I wished I would’ve of learned of Bill Campbell sooner in my life, but better late than never. His thought-leadership and best practices have guided some of the top executives in tech, from Steve Jobs at Apple, to Jeff Bezos in Amazon, and he didn’t know a lick of HTML. He was a baller.

Not only did he play football at Columbia, he also became their Head Coach as well. This experience would be crucial in launching some of the biggest products and companies in recent history. His transition into tech more or less satisfied his competitive nature, and need to operate in a collaborative setting.

He rose to become VP of Marketing at Apple and in 1984, his number got called. Steve Jobs was getting ready to launch the Macintosh and an idea came up to create a compelling Super Bowl advertisement that would capture the zeitgeist of owning a personal computer. Jobs secured a budget of $750, 000 for this campaign and the contract as given to Chiat/Day advertising agency.

When the board of the company saw the ad, they were horrified and were in no way going to sign off on this. The agency was supposed to sell off both commercial slots purchased during the Super Bowl, but in an act of defiance never sold the longer one.

Because nobody wanted to have to be caught in a battle between the board members, they decided to let the head of marketing figure it out, and Bill Campbell decided to go for the hail mary. During the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII the Raiders scored a touchdown and instead an instant replay, the screens went black and this came on:

It went on to be selected by TV Guide and Advertising Age as the greatest commercial of all time and it sold 70,000+ units by May, generating over $175m in revenue. He’d later become CEO of Go Corporation as well as Intuit, mentoring the biggest names in tech along the way. The humility it takes to learn from people that have a different skillset is striking.

“Leadership is about recognizing that there’s a greatness in everyone and your job is to create an environment where that greatness can emerge.”

One thing I’ve realized I’ve been able to do, to a flaw, is see this greatness in the people I meet along this journey. How different paths cross in the most mysterious, but fulfilling of ways. Like someone wandering from one career path to another, but continuing to be in a space where you contribute to a bigger picture. The hard part is finding those with that eye for capturing finding talent, and ability to cultivate it.

One thing I’ve admired about studying business is seeing the same principles being transferred with the innovator. When Campbell left coaching, he brought that to Apple. When Jobs was ousted from Apple, he brought IT to NeXT and Pixar. The most powerful part of this most of it is just people. It’s relationships being built over years.

When Jobs returned back to Apple in 1997, he brought in Bill Campbell be a part of the Board of Directors. He was CEO of Intuit at the time and became a walking buddy of Jobs. Steve Jobs was quoted saying that Campbell’s great talent was to “get A performance out of B players.”

When you talk to people about their journey, it’s import to talk about the big picture. We’ve become so isolated as a society, to the point where we tolerate instead of coexisting. Instead of using people as stepping stones to get to your goal, work together with others toward a common goal.

“The limitations you are willing to accept establish the boundaries of your existence” ~ Erwin McManus



Steve Jobs


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