Like most employees, Tony Fadell used to silently rejoice when his boss went on vacation.
Then, Fadell joined Apple in 2001 and realized that Steve Jobs’ downtime was different than most bosses’ vacations. On a recent podcast episode of “The Tim Ferriss Show,” Fadell – referred to as the inventor of the iPod and co-creator of the iPhone – said that when Jobs left the office, Apple’s employees would get two or three days of relative silence. Then, often abruptly, they’d start getting calls from Jobs with latest ideas.
“Steve can be on vacation and he can be pondering … the subsequent product, the subsequent direction for Apple, latest technologies,” said Fadell, a former senior vice chairman of Apple’s iPod division who worked with Jobs for nearly 10 years. “He used that vacation as a time to expand his pondering and get outside of Apple’s day-to-day.”
Fadell says that when Jobs was off the clock, he’d read latest books and hunt down conversations about up-and-coming technologies to assist him find inspiration in unexpected places. Even at work, Jobs used similar methods to incite creativity: Creator Walter Isaacson wrote in his “Steve Jobs” biography that “taking a protracted walk was [Jobs’] preferred approach to have a serious conversation.”
The truth is, Isaacson wrote, Jobs asked him to put in writing the biography on a walk.
Jobs’ vacation habits were sometimes difficult for the people around him: Fadell said Apple employees would hear from Jobs as much as six times per day. “He would start eager about, ‘Oh, let’s go buy a music company’ or ‘Should we go and do this sort of product?’ ‘What technology would it not take to attain this?'” Fadell said. “You can be like Google to him.”
Typically, Fadell said, you’d have to quickly type up some research and send it to Jobs via email. Often, Jobs would call back inside quarter-hour with one other idea, Fadell added.
In some ways, Fadell said, the eye was flattering – a chance to brainstorm Apple’s next product with Jobs himself. However the pressure could also feel overwhelming, Fadell noted, especially provided that Apple’s employees were often already working on high-pressure projects.
After leaving Apple, Fadell founded Google’s Nest Labs and said he found himself adopting a few of Jobs’ vacation habits. Most notably, he said, carving out a few hours away from his desk per day improved each his productivity at work and his personal wellbeing.
“There is a approach to do it – to be high-performing, do amazing things, but to also give yourself the appropriate amount per day, in addition to per yr, of time without work and time to think,” he said, noting that he’s personally benefited from figuring out, eating healthily and cutting out alcohol. “During that point, I used to be capable of provide you with great ideas and solve problems after I was quieting my brain.”
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