Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and High Point University Innovator in Residence, helped pave the way for the computers and technology we have today. When he returned to the HPU campus earlier this week, he met with students, faculty and staff to work on innovative projects and impart valuable wisdom he’s learned along the way. Here are a few lessons “The Woz” shared with the HPU family:
1. Education is imperative.
“Growing up, my parents taught me how important education was. They explained what our teachers were doing for us, and how that was going to get us the knowledge in our brain to earn money so we can have a home, and a family. To me, the key to life was education. I put it at a very high value and believe in it very strongly. And that’s why I told my parents I wanted to be a fifth grade teacher. And now, I talk about HPU everywhere I go.”
2. Finish things you start.
“It’s important to finish things that you start – especially things that take a lot of time. Graduations represent that in the education field. Ten years after Apple Computer launched and was successful, I went back to Berkley for my fourth year of college and finish my degree. I went back because I wanted to be able to tell my kids that I went to college. It’s inspirational to them.”
3. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
“Everyone is passionate about certain things in life. The best rewards in life – the ones that really motivate you in the direction you want to go – usually aren’t the ones where the rewards are extrinsic. Extrinsic rewards are what people can see: How much money you have, your clothing, the house you live in, the grades you get, the salary you receive. Those are extrinsic rewards. The ones that matter most are the ones you’re doing for yourself inside.”
4. Approach every project as a new opportunity.
“I used the same chip technology to create a TV jammer as I did my ‘blue box’ telephone. You never forget a trick you come up with. But the most important thing of all isn’t coming up with a trick and then remembering that trick to apply later in life. It’s looking at a new project – every project – as new on its own. What is a trick I can develop for this? A new method? My goal was to develop new tricks I’ve never used to save parts.”
5. Motivation is more important than knowledge.
“If you enjoy something so much, you will go home and put extra time in. You will want to learn more and nobody can stop you. You’re going to find how it’s done and how to do it on your own. That was more important than the knowledge for me. Taking classes are educational. But you also discover something: You are able to do something that other people can’t do. It makes you feel special. That’s motivation.”
6. Life is about values.
“My dad taught me some good principles in life, like ethics and honesty. He told me that some people think differently. But overall, honesty was the most important. When building a team, you might meet people who may even seem a little strange to you at first. Make friends with people in other disciplines. They have different talents, personalities and ideas. But overall, to this day, honesty is the most important thing to me.”
7. Time is your most valuable resource.
“If you have a lot of money, giving away money doesn’t really mean anything. Instead, you have to give of yourself. Give your most valuable possession – sacrifice your time. That’s why I started teaching. I just wanted to be a teacher and communicate knowledge and information to other people. I wound up teaching for eight years. I taught how to use a computer for every subject in school. If you had to count the number of A’s, B’s, C’s in a sentence, how could you do that with a spreadsheet? I made my classes very fun, and the kids got a lot out of it.”
8. Don’t limit yourself.
“Don’t say that all the answers are in a book. A lot of people can take a test and get the same right answer. You might call it intelligent to get the same answer that everyone else has. But the best advice I have is to not limit your thinking to one narrow little field. Try to think of the whole thing. How can I improve the whole process? You might come up with some very good ideas.”
9. Write your own book.
“When I was teaching, I wound up writing every single handout for class, never using a book the entire eight years. So my approach is to ‘write your own book.’ Do things that have never been done before. Devote yourself to it, even if it’s going to take you 10 years from the time you start thinking about it. Don’t ask, ‘How was this done before, and how can I do my own version of it?’ Do things with a different approach. That’s called writing your own book.”
10. Jump in; you’ll figure it out along the way.
“With every single thing I designed for Apple, I had two big advantages. One, I had no money. I had to think of ways to make things very simple, very few parts, very low cost. And two, I had never done them before. I had never worked with this part or that part. But I made myself figure it out.”