Thursday, May 10, 2012

"stick to your knitting"

I do think I've heard this phrase. And I have to admit that when I've heard it I've assumed it to be negative: don't poke your nose in where you don't belong; you don't know much so back off; stop trying to pretend to be more than you are. Does any of this resonate?

So imagine my surprise when I heard the phrase used on Charlie Rose one night (If you don't know him, he's a well-respected interviewer, on PBS every night at 5pm.) and in a very positive way, as advice from one of our geniuses. Here's the story.

Charlie was interviewing Walter Isaacson,  who'd written the wonderful and definitive biography of Steve Jobs. They were discussing what made Steve the genius he was. And Charlie told the story of being with Steve at an event at which they were both being honoured: TIME MAGAZINE's 100 most influential people. Charlie was talking to him when he noticed a young tech guy he knew would be thrilled to speak with Steve. So Charlie called the young man over and said "Steve, what advice would you give this young man?"

And Charlie reported that Steve said "Stick to your knitting."

I had to rewind my machine to be sure I had heard right. And I had. And Charlie went on to extrapolate that Steve had used this in a truly positive sense, as the best advice he could give: "stick with what you know." Both the biographer and Charlie discussed this as part of Steve's genius.

But don't we love how it was expressed: knitting as a starting point for brilliance. I suppose we all knew this all along, but you gotta love it when the big buys go there.


  1. I, too, have always thought this phrase to be derogatory, being said to a woman who dared to assert herself. Nice to hear it in a positive way. And, yes, I will stick to my knitting! With pleasure!

  2. I'm glad I'm not walking around the world as the only person who heard this in the negative! Thanks for responding.