Steve Jobs & Entrepreneurial Rifting

Seth Godin describes “Entrepreneurial Rifting” as the process of fixing problems…of leaping from one broken market to another. It’s a big tear in the fabric of the rules that we live by. It’s a fundamental change in the game, one that creates a bunch of new losers — and a handful of new winners. He is a rifter in his own rite. Another famous rifter was Walt Disney, who managed to successfully find a rift in the continuum of life, to bet everything on it, and to make a profit by doing so.

Steve Jobs was a extraordinary rifter, filling a need that our culture didn’t even know we needed. He continued to push the envelope of accepted wisdom. He didn’t care about his legacy or making more money, he was addicted to rifting. Godin said it this way:

First, he realized that personal computers could serve as a tool in the home as well as in business, and he was smart enough to find the right people to build the Apple I and II. At the time, there were no headlines about how brilliant Jobs was, but he paved the way for every single desktop computer in existence today.

Jobs’s second rift was actually more difficult to seize, because it wasn’t an obvious rift. Realizing that the graphical user interface that was developed for the Xerox Star could permanently change the way that computers worked, Jobs took a huge risk and came up with the Mac. Most entrepreneurs and virtually every large company would have laughed at the sheer hubris of it: to get lucky once and then to risk it all on a rift as narrow as this! Of course, we know what happened with the graphical user interface.

Jobs’s third rift was, in fact, reminiscent of one that Disney would have jumped on. Jobs saw that computers would forever change the way that animated movies are made. And Pixar, the production company behind “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life,” was his bet on that rift. Having just taken my family to see “Toy Story 2,” I can tell you that Jobs is on his way to a payoff of Disney-like proportions.

The surprising thing is that just about anyone could have seized any of those rifts and built hugely successful companies out of them. Jobs didn’t know anyone in Hollywood — and he didn’t need to. His success wasn’t about connections or reputation or access to capital. In fact, being part of the company that sold the Apple II actually hindered his ability to launch the Mac, because his shareholders and employees fought the idea for years. No, Jobs succeeded because, like all rifters, when he saw an opportunity, he was single-minded in his focus and in his desire to take advantage of it.

The question arises…will you be a rifter, an innovator, a creator or will you continue to be a worker ant, a follower accepting status quo and conventional wisdom? Will your brand leave a dent in the universe or is it merely another look-alike company trying so hard to repackage what someone else has already presented?

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Think Different, narrated by Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)


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