The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I wish I had written this insightful post on decluttering not just our closets and garages, but our lives.

Here’s an example of the ideas in action via John Gruber and Kottke:

I like this as a basic theory for understanding Apple’s exceptional success. Steve Jobs was famous for his pride in saying “no”. At All Things D in 2004, asked about an Apple PDA: “I’m as proud of the products that we have not done as I am of the products we have done.” (Other examples here and here.)

Tim Cook, at the 2010 Goldman Sachs technology conference:

We can put all of our products on the table you’re sitting at. Those products together sell $40 billion per year. No other company can make that claim except perhaps an oil company. We are the most focused company that I know of, or have read of, or have any knowledge of.

We say no to good ideas every day; we say no to great ideas; to keep the number of things we focus on small in number.

A Work in Progress

I need a personal motto.

A recent headline from Yahoo Personal Finance (YPF) read, “Apple Rebounds to $600, Time to Buy?” For the love of investing fundamentals, someone please alert the knuckleheads at YPF that the objective is to buy low and sell high. “Apple Plummets to $400, Time to Buy?” would make a hell of a lot more sense.

Unless of course Apple is headed to $1,001. Which leads to another recent YPF headline, “Top Analyst Thinks Apple Could Hit $1,001”. “Top Analyst” is code for really smart dude who knows way more than you and me. So I guess we should believe him. Wait. He’s also referred to as a “market pro” which means we HAVE to believe him. Thank you top analyst market pro. Since each of my APPL shares is about to go up $400, I think I”ll buy that Cervelo R5 bicycle I’ve had my eye on. More evidence of his intelligence—he covers his ass with “Could”. Here are some other “Could” headlines:

• Relative Unknown Ron Byrnes Could Win the British Open

• The Seattle Mariners Could Win the American League West

• Presidential Candidates Could Take the High Road

• Despite Barely Passing High School Chemistry, Ron Byrnes Could Cure Cancer

Then there’s “Dr. Drew” who received $250k to promote Glaxo’s antidepressant drug. Of course Double D never revealed anything about the payments. Most egregious, he repeatedly used his television pulpit to say it helped cure problems that exceeded what the FDA approved it for. Another doc (among many) was paid a cool $2m to promote the drug.

Daily reminders to read between the lines and remember things aren’t always as they may appear. Reminders too to get some splashy adjectives or a personal motto for yourself.

Cable news networks do it. CNN is “The Most Trusted Name in News”. The Supreme Court rejects health care mandate. Opps! Fox News is “Fair and Balanced.” Opps! And regular people who make wild-ass stock predictions do it. Top analyst, market pro. Another recent YPF headline read, “Goldman’s ‘Rock Star’ Gives His Market Outlook”.

Maybe I should follow suit. The examples illustrate an essential element of moniker or motto making. They don’t have to be true. Repeat them enough and create a hypnotic effect. So aim really, really high.

I’m thinking something like “Ron Byrnes, rock star blogger, friend of small animals, a tribute to humanity.” On second thought, it’s probably unwise to alienate large animals. A work in progress.

No doubt, that right there, “a work in progress,” is what my wonderful wife of 25 years (this week) would recommend for my personal motto.

The Life Changing iPhone 4S

The earliest adaptors, the tech glitterati, have determined that the iPhone 4S, or the phone’s Siri voice recognition feature more specifically, is a life changer. John Gruber said he “could live without it, but wouldn’t want to.”

Funny how one day life is rolling pretty darn well without voice recognition on phones and the next a few peeps start asking, “How did we ever live without it?” And before long, we’re wondering how did we ever get off the couch to change the television channel and how did we ever use our phones just to talk to people.

Walt Mossberg provided this life-changing Siri voice recognition example. WM, “Find a French restaurant.” 4S, “I found 13 French restaurants, 7 in Bethesda.” WM, “Remind me to call my wife when I get home.” 4S, “Okay, I will remind you.”

I’m not anti-tech, but the hyperbole in the reviews helps distinguish between those earliest adaptors and the much later ones like me. As an AAPL investor I follow the phone releases, and I’m glad when they’re successful, but my heart rate doesn’t quicken at the thought of standing in line to purchase one.

Call me crazy, but the life-changing bar is a little low if it hinges on finding a French restaurant or receiving a reminder to call someone.

Wake me when an iPhone can accurately fulfill these types of requests:

• Find a nearby, inexpensive restaurant on the water with great vegetarian dishes, quick service, and a table near a television programmed to the game.

• Alert me 30 seconds before my wife is about to ask me a “how do you feel about” question.

• Whenever my wife asks a “how do you feel about” question, provide me the optimal answer.

• Show me AAPL’s closing price for next Friday.

• Alert me 30 days before the UCLA basketball team’s next National Championship.

• Tell me if it will rain next Saturday afternoon anywhere in Thurston County between noon and 3p.m.

• On the first day of every month, please remind me how much time I have to live.

Be still my beating heart

Postscript.

Steve Jobs

John Gruber of Daring Fireball quotes Steve from his 2005 Stanford commencement address:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Puts the negative press coverage of the iPhone 4S in perspective. We forget we’ll be dead soon and lose sight on what is truly important and instead focus on the status phones provide, stock prices, and market share.

[Besides the commencement address, fav read from last night—The Steve Jobs I Knew by Walt Mossberg]