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Intuition: Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Fascinating Lesson For Entrepreneurs
Why you must align what is important with its urgency

Ask Apple CEO Tim Cook what he trusts the tradition of the celebrated innovation organization will be, and the appropriate response he gives may astound a few people. The iPhone is an essential part of Apple’s legacy, yet it also has undesired consequences in Cook’s mind. To illustrate this point further, let me give you a simple example.

I often work through lunch and when I do, I like to observe people’s interactions. I find ironic how few are actually talking with each other vs. how many are distracted and on their phone. We have a natural tendency to focus our attention on what appears to be urgent at that moment. We get so consumed by someone trying to reach us or who might say something we think matters or staying on top of social media that we allow it to interrupt the important. This scenario plays out more than we like to admit, whether we are with our families, our significant other, or our associates from work.

I believe we have a growing trend in society where too many of us chose to live by our Apple iPhone and our calendar. And that is often where the problem lies.

We are so caught up with what is urgent that we forget what is most important. It’s analogous to trying to re-set the deck chairs while the Titanic is sinking.

Apple CEO Tim Cook – The Unlikely King of the SmartPhone

Few would have predicted that when Tim Cook graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in 1982, he would go on to become the CEO of one of the world’s largest and most prestigious companies. After completing his MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, he joined IBM, where he stayed for 12-years in progressively increasing roles. From there, Cook went on to executive positions at Intelligent Electronics and Compaq before joining Apple in 1998.

Apple CEO Tim Cook from Wikepedia
Apple CEO Tim Cook Speaking

During Auburn’s commencement speech in 2010, Cook stated, “My most significant discovery so far in my life was the result of one single decision: My decision to join Apple. Working at Apple was never in any plan that I’d outlined for myself, but was without a doubt, the best decision that I ever made.”

Looking back, this was not an easy decision for him to make, and for a good reason. The Apple of 1998 was far different than the Apple of 2020. That is because Cook began working for Apple when it experienced significant declines in profit and before the organization had built up the iMac, iPod, iPhone, or iPad, and when it was seeing declining benefits rather than profit growth.

In fact, Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell Technologies was publicly asked what he would do to fix Apple, and he famously responded: “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

It was ironic for Cook to make the decision to go to Apple because most advisors told him not to do it. Also, being an engineer, he was taught to make decisions using analytics and not emotions. However, in this case, he used his intuition over analytics. Cook explains the moment like this:

Applying Tim Cook’s Wisdom to Our Own Lives

“It’s hard to know why I listened, I’m not even sure I know today, but no more than five minutes into my initial interview with Steve (Jobs), I wanted to throw caution and logic to the wind and join Apple. My intuition already knew that joining Apple was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for the creative genius, and to be on the executive team that could resurrect a great American company.”

Using Intuition to Guide His Life Decisions

And since then, he’s found that using intuition during some of his most important decisions was indispensable to getting the decision right.

Tim Cook used his intuition about his own time/urgency balance during a CNN interview to illustrate his personal wake-up call after seeing data from a newly unveiled Screen Time App:

“I’ve been using it, and I have to tell you: I thought I was fairly disciplined about this. And I was wrong. The device is not addictive in and of itself. It’s what you do on it that is.”

The Apple iPhone was intended to be a tool to live our lives, not to consume our lives. Yet for so many, it has. It has in many ways shifted our focus away from what is important to what is urgent.

To me, intuition is understanding your main thing and using it to understand what doors are open to you, putting aside distractions, and focusing on what is most important.

For instance, a great soccer player doesn’t know when the next goal-scoring opportunity will come, but they know it will. And they can prepare for what they will do when they get it. In sports, as in business, the vast majority of successes are determined before the game even begins. We rarely control the timing of opportunities, but we can maintain the importance of our decisions and their urgency.

However, many of us lack that focus. Instead, our lives become what is captured in our schedule and the constant distractions from our phones. We find our lives caught up in the little things, and that causes a gap in our internal compass, our values, principles, or relationships.

Stephen Covey outlined some steps to combat how we deal with the important vs. the urgent by providing this advice:

“If something is important and it is urgent, then you need to do it.

If it is important, but it is not urgent, then plan it.

If it urgent but it is not important, then delegate it.

If it is neither urgent nor important, then eliminate it.”

This fundamental but straightforward lesson is vital if you want to become Passion Struck and learn to understand what is both urgent and critical in your life. Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at our lives from a different perspective.

A simple way to do this is to take out your calendar and examine your actions over a three to four-month period instead of just looking at today or tomorrow. Don’t focus on what to do next, but ask yourself, why am I doing what I am doing?

Is what I am so busy with what I should be occupied with? Is what my intuition is telling me both important and urgent?

If it is not, make the necessary changes in your life to place focus on what is important, not what appears urgent.

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