What Entrepreneurs And Leaders Like You Can Learn From Steve Wozniak

Mar 28, 2018 1 Min Read
steve wozniak, technology

Welcome to the wizard of Woz, and 5 invaluable lessons from this original geek!

In November 2017, I spoke at the 13th World Islamic Economic Forum, held at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching in Sarawak. Also speaking at the same forum was the co-founder of Apple Computers, Steve Wozniak.

Nicknamed “Woz”, the ‘original geek’, he was not only Steve Job’s partner in establishing Apple, he was also the inventor of the Apple II computer (last human being to invent a full computer), which helped propel Apple to greatness.

Not only did he help shape the entire early computing industry, he is also a philanthropist and gave away a huge part of his fortune to others.

From the "Collecting Innovation Today" interview with innovator Steve Wozniak on August 18, 2008 at the Computer History Museum, part of The Henry Ford's "OnInnovation" project that celebrates the contributions of today's innovators.

Steve ‘Woz’ here. Geddit? Geddit?
Photo credit: OnInnovation | Flickr


What joy, this other half of Apple!

Wozniak is a true geek in every sense of the word. He never created or invented ‘stuff’ to become rich and famous. He simply wanted to ‘make cool stuff’ and that was what motivated him.

Much can be learnt from the simple joy he obtained toiling day and night just to create ‘cool stuff’.

Many inventors and business leaders today work tirelessly so that they can become rich and famous. They aspire to get some awesome product or service out the door and exit within three years, making billions in the process. Wozniak was a true engineer and geek – he just loved building.

As I listened to Wozniak, a realisation dawned on me – success is not about money or fame, but about doing things you love to do.

Wozniak, who is estimated to be worth about USD100mil, could have been richer had he wanted to.

But his joy was in seeing products come alive. In fact, he gave away much of his fortune because it was the right thing to do.

I think that is the starting point of leadership – to be clear on what your mission or purpose is and to keep working tirelessly at it. Never let money or fame dilute your dream of achieving your true joy in life.

A key question for us to ask ourselves: Are you building cool stuff and are you doing it because of the joy it brings? Or are you building it for fame or fortune?

This might interest you: Can Geeks And Nerds Really Lead?


1. The ‘H’ Equation

Wozniak shared his ‘H’ equation – his happiness quotient. To him, money is not the key to happiness. It’s much more than that.

According to Wozniak, “being happy is better than being accomplished. And being happy means feeling good.”

To him, happiness is simple. His formula is:

H = S – F (Happiness = Smiles – Frowns)

So, find ways to smile more and frown less. Another H equation he occasionally quotes is:

H = F3

(Happiness = Food, Friends and Fun).

Read also: The Happiness Equation: Life Lessons From A Genius, Stephen Hawking



As entrepreneurs, many of us get stressed about many things including how to keep our organisations afloat and numerous operational challenges and issues.

Wozniak’s advice is to simply find more occasions to smile to negate the frowns. Food, friends and fun help with this regard.

As we grow our business, don’t forget to take time to eat well, spend time in fellowship with close friends and family, and always have fun in whatever you do.

Keep the smiles going to negate the frowns that are part and parcel of life as business entrepreneurs and leaders.

Recommended for you: Smile Like Soichiro

That’s right. Just keep on smiling! Watch this video:


2. Finish what you start

One piece of advice Wozniak strutted was to ‘always finish what you start’. Wozniak launched Apple having not finished college.

Only 10 years later did he manage to go back to Berkley to finish his final year of college and graduate.

It’s the same piece of advice he offers to entrepreneurs. Whenever you start something, big or small, keep working on it until it is finished. If it doesn’t work, move on.

But never leave it as an unfinished product.



As I reflected on my own life, I realised that the key to my various successes were closing out on the final 10%.

Many times, we take on projects and assignments and we get excited initially. We rush to finish 60–70%, sometimes even up to 90%. But the final 10% is always the hardest.

Because it is the toughest, we focus on other easier ‘side’ projects that offer us the joy of progress. And again, we hit the 90% mark and struggle.

Finishing that final 10% is the key to success and achievement.

It is tough to do, but always finishing what you started holds the key to many of our successes. If not, we will be saddled with many projects and no success to show.


3. Focus on what you love and do it

Wozniak loved being an engineer. To him, he didn’t want to be a chief executive officer (CEO), rich or to be in the forefront. He just wanted to build stuff.

Many times, we see highly talented technical employees and assume they want to be promoted into bigger roles and managerial positions.

If someone loves what they do and thrive in it, work hard to figure out how to make them keep doing what they love and are good at.

According to Wozniak, engineers are the heart beat of every company. Yet, he is practical enough to know that you also need thinkers, builders, marketers and makers.

While engineers think in binary and work similarly, the rest of the world doesn’t.

So, it is key for each function and piece of the organisation to learn to ‘talk’ to each other so that everyone has clarity on what each contributes.



As an entrepreneur, you need to always have an engineer or a builder in your founding team. Work hard to help everyone communicate with each other (and not in binary!).

That’s the hardest part of leadership – enabling clarity for the organisation.

Wozniak goes on to add that the best way to enable people to remain in their roles (which they love), yet to grow and learn, is for the CEO to constantly have “side projects for their employees.”

These side projects enable employees to keep being in their own job where they thrive in, but also get the exposure needed to keep growing and learning.


4. Be disruptive

One piece of advice Wozniak advocates for all business leaders is to hire someone as the chief disruptive officer but to have this person report into the board (and not the CEO).

This person’s role is to figure out a way to disrupt the current products and services with non-traditional ones and to keep the board posted on the future.

This is to ensure that the board can constantly challenge the CEO and senior managements’ perspective and provide an alternate view of where to focus on for the future.

To Wozniak, technology is unpredictable. No one can predict the disruption ahead. Apple II was a huge disruption.

Yet, the Apple of today is rather predictable. Any boy or girl today can be a disruptive force in any industry. This was not possible a few decades ago.



For disruption to happen, sometimes you need the tools to be available and affordable. Today, it is!

As such, entrepreneurs and leaders need to always remember that as they disrupted and succeeded in the past, someone else is looking to disrupt and succeed against their offerings today.

So, there is a need to be vigilant and disrupt oneself first.


5. The power of simplicity

Wozniak became a designer because he loved making things cool. A key part of his success was to design stuff with very few parts and at the lowest costs.

He feels many people today have forgotten the power of simplicity. Simplicity beats complicated things, hands down.

The best products are simple and effective. Wozniak advocates entrepreneurs to relook their offerings to ensure they are simple and easy.

Additionally, the best products were designed for one person.



While many companies try to design products and services for markets, the most disruptive products were designed for one person.

Elon Musk designed the Tesla to be a big car because he had a big family. Jobs made the iPhone for himself. Ratan Tata designed the TataNano for a poor family he encountered.

Products that work for you generally tend to work for others.


Final thoughts

As Wozniak continued with numerous pieces of advice to leaders and entrepreneurs, he warned everyone to be aware of the upcoming future.

Blockchain, virtual reality and augmented reality would be useful applications in the near future.

Learn it. Get to know the future today.

To him, the key to be a successful entrepreneur is to always be aware of your surroundings and know things that are cooking around you.

So, keep disrupting yourself! Keep refreshing yourself!

Always finish what you start and never forget to keep growing and learning. Always remember to frown less, smile more and be happy!

Be a leader!



Roshan is constantly learning new insights from the many people he meets. His interviews with great leaders can be viewed on YouTube (or The Leaderonomics Show). You can also watch his Leadership Nuggets show. To share more lessons from Wozniak, share them with us at editor@leaderonomics.com.

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Tags: Values, Life Inspired


Roshan is the Founder and “Kuli” of the Leaderonomics Group of companies. He believes that everyone can be a leader and "make a dent in the universe," in their own special ways. He is featured on TV, radio and numerous publications sharing the Science of Building Leaders and on leadership development. Follow him at www.roshanthiran.com


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