Jony Ive recalls how Steve Jobs taught him to say no, especially when it hurts to do it

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Late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs taught his chief designer Jony Ive not only how to say no, but to reject ideas that personally excited him. That process continues to help him to achieve a level of focus — one that he said that Jobs himself had mastered.

Ive spoke Friday at The New Yorker TechFest, where AppleInsider was in attendance. When asked about his relationship with Jobs, Ive lit up.

"Even if it's something that you think passionately about, focus means ignoring it and putting it to the side." - Jony Ive

"I had the most wonderful teacher in Steve," he said. "And I have never — I have never met anybody with his focus."

He recalled that Jobs frequently asked Ive how often he would say no. And to appease Jobs, Ive said he would say no quite a bit — but to things that he wasn't actually interested in doing.

The lesson from Jobs, Ive said, was to say no, and to say it with great sacrifice.

"The art of focus — even if it's something that you think passionately about — focus means ignoring it and putting it to the side," he said. "And often it's at real cost. And he (Jobs) was remarkable at that."

While Jobs was a master of focus, Ive admitted it is still something he struggles with to this day. He said that there have been a few occasion where he felt like he achieved that true level of focus.

"It's a little eerie," he said.

Ive did admit that Jobs could be hard on him. The New Yorker's David Remnick asked Ive if the abrasive nature of Jobs ever upset him. But Ive responded by recalling the dire situation Apple found itself in at the time — on the verge of bankruptcy, having gone through a number of leadership changes, struggling to stay alive.

"The situation," he said, "was harder than his words."