Relentless Pursuit


What do Apple and Tesla have in common?

George Blankenship of course.  George worked with both globally iconic brands as a senior executive.

I recently had the pleasure of listening to George speak at our global leadership conference in San Diego.  George had the unique career opportunity to work directly with Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.

He told this story of Steve Jobs at the opening of their Palo Alto store:  Both men were reviewing the preparations that had been made for the grand opening of the store.  As with all Apple stores, it had been meticulously designed to create the precise impact wanted by Mr. Jobs.  He took a keen interest in every detail of the store’s design and development.

One of the lavish displays in the store was a massive Styrofoam replica of a MacBook Pro laptop.  Mr. Jobs very animatedly invited George to come over to see something.  He ushered him to the massive laptop and instructed him to have a look at the underside of the computer.  There George found in very tiny letters the same writing found on the underside of every MacBook,

“Designed by Apple in California…”

George was flabbergasted by the messaging, in a location no one would ever see.  And, he felt similarly about the excitement Mr. Jobs demonstrated in pointing this out to George.  He expressed his surprise and commented that no one will ever know that messaging is there.  To which Steve Jobs responded,

“But we will know it’s there, and we will know we did it with excellence.”

He told another story of a design meeting for the now famous Apple Cube on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.  The cube is comprised exclusively of massive glass panels, 18 on each side.  There was only one company in the world who could do this kind of construction – a company in Germany.

The German company representative was in the design meeting.  He showed Steve Jobs the metal brackets that would be necessary to hold the glass panels together.  Mr. Jobs commented that they were too big.  He would like them smaller.

The company rep replied they needed to be that large to support the weight of the enormous glass panels.  It was a matter of physics.

“They need to be smaller.” replied Jobs.

“We can’t do that, they need to be that large.” the rep replied again.

“They need to be smaller.”

“We can’t do that.”

The exchange went on for a while.  Finally Mr. Jobs said that he believed the representative.

“You’re right, you can’t do it.  I’ll have to find someone who can!”  And with that statement Mr. Jobs sent a message to everyone in the room – only the best in the world belong here.

The German company succeeded in making a smaller bracket.

The relentless pursuit of the details and excellence was a hallmark of Apple, and was personally instilled by Steve Jobs.  Relentless attention to detail is the prerequisite for the relentless pursuit of excellence.

The same passion for detail and excellence is demonstrated by Elon Musk at Tesla.  Everything they did was considered impossible before they did it.  They are pursuing the impossible with detail and excellence.  They are now considered a more valuable brand than General Motors.  They are the first successful car company since the 1950s.

Here is their philosophy for success:

Simplify – focus only on what’s important.

Courage – don’t listen to outsiders.

Alignment – demonstrate conviction.

Celebrate – success and failure.

First Step – take it.

So what are you relentlessly pursuing?  Do you relentlessly pursue detail, excellence and the impossible?

Does that sound fanatical?  It does, but it’s the fanatics who change the course of history and accomplish the impossible.

Vince Lombardi once said,

“We will be relentless in our pursuit of perfection.  We won’t ever be perfect, but in the process we will achieve greatness.”

Relentless attention to details.  The relentless pursuit of excellence and the impossible.  It is fanatical attention to detail that leads to excellence and the accomplishment of that which is considered impossible.

If you want greatness and to somehow accomplish the impossible, as a leader, you must lead the charge to relentlessly pay attention to details and pursue excellence.

What are you relentlessly pursuing?

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Leading and Living on Purpose.