To Clarity, Commitment, and Courage.

"We're supposed to be really good at this.

That doesn't mean we don't listen to customers,

but it's hard for them to tell you what they want

when they've never seen anything remotely like it."

I've been a Macintosh fan since I first sat down to a 512 "Fat Mac" nearly 30 years ago.

And, like many people, I've long been intrigued by Steve Jobs. Especially after reading Frank Rose’s West of Eden – the Sculley vs. Jobs conflict framed as an East-meets-West showdown – when it hit the stands in the late ‘80s.

I was saddened to hear of his passing this week.

So much so, I avoided reading any of the ubiquitous reportings and retrospectives the past few days.

Until this morning's New York Times column, "How Jobs Put Passion Into Products." James Stewart pulled the above quote from a 2000 Fortune magazine article.

It's a bold perspective.

One that calls for clarity. For commitment. And for courage.

A professional’s perspective.

With the kind of clarity that comes from continuing to hone your skills. Continuing to learn. To grow. So that, in fact, you are "really good at this."

The kind of commitment that’s willing to argue for what you think is right. Even when that doesn’t fit the public’s (or client’s) “vision” for the project.

The kind of courage that’s willing to risk failure. Because, even when we do what we think is best, there’s no guarantee of success. And even after a failure, we have to be willing to move forward. (See "clarity" above.)

I am sorry that we have one less visionary with us today.

But I am also grateful for the fruits of his passion.

Maintaining Our Loyalties

I’ve been a Mac fan since the mid-1980s. The 512 was my first love … that sexy little box with its point-and-click convenience won me over instantly. (Okay, and maybe I took more than a little pride in siding with the young upstart over its well-established, more corporate competitor.)

There have been tremendous advances in the nearly 25 years since. I’m still a loyal user. And I do recognize that my loyalty is based as much on emotion as technology.

So it’s no surprise that a recent Slate headline caught my eye: The Poor Man’s Mac Microsoft wants you to buy PCs because they're cheaper than Apple products, not because they're better machines.”

Take that!

But wait. The point of the article goes well beyond competing platforms. While low price strategies can offer short-term advantages, they can also carry long-term risks … as in brand erosion.

It’s a timely reminder to all of us. Yes, the current economy is tough. And yes, every brand – personal, service and manufacturing – is affected.

The key now is how we react.

In our scurry to survive immediate circumstances, we must also consider long-term costs. To core values on which the enterprise was built. To long-term relationships with key customers and service partners. To levels of quality, or service, or innovation that set us apart.

And it’s not enough to simply remind ourselves of those commitments. The companies that can demonstrate – and communicate – their determination are here to stay.