As someone who seems to care far more about the perfection of the beautiful objects he creates than about the trappings of celebrity, one word you’d be unlikely to associated with Apple’s design guru Jony Ive is “vain.”
According to a story told by Ive at yesterday’s Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit that’s exactly the accusation that was once levelled at him by Steve Jobs, however.
“I remember having a conversation with [Steve] and I was asking why it could have been perceived that in his critique of a piece of work he was a little harsh. We’d been working on this [project] and we’d put our heart and soul into this, and I was saying, ‘Couldn’t we … moderate the things we said?’
And he said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘ Because I care about the team.’ And he said this brutally, brilliantly insightful thing, which was, ’No Jony, you’re just really vain.’ He said, ‘You just want people to like you, and I’m surprised at you because I thought you really held the work up as the most important, not how you believed you were perceived by other people.’
I was terribly cross, because I knew he was right.”
Ive also shared another lesson about the importance of focus he learned during his 15-year association with Apple’s late cofounder and CEO:
“This sounds really simplistic, but it still shocks me how few people actually practice this — and it’s a struggle to practice — is this issue of focus. Steve was the most remarkably focused person I’ve ever met in my life. And the thing with focus is it’s not this thing you aspire to, or you decide on Monday, I’m going to be focused. It is an every minute, ‘Why are we talking about this? This is what we’re working on.’ You can achieve so much when you truly focus.
One of the things that Steve would say, because I think he was concerned that I wasn’t, he would say, ‘How many things have you said no to?’ And honestly I would have these sacrificial things, because I wanted to be very honest about it, so I’d say, ‘I said no to this and no to that.’ But he knew that I wasn’t vaguely interested in doing those things anyway, so there was no real sacrifice.
What focus means is saying no to something that with every bone in body you think is a phenomenal idea, and you wake up thinking about it, but you say no to it because you’re focusing on something else.”
The video can be watched in full below: