What Steve Jobs Taught Me

I learned to appreciate that we are all very different at the hands of Steve Jobs.

Long before I ever heard of iSpeak, Myers Briggs or DiSC, my family used to own some Indian restaurants in the Bay Area. One was in Stanford Shopping Center, and Steve Jobs ate lunch there alone every day.

I never ate lunch alone even before we were given that advice and used to take a variety of my classmates from law school to our restaurant many times a week. My Uncle Kishore ran the restaurants and told me that as long as I left a tip of $1 per person (this was ‘83 – ‘86), I could eat there for free.

I figured over the course of law school I would have the chance to take virtually everyone from my class there.

Many of my guests would recognize Steve Jobs and say “Do you know who that is?” in an awestruck way. I actually did not know who Steve Jobs was until twenty-plus people told me all about him. I was more interested in vinyl records than computers (I still am).

Finally the day arrived that I thought I should go say hello to the man himself. I announced my plan to one of my best friends, who had joined me that day.

I marched over to Steve Jobs with a big smile, my hand out and said, “Hi. I am Sanju. This is my family’s restaurant, and I am pleased you come here so often.” Steve Jobs looked up at me and said, “I come here for solace and to think. I am vegan but open to trying fish one day. I don’t have many options. I like quiet when I am alone.”

He then looked down at his vegan meal and returned to his own world. I sheepishly lowered my hand and returned to my table. I said to my friend, “What a jerk.” My friend said, “He probably thinks you are a jerk.” I did not understand what my friend was saying then but I do now.

Months later, it was Valentine’s Day 1984. Much to the chagrin of the waiter I was only tipping $2 a visit, I sent over some tandoori fish to Steve Jobs. As he was leaving, he came to my table and said, “Sanju, I tried the fish. I didn’t like it.”

Having seen the Danny Boyle/Aaron Sorkin 2015 biographical drama that painted a searing picture of Steve Jobs and his inspirational daughter Lisa, I now think Steve Jobs was being nice to me.

I am still learning today that we are all very different. In the context of my work (and likely yours), that means that any of our business development successes come from adapting ourselves to others.

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