Steve Jobs, Mindfulness & The Ten Paradoxes

Posted on: April 30th, 2015 by The Mindfulness Movie

We just came from Lisbon, Portugal spreading the word about the movie, enjoying an architectural tour, and taking care of some business. We are now in Barcelona, Spain and from my hotel room I am looking at the Gaudi’s CASA MILA famous roof with the “forest of warriors” chimneys. I am leaving today to Prague on the next leg of our European adventure and with immense gratitude, want to share these latest insights with you…

Following is a well known story about how Steve Jobs described—to Corning Glass’ CEO, Wendell Weeks—the type of glass Apple wanted for the iPhone, and Weeks told Jobs that Corning had developed a chemical exchange process in the 1960s that led to what they dubbed “gorilla glass.” It was incredibly strong, but it had never found a market, so Corning quit making it. … Jobs said he wanted as much gorilla glass as Corning could make within six months. “We don’t have the capacity,” Weeks replied. “None of our plants make the glass now.”

“Don’t be afraid,” Jobs replied. This stunned Weeks, who was good-humored and confident but not used to Job’s reality distortion field. He tried to explain that a false sense of confidence would not overcome engineering challenges, but that was a premise Jobs had repeatedly shown he didn’t accept. He stared at Weeks unblinkingly. “Yes, you can do it,” he said. “Get your mind around it. You can do it.”

“As Weeks retold this story, he shook his head in astonishment. “We did it in under six months,’ he said. “We produced a glass that had never been made.” Steve Jobs knew it could be done. He set out on a course to prove that something he saw as a reality before it actually became a reality.

In a previous blog, about Eckhart Tolle’s teachings and The Ten Paradoxes, it summarized how Tolle would define each paradox, which many readers found fascinating. Eckhart Tolle has sold over ten million books along with a unique Oprah televised online workshop. Now, let’s look at how Steve Job’s would define each paradox and how it led to Jobs’ success.

The Ten Paradoxes are derived from ancient philosophies and modern science. They are ten timeless enigmas for helping us to live well and successfully in today’s world. For more in-depth information, you can read: Where’s My Zen? A Parable of the Ten Paradoxes or The Ten Paradoxes: The Science of Where’s My Zen? Also, The Mindfulness Movie discusses several of the paradoxes with world-renowned experts.

Paradox 1: Act. React. But Never Try.

Meaning: Allow your actions and reactions to be as natural as you can. Psychology and science confirms that we are more intelligent and effective when we think less.

Steve Jobs didn’t “try” to do anything. He just did it. And did it until it became a reality. “Try” here means forcing, over-thinking, and overcompensating. For instance, like a lizard snatching a fly off a leaf with its tongue. The lizard does not try, he just does it! Jobs naturally just did what needed to be done. Not everything always worked, but every failure was deemed another step toward succeeding. Jobs knew that when he just acted and stop trying to do something, he opened the door to becoming more creative and was able to work his way through a problem from a different perspective—a reality that he created.

When you “try” to remember a name, the harder you try the more the answer eludes you. But when you let go, the name usually becomes clear in your mind shortly thereafter.
…when Jobs was shown a cluttered set of proposed navigation screens for iDVD, which allowed users to burn video onto a disk, he jumped up and drew a simple rectangle on a whiteboard. “Here’s the new application,” he said. “It’s got one window. You drag your video into the window. Then you click the button that says ‘Burn.’ That’s it. That’s what we’re going to make.” (Harvard Business Review)

Paradox 2: Act. React. But Always in Play.

Meaning: Serious attitudes bind our thoughts; playfulness opens us up to new ways to look at the same problems.

In his biography, Steve Jobs (2011) uses the word “playful” to characterize the design of Apple computers. In doing so, he distances Apple designs from other more traditional and impersonal computers. For him, play and playfulness stand for the possibility of personal expression with material objects and engagement in creative interactions with the world. Jobs intuitively knew that the iMac’s translucent case was foundational to its “friendliness and playfulness.” People are always drawn to playfulness. Kids laugh 300 times a day; most adults are lucky to laugh five times a day. Keep it light—but balance seriousness with playfulness.

Paradox 3: Seek mind with no thought.

Meaning: A non-judgmental mindful approach allows us to see inside ourselves more accurately and clearly.

Steve Jobs—who meditated regularly—used mindfulness to calm his negative energies, to focus on creating unique products, and to challenge his teams to achieve excellence. (Harvard Business Review) Jobs knew that in order to “seek the mind” and increase intuition and creativity, he needed to do it without thought—using meditation. “When he wasn’t screaming at employees, Steve Jobs was finding inner peace through meditation.” (Forbes)

Job focused on a fewer products and made them great rather than many mediocre products. Focus was ingrained in Jobs’s personality and had been honed by his Zen training. He relentlessly filtered out what he considered distractions. (Harvard Business Review)

Paradox 4: With thought, intention. With intention, karma.

Meaning: When we have an intention, we should look within at the “why and who” behind those intentions. We create our karma within—a selfless intention brings either good or no karma.

If you expect and intend something to happen, then you’re thinking too much about it. Jobs said you have to love what you do. And his intention was to change the way we all act with our digital world. Even though he personally benefited, our lives were made much easier in the process.
“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
―Steve Jobs

Paradox 5: Perform. Do. But never think.

Meaning: When we do not over-think every movement we perform at our peak. When at your peak, then the doer and the doing become one and the same—the dance is played out through the dancing of the dancer.

Steve Jobs didn’t over-think what he needed to do in order to succeed. He did it! If it didn’t work, he found another way to do it. This is a primordial evolutionary principle at work. Life forms aren’t chaotic, they develop slowly. It takes time—sometimes thousands of generations. Jobs knew that he may have to do many generations to get it right and he never got staled out in over-thinking. Steve jobs invited everyone at Apple to “Think Different” in the ad campaign he introduced upon his return to Apple in 1997: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.” ―Steve Jobs

Paradox 6: When mind is as a mirror, everything is revealed.

Meaning: When we are mindful, we reflect the world around us. In so doing, we slowly eliminate our perceived bias, which allows us to see greater opportunity.

Steve Jobs knew that he could change the reality of how people saw a problem. He knew he could reflect what he wanted to “see” onto others so they could eventually see it as well. When things synced, a solution would be revealed.

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…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.” ―Steve Jobs

Paradox 7: With thought, no flow. Without thought, flow.

Meaning: Think about any time in your life that you felt one with what you were doing and you will discover that you did not think about it, you entered a state of mind that synced with your inner being. It feels good when it feels right!

Jobs preferred intuition over thought; Being different over going with the crowd
“The story of Steve Jobs boils down to this: Don’t go with the flow [crowd consensus]. Steve Jobs refused to go with the flow. If he saw something that could be made better, smarter or more beautiful, nothing else mattered. Not internal politics, not economic convention, not social graces.

Apple has attained its current astonishing levels of influence and success because it’s nimble. It’s incredibly focused. It’s had stunningly few flops. And that’s because Mr. Jobs didn’t buy into focus groups, groupthink or decision by committee. At its core, Apple existed to execute the visions in his brain. He oversaw every button, every corner, every chime. He lost sleep over the fonts in the menus, the cardboard of the packaging, the color of the power cord.” David Pogue, Times Technology Columnist, Leaves for Yahoo

Paradox 8: With attachment, work. Without attachment, play.

Meaning: When we get attached to our ideas of success, happiness, and relationships, we lose the play and the love for what we are doing. Think about replacing “have to” with “want to” and you’ll soon recreate the play of a child.

“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.” Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

Paradox 9: Think. Think not. There is no thinker.

Meaning: When we attempt to get rid of our ego, our constant voice in our heads, we realize that there is something more powerful—an inner well of creative energy.

Forget yourself for a moment and all the excuses you make to succeed. Taking yourself out of the equation can help see the bigger picture. Take a blank piece of paper out and draw the map to where you want to go. Label all the bridges, rivers, obstacles, and find your way around it. That’s what Steve Jobs did.

Jobs wanted to sell a smartphone with NO keyboard at a time when physical keys made the BlackBerry the most popular smartphone. Time and time again, he took away our comfy blankets, like floppy drives, dial-up modems, camcorder jacks, non-glossy screens, Flash and DVD drives, and removable laptop batteries. How could he do that? You’re supposed to add features, not take them away. Job’s vision was much bigger than himself
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Paradox 10: Un-train the mind, be empty. When empty, you are full.

Meaning: When you slowly overcome rigid habits and existing mind-sets, you are able to see more clearly. Therefore, you are happier because you are not wanting.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.