Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has written a long letter to a high-school student in South Korea talking about his life and success at Apple. The letter offers further insight to half of the duo that created Apple, and its products (the other half being, of course, Steve Jobs).
Yeon-su Yang wrote to Steve Wozniak after a talk he gave on 31 March 2012 (we can't find a reference to the specific talk, but Woz often tours the world as part of his Woz Live events). Woz is often keen to get his version of events across, and recently complained that the first clip from the Steve Jobs biopic was 'totally wrong'.
The original letter is in Korean but a Tumblr blog called Yeonhoyoon has translated it in to English. Yang asks for Steve Wozniak's autograph and writes: " If you could send some hopeful messages for the students in my school, I would share it with my friends by publishing it in the school’s English newspaper. I hope you’d accept my request."
Steve Wozniak has delivered on Yang's request with an in-depth letter outlining his approach to life, business and person success.
Woz begins by outlining the luck he had when young and how this : "The best I can remember is that, like myself, most students found by accidental encounters what they enjoyed and wanted to do in life... I came to the conclusion that I would rather be an average person joking all the time than a powerful businessman stressing over work every day."
Then Woz moves on to his personal values about life, he states: "I also decided for myself that I‘d want to be ’in the middle‘ in almost every way. I looked hard and the extreme ends of politics and values and wealth were not desirable and led to corrupt behaviors for many. Early on I decided that I would never want to tell one story in different ways."
Steve Wozniak also goes into great depth about personal self-belief, knowing internally that you are right no matter what others say. This is something that Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO, also talked about. Woz says: "I also decided that I did not have to convince others of my views for those views to be good. They only needed to be good to me." Wozniak does not let his former ties to Apple hold his tongue, and recently said that Apple iPhone is behind in the smartphone market, Samsung has caught up.
One are that Steve Wozniak did differ from Steve Jobs, was in his approach to employees: "my dad had told me that how far you go in a company usually is determined by how well liked you are." says Woz, "So I‘m always very nice to everyone. This is in marked contrast to Steve Jobs who was famously prickly with Apple employees, to the extent that being fired (often famously in the lift) was referred to as being "Steved."
However, Woz also outlines how being young and not knowing the rules enabled him to break them (another thing that Steve Jobs often talked about): "'The best things I did in my young years leading up to the early Apple computers were done because I had little money and had to think deeply to achieve the impossible. Also, I had never done those technologies or studied them. I had to write the book myself."
And Yang got his autograph.
The letters (transcribed by Yeonhoyoon) are below:
Mr. Wozniak! I’m a high school student in Korea. I am in second year of Se-Hwa high school in Jeju. My name is Yeon-su Yang.
I worked as a volunteer for Jeju forum in Mar. 31. I saw you from far away back then. I am a reporter for my school’s English newspaper, and also a Jeju student diplomat for Chinese department. My English isn’t very fluent since my major is Chinese. Please understand if some of my writing isn’t clear. I’ve helped preparing and guiding guests for your special session at Jeju forum.
However, I couldn’t receive your autograph. After your special session was over, I gave you my card through your attendant. Did you receive it? Although I couldn’t receive your autograph, I could listen to your talk.
At the talk, you gave some advice for teens. I was impressed by those advices. Since Mar. 31. 2012, you’ve became my role model. I’d like to share your excellent stories with the friends at my school.
My school is located in a rural area in Jeju, Korea. So we don’t get a lot of opportunities to communicate with successful people. If you could send some hopeful messages for the students in my school, I would share it with my friends by publishing it in the school’s English newspaper. I hope you’d accept my request.
I wish for your happiness. Have a good day!
Sent: 2012-07-01 Sun 08:43:10
Subject: Re: Hello. Steven Wozniak! I‘m one of the korean high school students:-
First, I would be happy to send you a signed card of mine. Just send me a request for it and include your mailing address.
As for the students on Jeju island…
I look back to my own days as a student. It was a fun time where everything was provided for my entertainment in life. Our socialization was with friends at school, not via mobile tech devices as it is today. The best I can remember is that, like myself, most students found by accidental encounters what they enjoyed and wanted to do in life.
Near the end of high school and early college years I did a lot of internal thinking. This is the age that I hear a lot of students talking about right and wrong and what values are good and exploring religions if they haven’t had one pressed upon them by their parents.
First, I came to the conclusion that I would rather be an average person joking all the time than a powerful businessman stressing over work every day. I also decided for myself that I‘d want to be ’in the middle‘ in almost every way. I looked hard and the extreme ends of politics and values and wealth were not desirable and led to corrupt behaviors for many. Early on I decided that I would never want to tell one story in different ways. The truth always comes out one way. I decided that telling 2 versions of the same thing is often hypocritical. The teller doesn’t feel that the truth about how they are and how they act is not good, so they hide it with deception and falsehoods. It‘s like having 2 different personalities in your head and can lead to psychological problems and neurosis. I did not want to be like that.
I also decided that I did not have to convince others of my views for those views to be good. They only needed to be good to me. I didn’t have to argue and win points. Arguments rarely have ‘winners’ anyway. I could tell what I believed (even how to make a computer) and if others didn‘t agree, they were not bad. They just thought differently. I would have the belief that my thoughts were good and were inside my head and that’s all that mattered.
Also, my dad had told me that how far you go in a company usually is determined by how well liked you are. So I‘m always very nice to everyone. There’s no need to make enemies. You are recognized by your own skills and good work, and you don‘t have to criticize others for not doing good work. Just worry about your own skills.
One accident that happened to me was that I taught myself, with no books, how to design computers in high school. I loved doing it and designed computers all the time, from descriptions of them in manuals by the companies that made them. I designed the same computers over and over and made a game out of trying to use fewer and fewer parts, coming up with tricks to accomplish my task that could never be in a book. They were ’tricks‘ in my own head. I felt that some of these tricks would be used by probably no other computer designer in the world. In my game world, on paper, where I could never afford to build my designs, I felt I was one of the best in the world.
The best things I did in my young years leading up to the early Apple computers were done because I had little money and had to think deeply to achieve the impossible. Also, I had never done those technologies or studied them. I had to write the book myself. Being self-taught, figuring out how to design computers with pencil and paper, made me skilled at finding solutions that I had not been taught.
Every aspect of our lives and our companies will be changing and improving based on mobile technology. Young people are already ahead in this game and have good ideas of how any operation can be improved. Always focus on good human interface, user interface. Computer apps are not to be judged by what they do or how well they do it. Rather, it is more important that they feel natural to normal humans and they are led to the right actions. An ultimate example is when you speak what you want. If you don’t have to worry about having the right computer words, but just speak it as you would to a human, then the computer has totally gotten out of your way. Finding ways to do this will be very important in the future. The smartest approaches come from understanding normal people.
And every action you take on a smartphone has the ‘other end’ - the servers and storage in data centers. They are doing more calculation and organization and presentation of information than your handheld device, which is mainly displaying the results these days. The cloud represents the information content of the world, which could never be put on the storage [disk] in your mobile device, or even your personal computer. It‘s easy to see a world of job opportunities writing apps but don’t forget the importance of implementing the data center side of those apps. There‘s a lot of work to be done at that level too. Apps are like furniture. There are infinite variations until we have a few standards that change little. So this is a huge opportunity in the future.
If you are not technical, you have many opportunities in your future just knowing how people do things. Do listen to elders. They are mentors who have been in this world working with other humans doing the important things that make life work a lot longer than you students. The world needs all kinds of human effort to work and to progress. It doesn’t need for everyone to be a computer programmer, for example. We need mathematicians, scientists, archaeologists, writers, and every capacity of job for things to work.
Look at companies that you might someday work for. The hot products suggest some of these companies. But pay attention to how good the companies are to employees. Do they respect the employees? Do they allow them a large amount of decision making at the bottom of the org chart? Are responsibilities moved down rather than coming as orders from above. Is there room for growth and advancement in a particular company? Does the company consider employees as family? Will they take care of you if at some point your job is not working out? Will they find a better role for you? It‘s a bad thought that companies easily fire employees and leave them with no income to support a family and home.