Steve Jobs came back from college and took a job with Atari, designing hard-wired videogames. He secured a job offer for Woz, but Woz was loyal to HP. But he did agree to help design a "one-person pong", a game that became known as Breakout. "I would like nothing more than to design a game that people played in a bowling alley," Woz remembered as motivation. He thought it would be a six man-month job, "but Steve said we had to do it in four days." They did it, and both got mono in the process.
I love it. Six months worth of work in 4 days. And mono. That is dedication. And that is what Woz is all about.
He was excited and energetic on stage, as he bounced around telling stories about how he built this or that technical project just for fun. He couldn't afford computer parts, but he would design and re-design computers on paper, always trying to decrease the number of chips he used. It was a game to him – one with it's own intrinsic rewards. And I think that is where great things come from. Money is great, titles are nice, but the great ones – the ones like Woz – always do it first and foremost for the challenge.
Entrepreneurship is a tough road because most people will think you are nuts. If you leave a well paying job and a promising career path to do something on your own, no one will understand why. You don't get much support. Instead you get scorn and lots of people trying to "talk some sense" into you. But there are greater rewards than job security. The message I took from Woz could be summed up like this:
- Don't worry about what other people think
- Pursue challenging and fun problems
- Just because people say something can't be done, doesn't mean they are right. Even if everybody says it.
- Don't be afraid to try things you've never done before
Woz got a standing ovation, and he deserved it. Keep an eye out for a Ideafestival Woz video. It will be worth watching.