You Can Be the Next Steve Jobs

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- On this day of reflection I think there are more appropriate words than "genius" or "innovator" to describe Steve Jobs.

The temptation with a man like Steve is to want to turn him into a cartoon character whose success can be explained away with the allure of super-human powers.

Promoting this unattainable label is a disservice to the rest of us because it is impossible to follow in those kind of mystic footsteps. My observation of Steve Jobs is that he had an extremely high level of curiosity.

My favorite Jobs story is the one of him gathering his family around the dinner table to discuss which washer and dryer the family should purchase. The conversation went on for two weeks as the family analyzed design, efficiency and cost.

Eventually they decided to purchase the high priced European model because it used one quarter of the water compared to the American brand and it treated the clothes more gently so they would last longer. Steve commented on his washer and dryer back in 2005: "I got more thrill out of them than I have out of any piece of high tech in years."

Can we become as curious as Steve? Yes. An insatiable curiosity led him to discover better paths; such an attribute can do the same for you and me. Beyond Steve's curiosity I hope that all of us can take a cue from him and eliminate the debilitating effects of fear in our lives.

Steve Jobs was not afraid to fail. His comfort zone was uncomfortable. His string of iPod, iMac, iPhone and iPad success has been well documented over the past 10 years but up until age 45 he was a man well acquainted with failure.

How many people do you know that have been fired from their own company? Even his experiment at NEXT Computer was unable to get off the ground in the war with Microsoft. His reunion with Apple was viewed as a merger of two losers.

It was only through perseverance that he found success. He never stopped taking risks. He was never satisfied with what he had accomplished yesterday. He didn't allow the fear of failure to constrain him. I believe it was his curiosity coupled with his lack of fear that propelled Steve Jobs to greatness. That level of passion is attainable by all of us if we make the necessary commitment to excellence. Steve will be missed but on this day, I hope his exemplary life will be treated with the respect of reality rather than the embellishment of fools.

Some of the priceless pearls of wisdom that he left behind include the following life lessons:

1. Don't be afraid to fail.

"I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life." Steve Jobs, June 12, 2005

2. Stay in the game. The real breakthrough moments in Steve's career happened after 25 years of struggle. "Sometimes when you're in the middle of one of these crises, you're not sure you're going to make it to the other end. But we've always made it, and so we have a certain degree of confidence, although sometimes you wonder." Steve Jobs, March 7, 2008 "I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance." Steve Jobs interview, 1995

3. Follow your passion wherever it leads.

"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me ... Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful... that's what matters to me." Steve Jobs, May 25, 1993

"Almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." Steve Jobs, June 12, 2005

4. Just say no.

"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully." Steve Jobs, June 2003

"I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do." Steve Jobs, Feb. 6, 2006

5. Expect excellence. No company innovates on a regular schedule like Apple.

"My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better." "Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected."

6. A master architect build's a platform upon which others are given the capacity to thrive. Apple's ecosystem and especially its App Store enabled creativity to flourish.

7. Love and passion come first. Everything else will take care of itself.

"My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that's what I try to do." "When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They'll want to do what's best for Apple, not what's best for them, what's best for Steve, or anybody else." Steve Jobs, March 7, 2008

8. Too many of us fail to reach our potential because of the bureaucracy that binds us.

"Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?" Steve Jobs, September 1982

9. Quality vs. quantity? Steve understands it.

"Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles." Steve Jobs, Feb. 6, 2006

10. Progress comes from within.

"The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament." Steve Jobs, 2004
At the time of publication, Schwarz was long Apple.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

Jason Schwarz is an option strategist for Lone Peak Asset Management in Westlake Village, Calif. He is also the founder of the popular investment newsletter available at Over the past few years, Schwarz has gained acclaim for his market calls on the price of oil, Bank of America, Apple, E*Trade, and his precision investing in S&P 500 option LEAPS. His book, The Alpha Hunter, is set to be released by McGraw Hill in December 2009.