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Leading Apple With Steve Jobs: Management Lessons From a Controversial Genius by Jay Elliot

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T-Shirts, T-Shirts, T-Shirts

One thing that has always amazed me was the power of the T-shirt at Apple. I had a closet full of about 40 of them from various functions and events. There was even a book published with pictures of many more than that number, including one that executive coach/speechwriter Arynne Simon used to hand out that said, “Don’t Should on Me.” (She taught that telling someone what they should do is manipulative and makes the other person uncomfortable.)

But the importance of T-shirts is how they are distributed and for what type of recognition. The idea of using a themed T-shirt at Apple to celebrate an event or promote a theme began with one that trumpeted the launch date of Mac. These shirts were designed with the graphics look of the Macintosh and proudly displayed on the sleeve what was then the intended launch date: May 15, 1983. They became famous and much coveted.

On the day the announcement was to be made of the launch date, the entire team gathered in the atrium to celebrate by downing bottles of Odwalla juice and receiving their new Mac T-shirt.

Later that month, Steve wanted to offer Mac T-shirts to the board members. I went to the meeting with him, toting a box of the shirts. At the end of the meeting, he announced, “Please help yourself to a T-shirt.” I thought, These titans of industry aren’t going to care about getting a T-shirt.

Was I ever wrong!

There was almost a stampede to get a shirt. It was like a once-a-year sale at a discount store. ...

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