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Steve Wozniak: Lessons from a true inventor entrepreneur

If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Steve Wozniak speak on the origins of Apple, his love of inventing, or anything really, take it.  I had that opportunity recently and was truly inspired to hear this humble, down to earth, self-proclaimed geek!  Wozniak came to speak at the SARTA event in Sacramento with a room full of entrepreneurs eager to hear his wisdom.  His enthusiasm for Apple and his origins in the computer industry was contagious.  I found myself wondering when he would take a breath; he talked fast as he imparted his experience as a kid tinkering with spare parts in the garage.  He talked affectionately about how his engineering father would give him technical explanations on how things worked.  He also revealed  how his father discouraged him from building computers, because he didn’t see ‘how you could ever make any money at it.’

Of all the wisdom Wozniak imparted, I was particularly attentive to one major point.  He encouraged the audience to not just talk about ideas, but to get out there and do it.  Get something built to test out your idea and have something to show the folks that you need to enlist to help you.  I really resonate with this because throughout my career I have always been one to say, ‘let’s get started and build it as we go since we will learn along the way.’   Obviously, not every project can be done this way.  If you’re designing an airplane you can’t just quickly go build a prototype – it would be costly and dangerous.  But for many other projects building prototypes and using it as a model to evolve from can be very effective.

This reminded me also that many people incubate ideas about many aspects of their life that they want to do.  Whether it is strive for a job, travel to some exotic place or learn a new hobby.  Yet they may ruminate endlessly with many reasons why it’s not the right time or it’s not possible.  I reflected on an interview that a group of my employees did with me about 8 years ago.  One of the questions in their ‘Get to know Kim’ series was ‘What is something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done?’  I thought about it and quickly knew the answer, which was to learn to paint.  Later that day I started thinking, ‘What am I waiting for?’  I signed up for some classes and have been painting ever since.  I believe Wozniak was basically saying the same thing: ‘What are you waiting for?’  Just get out and get started and see what you can create.  And if your idea doesn’t happen to go anywhere then think of another one and try that.  It’s a good message for all of us; there is no reason to hold back on our dreams and ideas just put the work in and make it happen!

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