During the 1970s, a small team of some of the world’s best computer engineers were working in Silicon Valley at Xerox PARC.
Xerox built a huge campus [Called Xerox PARC] and recruited about 60 or 70 of the best Phd computer science engineers in the world, give them unlimited research budget and the goal: Turn Xerox’s vision of creating an office of the future into reality.
Everyone who was anyone at the Valley knew that Xerox was at the leading edge of what the future of personal computer technology will look like.
The PARC engineers were working on a bunch of cool innovations.
Virtually any major innovation that we associate with the personal computer revolution today came out of Xerox PARC.
The ethernet was created there, windows were created there, the first wordprocessing program was created there, laser printer was created there.
One other thing they were working was improving on a pointing device that was designed to be used with the computer. A pointing device that we now know as a mouse.
This was not a new idea that was born at Xerox PARC.
Prior to the mouse, when you wanted your computer to do something, you typed a command line on a black screen.
I remember this period very well at university where we were learning DOS and using Floppy disks. At that time when I first started using a computer, it was such a cool thing, but now looking back, I realized how laborious and uncool DOS was.
On a rare occasion in Decembe of 1979, a select group of visitors were invited to see what the PARC team was working on, more like an Open Day at Xerox PARC.
Larry Tesler, an engineer at PARC, demonstrated how computer icons on the screen can be controlled by this pointing device.
It just so happened that one of the visitors that day was this young lad called Steve Jobs, and his company is called Apple, a struggling startup down the road in a place called Cupertino.
The story goes that as soon as he saw what could become the modern day mouse, Jobs started pacing the room excitedly.
He starts jumping up and down, and:
He says: “this is the future of computing” and the PARC engineer says “Yeah, yeah we know”
He says: “this is unbelievable, it’s a revolution, it changes everything” and they say “yeah we know that.”
He says: “You are sitting gold mine and this is insanely great.” And they say yeah we know that.
For the life of him, Jobs couldn’t understand why Xerox was not doing anything with this invention.
He runs out of the door, and gets into his car, I’m sure it’s a Volkwagen Beatle, and he drives as fast as he can to his offices.
He meets with his design engineering team and tells them you are not going to believe what I saw, this incredible thing called the Graphic User Interface, drop everything and focus on this.
At the time they were working on the next generation computer called Lisa.
He asked them to drop that and focus on developing this concept of a mouse and they are confused, what is a mouse? Is it something with like whiskers? No, I mean a thing you can move with your hand, to manipulate the cursor on the screen and make the graphical user interface work.
He could see what needed to be done and knew exactly what his team must do.
The team built the graphic user interface and mouse, and within a few months, the Macintosh, the most iconic product that set Apple on this trajectory that it is still on today.
What is it that sets Jobs apart?
Is he smarter than the engineers at Xerox Parc? No, they are way smarter than he is, they came up with these cool technologies. He just stole the idea.
Is he wiser than them, does he see the future of computing in a way that they don’t see it? No, they knew they have invented the future of computing, they were absolutely sure this is the way computers were going to work. No, he wasn’t wiser than them.
What’s the difference between jobs and the scientists at Xerox Parc? A sense of urgency.
He sees it and he says this is the future of computing, and I need to make a product based on this NOW, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, two years from now.
He wants to do it now, at this moment.
When you look again at these stories of the great entrepreneurs. The people who really transform the worlds they are in, they are always filled with a same sense of urgency.
They are people who need to do things right away.
They move fast.
A sense of urgency is the one thing you can develop that will separate you from everyone else.
If you fail to treat the current time you have wisely and with care, it will judge you tomorrow harshly since it came to you but you mistreated and abused it.
Where there is no sense of urgency, there is usually a strong habit of procrastination.
When you get a good idea, do it now, not next week, not next month, but now.