post by corey lundberg

5 coaching lessons from steve jobs

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of Steve Job’s death.  Chances are, through some interaction with an Apple product, your life has been impacted by the work and legacy of Steve Jobs.  His products have changed the way we live.

When your career is over, if someone says you revolutionized the coaching industry– suffice it to say you accomplished something pretty special.  Jobs revolutionized SIX industries– first personal computing, then animated films, then music with iTunes, then phones, then tablet computing, and eventually digital publishing.

Since his death, countless articles have been written examining the lessons left by Jobs to be applied in business and life.  Undoubtedly, we all have something to learn from the man that built the world’s most valuable company and a loyal legion of fans.

So what about coaching?

The vision for Apple’s retail division is captured in two simple words: Enrich Lives.  Every coach in the world shares the same mission.  So let’s examine a few coaching lessons left behind by Jobs.

Here are five Steve Jobs quotes that should provoke some thought on how to infuse his innovation and passion into your coaching business:

I read something that one of my heroes, Edwind Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do. – STEVE JOBS

This quote sheds light onto what is perhaps Apple’s greatest strength: combining genius technological innovation with BEAUTIFUL products.  He is also quoted in his biography as saying,”Michelangelo knew a lot about how to quarry stone, not just how to be a sculptor”.

For those of us in the golf industry, coaching at the ‘intersection of humanities and sciences’ might be the most important skill to develop as golf instruction moves into a new era.  New technology is transforming our industry, but maintaining a healthy appreciation for both the art of coaching and science of coaching is essential.

It’s now imperative for coaches to combine a scientific understanding of the game of golf with vivid and imaginative communication skills.

The system is that there is no system.  That doesn’t mean we don’t have a process.  Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes.  But that’s not what it’s about.  Process makes you more efficient. – STEVE JOBS

Of the quotes I researched from Jobs, this one can be most directly applied to coaching.  For whatever reason, ‘system’ and ‘method’ have become taboo words in the world of golf.  Perhaps instead of worrying about methods or systems, we should be seeking more efficient ‘processes’ to simplify player development for both student and coach.  

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. – STEVE JOBS

Just look at any Apple product.  It’s easy to see that simplicity is among the company’s most valued principles.

Apple’s lead designer, Jonathan Ives, describes the reason behind the minimalist aesthetic,”Our goal is to try to bring a calm and simplicity to what are incredibly complex problems so that you’re not aware really of the solution, you’re not aware of how hard the problem was that was eventually solved.”

This quote reminded me of an old blog post from Jason Sutton in which he relayed one of my favorite coaching quotes “Understand it like Homer, but communicate it like Harvey.”

Simple is harder than complex because the ability to distill a message down to the most relevant concept for any particular situation requires a greater understanding of the subject.  But as Steve says, once you get there, ‘you can move mountains’.

It’s better to hit a home run than two doubles. – STEVE JOBS

In Jobs’ typically direct style he shared a similar sentiment when he advised the newly appointed Nike CEO to “get ride of the crappy stuff”.  Jobs did just that when he made his return to Apple; he cut staff, cut product lines, cut all the fat– narrowing the company’s focus on a few key products.  Most experts credit this newly found focus on ‘quality over quantity’ as the catalyst for Apple’s resurrection.

Generally, we have two types of students– golfers looking for a quick fix or golfers committed to long term development.  The one-time lessons represent the doubles.  Successful player development programs and long-term students are the home runs.

So we have a choice, we can fill every appointment in our book with the quick fixers or we can trim some of the fat in order to devote more time to building relationships with deeply invested students.

It becomes a quality of life issue for coaches.  Either be a slave to the lesson tee– or develop a few profitable programs and relationships that allow you to be to do your most effective coaching within a model that achieves BALANCE.

Dr. Rick Jensen refers to this mindset as being ‘A-Client Centric’.  The C-students and the C-tasks are the ‘crappy’ stuff.  They sap time and energy without much pay off.  Find your A-students or A-programs and find more ways to devote your energy to them.

It’s more fun to be a pirate than join the navy. – STEVE JOBS

In this quote, Steve was describing his original Mac development team.  He even went so far as to fly a black skull and crossbones flag over the building that housed the original Macintosh division on the Apple campus.  It says a lot about the rebellious attitude and enduring culture at Apple.

Luckily, golf has a few coaching ‘pirates’ right now.  They’re not always agreeable and they may ruffle a few feathers, but their passion is unequaled and they ALWAYS provoke thought.  And despite their polarizing styles, they have developed a loyal following.

Conforming is no fun.  Coach like a boss pirate.

– CL

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  1. I think every now and then a coach shouldn’t be afraid to shake things up. Doing it the way it’s always been done because it’s always been done that way might not always work for you and your team.

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