• Adam Tarnow

He did it all without wearing a belt

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

During quarantine, I decided to dive into Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs. It was fantastic escapism reading during the uncertainty of those weeks of March and April 2020. My favorite part of the story was the unveiling of the first iPhone on January 9, 2007. “We’re going to make some history together today.” Those were the first words out of Jobs' mouth that morning.

We have the benefit of hindsight. We now know, that wasn’t just braggadocious Silicon Valley CEO-speak. It happened. The iPhone completely changed the way the world communicates and consumes information. So, today I want to give Steve Jobs an award. If he were alive, he wouldn’t care about this award, but that doesn’t bother me. In my mind, he still deserves it. Today, Steve Jobs will be the first person inducted into the Bringing Order Hall of Fame. Don’t worry. I checked. There are no rules saying you can't develop your own hall of fame.

This Hall of Fame, however, is a tad different. I only induct people who are known for heroically bringing order to a chaotic situation. Let me explain. Back in May, I wrote something called “A Leader’s Enemy.” The enemy a leader fights every day is Chaos. Chaos is the opposite of Order. Chaos reigns when people are confused. When teams aren’t functioning well. When miscommunication happens. When there seem to be more problems than solutions. The essence of every leader’s job is to bring Order to Chaos. The world needs leaders because the world is full of Chaos. Can I get an amen? This is basically what Steve Jobs and Apple did back on January 9, 2007. The keynote address at the Macworld convention in San Francisco on that balmy morning in 2007 has been called “the best presentation of all time.” If you watch it, you’ll probably scratch your head. You’ll wonder if the editors at Inc. Magazine drink in the mornings (like some of the iPhone engineers did during Jobs’ famous speech). I’ve watched the speech. Honestly, it wasn’t awesome. As a professional communicator with many “leather-bound books and furniture of rich mahogany,” I believe I know a thing or two about what makes a good speech. He broke some basic rules. First of all, he started out claiming he was about to “make some history.” Note to keynote speakers; you need to underpromise and then over-deliver. He then launched into a business update about a new agreement with Intel regarding processors used in the Mac. That's not a riveting opener. Those are rookie mistakes, not professional mistakes. His speech is viewed as “the best” because of what it accomplished. Not because of his oratory skills. Chaos was ruling the mobile phone industry. Steve hated to see Chaos win, so he said, “Hold my beer, I’ll lead us.” Jobs did us all a favor, and he brought Order. That speech in 2007 was like Steve putting on a backpack blower and ridding the mobile phone industry of the chaotic fog that was winning the day. This is why the crowd freaked out. The audience acted like a bunch of middle-aged women at a Backstreet Boys reunion concert because they watched a leader beat-up Chaos. It was like watching Rougned Odor punch Jose Bautista in the face. The drug of Order intoxicated the crowd. At that moment, Order was winning. One part of their life had less Chaos. A small battle was won. The war was still raging. But their fearless leader, Steve Jobs, on that day, defeated Chaos. And he did it all with his turtleneck tucked into his jeans. He did it all without wearing a belt. This is why Steve Jobs is my first inductee. He’s going into my Bringing Order Hall of Fame because he’s an excellent example. Be encouraged leader. If this guy in sneakers can kick Chaos’ tail, then so can you! Stand up straight and do your job today. Bring Order somewhere. My challenge for you today: don’t go to bed until you win a battle against Chaos. Someone on your team is losing hope. Someone doesn’t know what to do. Someone has something to say, but they don’t want to say it. Someone is spinning their wheels. Chaos is kicking someone’s tail today. You can win a battle for humanity. Bring Order somewhere. That’s what leaders do. Be a leader.

P.S. Also, guys, when you tuck in your shirt, wear a belt. That’s just free advice.

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