Life lessons from Apple’s forgotten founder

Ronald Wayne missed out on a $35 billion fortune and has a surprisingly good attitude about it that we can all learn from

If you’re much of an Apple fan, or a tech history buff, you probably know the story of Ronald Wayne. He was one of the three founders of Apple computer in 1976, along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. After just 12 days, though, he cashed out his 10% share of the partnership for $800, a stake which would eventually be worth $35 billion.

You’d think someone who missed out on a fortune might be bitter or regretful, but Wayne seems far from it in an interview he recently gave to NextShark. In it, he recounts his time with Apple and the two Steves in those early days, as well as other experiences he had during his career as an engineer and businessman. While his life has had a few other significant bumps that would have left other people angry or miserable, Wayne’s attitude is surprisingly refreshing. 

You can watch to the whole interview above, or read the highlights on NextShark, to hear his story. But I wanted to share a few career and life lessons that Wayne provides for us all, such as...

Use all the information at hand to make the best decision and you’ll have no regrets

Among the reasons Wayne left Apple, he said, was because he’d already had one bad experience starting a business, he was the only one of the three with assets to lose should the partnership go south, and that he was at a different point in his life, being 20 years older than Jobs and Wozniak.

...it was a straightforward business decision…. Jobs and Woz didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I had a house, I had a car, I had a checking account — I was reachable. …I was in my 40s and these kids were in their 20s. And they were whirlwinds.

Given all that, he feels that he made the best decision for himself at the time and, as a result, has no regrets.

Don’t waste energy over things you can’t change

In the interview, Wayne describes an incident after his Apple days when his life savings worth of gold, silver and rare coins was stolen from his Florida home. Here he sums up the way he handled this hardship.

...everybody was wondering why, at that point in time, I did not go screaming up the walls? My answer to them was very simple and I meant it. I said, “What am I supposed to do, make myself sick over it besides?” I mean the situation has happened. I’ll deal with it. When something happens, you just deal with it.

It’s the kind of thing which is easy to say, and much harder to do, but nonetheless is a good piece of advice. Bad things are going to happen to everybody. When they do you have to do your best to not dwell on things you can’t change and to move forward.

Know what makes you happy

Another reason Wayne mentions for leaving Apple was that he really wasn’t interested in the role he felt Jobs ultimately had in mind for him.

I had every reason to believe that Jobs wanted me in Apple to set up and run their documentation systems, their documentation department. ...the last thing I wanted to do was to spend the next 20 years of my life in a large backroom office, shuffling papers.

Even though he recognized the brilliance of Jobs and Woz, and their potential for success, he opted out because he simply felt he wouldn’t be happy. A novel concept in these days of instant Internet billionaires - don’t do a job just for the potential financial payoff; do it because you love it.

Sound advice, all the way around.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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