The Inspiration of Steve Jobs and Al Davis on My Life

October 3, 2013

October of 2011 marks the two-year anniversary of the deaths of two people who have really inspired my life: Steve Jobs (October 5), co-founder of Apple Inc. and Al Davis (October 8), the longtime owner of the Oakland Raiders. Both of these men have become iconic figures in the state of California and were both known as ruthless innovators in their practices. Commanding two of the most notorious fan bases; Raider Nation and Macheads, it was very clear who was in charge of Apple and the Raiders.Deadspin did this great post upon Davis' death, updating the original post they did about Steve Jobs—striking through identifiers about Jobs and adding Davis instead. When you read through the article, you realize how many similarities both men had. Though the Raiders have been on the decline in the past decade of Mr. Davis' life, both men brought success to failing franchises: Jobs when he returned to the company he founded in 1997 and Davis when he hired John Madden in the 60s. Both men were obsessed with being the best at what they do and their craft. For Jobs, it was putting the best product out there. For Davis, it was winning.The Similarities:

  • Both have companies based in the Bay Area (Cupertino and Alameda).
  • Both have passionate fan bases: The Macheads and Raider Nation.
  • Both took on the status quo: Steve Jobs took on Microsoft, IBM, and the status quo of the personal computer. Al Davis took on the National Football League.
  • Both took personal communication very seriously. Steve always talks about the story of him calling Bill Hewlett and occasionally responding to emails personally and Al is known for calling former players and coaches to reach out.
  • Both have experienced failure and yet continued to do what they love and are passionate about.

Think Different

steve-jobs-holding-iphone

I became a Mac user much later than some people. I remember using some Macs before I was 18 but it wasn't until college that I started working in the computer lab of the art building at my college that I fell in love with Macs. I loved the dead-simplicity of them and how the pieces just seemed to fit for what you needed to do. The biggest takeaway from Steve, for me, is to have passion in what you do.What Think Different means to me:

  • Don't do things just because "it is how things have been done".
  • Stand up for what is right and defend it.

Commitment to Excellence and The Raider Way

davis

I grew up as a Los Angeles Raiders fan and remembering the Bo Jackson era the best. It was later on when I was older that I learned this history of the Oakland Raiders and their owner, Al Davis.Though Al Davis was against the AFL merger initially, he later became supportive of the idea. Consider the Vertical Attack the Raiders' version of Apple's 1984 commercial.Davis' management style was dead simple: He was in control of everything, but would hire great coaches to coach great players, and the rest would work itself out. It really reminds me of Steve's statement of connecting the dots and things working out the way they should.I love Al Davis' philosophies on "The Raider Way":

  • The Vertical Game: There is no trickery in the Raider offense. You just run straight down the field and out execute your opponent.
  • You don't adjust. You just dominate.
  • You play man-to-man defense instead of a zone. Every aspect of your team is better than your opponent.

Al Davis to this day, is still the only only executive in NFL history to be an assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner and owner. He was the first owner to hire a black head coach (Art Shell) in the NFL modern era, the first Latino head coach (Tom Flores), and female CEO (Amy Trasker).Al Davis' Hall of Fame Speech inducting John Madden:

“If somebody wants a chance, Al Davis is the greatest at giving them a chance. There are a lot of people that talk about things and never do anything. Al doesn’t talk at all … He just does it.” —John Madden

Ignoring Others

A big takeaway from the two for me is that they never cared what other people were doing or what they said. People often interpret this as a negative thing, but it is not. It is merely signal vs. noise. When Apple got rid of the floppy disk and later on the CD drive, people balked. Al Davis never followed trends and did things his way.

Popular Culture

Appropriately enough, the 1984 Mac commercial came during a Super bowl won by Al Davis’s Raiders. Here is the commercial and Marcus Allen's iconic Super Bowl run.

David's Life Philosophy Inspired by Steve Jobs and Al Davis

  • Ignore everybody, and focus on what you know is right. (This does not mean to never consider anyone's advice)
  • Don't talk about what you're going to do. Just do it.
  • Never forget about those who helped you get where you are and continue to help others in their path.
  • Be the best you can be at your craft, surround yourself around talented people, and things will work itself out.
  • Wear black

My ultimate takeaway from Jobs and Davis?There is something about doing it your way. The Raider Way. The Apple Way. Live your life your way, ignore what others tell you to do and do what you want it with all of your heart.Thank you, Steve and Al, for teaching me to follow your passion, not to live someone else's life and to do things my way.

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