticed [success]and he was proud of it but it wasn’t a motivator at all.”
“[If you’re trying to mimic] Steve clothes, superficial things, then that’s the wrong thing,” Ellison said, “Steve wore the same thing every day because he didn’t want to think about what he was wearing.”