How a Trip to India Helped Steve Jobs Revolutionize Apple

SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 15: Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs delivers the keynote speech to kick off the 2008 Macworld at the Moscone Center January 15, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Jobs introduced the wireless Time Capsule backup appliance, Apple TV Take 2 and the new ultra thin laptop MacBook Air. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has said in the past that he was jealous of Steve Jobs’ “good taste.” Jobs has always been known for his eye for design and, whether you want to give him credit for it or not, helping to create some of the most revolutionary and user-friendly products in the world.

How did Jobs acquire such an eye? According to him, it was through Zen meditation, which he encountered at 19 during an extended trip to India after dropping out of college. In an interview with Walter Isaacson for his biography, Jobs said:

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things — that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”

Zen has been around for thousands of years and those who practice it have to commit to courageousness, resoluteness, austerity and rigorous simplicity. Jobs’ commitment to simplicity transferred over into the products he helped create at Apple.

But Zen didn’t just help inform Jobs’ classy, simple aesthetic, it also helped him understand his customers better — numerous studies have shown that meditation increases empathy. Isaacson writes in his book:

“Instead of relying on market research, [Jobs] honed his version of empathy — an intimate intuition about the desires of his customers.”

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