What Can Real Estate Investors Learn From Steve Jobs?


As a resident of the Silicon Valley my whole life I can tell you this week has been tough for a lot of friends and family.  The Valley may produce some healthy competition between companies but all of us respect great leaders, great managers and especially great product guys.

Put simply Steve Jobs was “The Man” in the Valley and he will be missed.  First I want to send my personal condolences to his family, friends and all his coworkers at Apple.  All our thoughts and prayers are with you.

That said I wanted to take a look at Steve’s life through a few of his quotes and see if I could relate any of his passion, focus and execution to the real estate business.  As a buy and hold investor with a long term plan I wanted to know if I could turn any little nugget he has shared into some practical advice for my business.

Below you will find several quotes that I believe shed light on the man as well as help real estate investors focus on what is important.  Enjoy and god bless.

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
[BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]

When I translate this quote into real estate speak I think it is saying don’t over complicate things.  Just because there are literally hundreds of ways of getting transactions done, focus on the key steps and the rest will follow.  Simply find a Motivated Seller, Negotiate Price and Terms and Close the Deal.

For my business it means buy distressed assets, repair to rent ready condition, secure passive investors and repeat cycle.  Keep recycling capital, providing secure returns and safe housing for my renters.

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
[BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]

As the owner of your business you need to have clarity on what you are doing, what you are providing and how to define success.  Group think is not the goal or a good idea as it can create distractions, lost time and a poor return on capital. Remember it is your business and you will be the one judged not some collection of friends and family.

“I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year…. It’s very character-building.”
[Apple Confidential 2.0]

So what if you lost money, a property or your whole portfolio in the market crash.  Get up, dust yourself off and let’s move on.  Did you lose $250,000,000? I didn’t think so.  If you can continue fighting and executing a solid plan you can turn this around and by last count I think Mr. Jobs was worth north of $10,000,0000,000 which is pretty cool given the loss he had to suffer.

Don’t let the market crash define you. Learn from it and move on.

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”
[The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 1993]

It might sound counter intuitive to us starting out but real estate investing is not about the money. Instead it is about what we can do with it.  For me personally it is about turning distressed assets into safe and secure housing, it is about providing secure and above average returns for my passive investors and it is about helping as many people as I can.

The money is great but I get the biggest kick out of helping people and turning something ugly into a functioning piece of real estate.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
[Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

To me this is very simple.  As an active real estate investor you have to love this business and enjoy both the ups and downs that come with it.  If not it will burn you out, add stress to your life and be no fun.  Instead of fighting a losing battle simple decide to be a passive investor and look for your passion somewhere else.  Active real estate investing is not for everyone.

In closing I want to thank Steve Jobs for vision and leadership.  You will be missed and never forgotten.

Good Investing

Photo: Fiona Shields

About Author

Michael Zuber is an active buy-and-hold real estate investor who still has a full-time job. Michael is not an agent or broker, and simply uses the internet and agent relationships to drive his business. He currently averages at least one deal a month and has developed laser focus on his 5 step process.


  1. Hi Michael!

    Bravo for this! I think no matter what business you’re in, we can al learn something from Steve Jobs. He had a vision and he went for it, no matter how many times he failed or was told that it was a bad idea – he never backed down!

    Really great tips here. I like how you translated the quotes. Thanks for this!

    • Mr Jobs should be a mentor to all Real Estate Investors as he had passion, discipline and he went after it. Also it should be noted he didn’t do it for the money as money was simply the scorecard after the fact.

      Good Investing

  2. I’ve also spent most of my life here in the Nor Cal, in and around the Silicon Valley. And yes, I have to agree that Steve Jobs was an amazing leader and visionary. Living so close to the action makes current events seem so much more surreal. However, the one thing many people totally ignore is the way he treated fellow human beings. To be frank, he was known by those close to him as being a complete a******. It is reasonable to praise this man for his unparalleled contribution to this world. But remember to take a closer look. There are always two sides to a story.

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