Yesterday, High Point University welcomed Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple who changed the course of history for personal computing. “Woz” took part in an interactive Q&A with students and a discussion with HPU President Nido Qubein in the Hayworth Fine Arts Center. He also worked side-by-side with a group of computer science and physics major to develop a robotic mobile kiosk unit that could make deliveries around campus without a driver. In each session, Woz shared valuable lessons on life, innovation and invention. Here are a few:
1. Don’t get hung up on how it’s always been.
“I always thought, ‘Is there something I can do that’s different, something they don’t do?’ So I’m always trying to find new angles that go in a different direction.
One company can get so tied up in the type of product they make and that works a certain way. Those companies have a very difficult time when the world takes a turn, and it takes that turn right away. If your company doesn’t see that turn, as happens very often, they’re usually hung up on the way things were. They’re hung up on making money, and they can’t give it up, and they lose a lot of money in the end.”
2. Give respect to get respect.
“My number one piece of advice is to be someone people like. The more people like you, the further you’re going to go in business. Whether your goal is to just go up the organizational chart, or really enjoy what you’re doing in work, the goal is to have people really like and respect you where you are. You have to respect them, too. Don’t treat them like they’re nothing. I have one rule in life that I developed from my early college days: If somebody is bad to you, you’re still good to them.”
3. Keep things in perspective.
“I know how to solder wires to make very few pieces. Very small and simple – that’s my whole approach to life. You have to figure out what’s important to you. For example, I base my happiness on feelings. You feel good when you laugh, and you feel bad when you frown. So my formula for life is ‘Happiness = Smiles – Frowns.’
Don’t make things so important where you say, ‘Oh, if it goes this way I’m happy, and if it goes this way I’m sad.’ It doesn’t really matter. You’re going to have a much better life if you don’t worry about it. As they say, laughter is the best medicine. Say my car gets scratched and dented. Cars get scratched and dented all the time. I tell myself that in advance, and I don’t get upset at these things very often.”
4. Go above and beyond.
“Be innovative in your own personality. Be one of those people that can spot things that are different and different trends. And when you are working on something, always ask yourself, what is there that I can do to make this better or special? Put in something that the assignment didn’t ask for, or the professor didn’t ask for. The top students will do that. You want to be one of those top students, because that’s who the big companies look for.
In the case of computer science, when writing a program to solve a problem, I think, ‘Is there a different method that isn’t the obvious one we’re taught in the books? Is there another method that can work smaller, simpler, faster?’ Always work to try to make things smaller and simpler.”
5. Don’t let anything hold you down.
“They say to put 10,000 hours in to get good at something. That’ll never fail you. Just work on your own favorite things for a long time, and you’ll get better and better at it than anyone else. I did so well at Apple because my success came from what’s inside of me. I was very shy and independent when I grew up. Because I was a social outsider, I just worked and thought for myself, and I didn’t care if anyone else did it with me or agreed that I was doing it the right way. Don’t let anything stop you or hold you down. Don’t give up what you love.”