Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
My impression of “Steve Jobs” the book
Amazing! I thought that “Steve Jobs” was an excellent book. It was an enjoyable story that contained elements of humor, sadness, and insightfulness. Prior to reading this book, I knew nothing about Steve Jobs, but by the end, I feel like I personally knew Steve. I think that Isaacson did a great job writing an enjoyable and informative book, and I would like to read more biographies published by him.
My impression of Steve Jobs the person
Steve Jobs was not the person that I expected him to be. I went into this book with almost zero background knowledge about Steve Jobs, and I was surprised about what I learned. Steve Jobs was a bare-footed hippy who embraced the counter-culture. He also embraced unusual dietary habits: he would often fast for days, eat only a single food for weeks, and drink exotic fruit juices. He practiced Buddhism, used LSD, and was unashamed of his sexual impulses. At the age of 23, his girlfriend became pregnant, and Jobs refused to claim the child as his own. I was disappointed that Jobs elected to put his child up for adoption, despite being adopted himself. Overall, I was disappointed by Jobs’s morals.
Despite his questionable morals and unconventional habits, Jobs was highly intelligent and passionate. Hence, he was able to found and lead an extraordinarily successful company. In the same way that I do not agree with Jobs’s morals, I do not agree with his management and communication styles. Steve Jobs was belligerent, temperamental, abrasive, unpredictable, and overall a lousy person to work with. In fact, he was so poorly behaved that Apple fired him. Furthermore, he believed that the rules did not apply to him like they did to other people, especially regarding his car. His Mercedes did not have license plates, he blatantly ignored speed limits, and he consistently parked in handicapped spaces.
Concisely, Jobs was an unusual character, and personally, I don’t envy him. I wouldn’t want to be like him, despite his wealth and success. However, there are many things to admire about Steve Jobs. For example, I admire his intelligence, work ethic, charisma, and ability to understand technology. He was able to recognize “A-players” and distinguish between exceptional and mediocre performers. He was also a talented speaker and presenter. He understood what the mass population wanted and what they would like. He was interested in developing products that benefited humans on a large scale. And, he was able to identify world-changing technologies and turn those nascent technologies into consumer products. Although he didn’t have a college degree, he was intelligent and deeply passionate about his work. His combination of quirks, intelligence, charisma, passion, and relentless drive combined perfectly to establish him as an iconic and indelible figure.
Some interesting things that I learned
Above all else, Steve Jobs considered himself an artist. He wanted his products to look and feel different. His passion for aesthetics extended to all parts of himself and Apple. For example, his mansion was unfurnished because he was unable to select the perfect set of furniture. In his Apple stores and with his products, Steve Jobs was very particular about color, and he was known to agonize over different shades of color in order to find just the perfect tone.
One of the qualities that made Jobs successful was his ability to intuitively identify world-changing technologies. He recognized the benefits of GUIs, bitmapping, and object-orient programming. One of my favorite stories was regarding Xerox PARC. After seeing PARC’s GUI, Steve Jobs “stole” the technology. He proudly considered it one of the greatest heists in history. If PARC was able to capitalize on their GUI technology, then it is likely that they would have owned the entire computer industry. However, “in the annals of innovation, new ideas are only part of the equation. Execution is just as important.” This was particularly interesting to me, because it’s something that I’ve noticed. I’ve also learned that when companies fail to pivot and innovate, they collapse. Xerox is a great example of a company that was insanely successful, possessed promising technology, but failed to execute. Apple is an example of the opposite type of company. Apple started as a computer company, then pivoted to music and the iPod, then to cellular phones, and then to the iPad.
One of Jobs’s biggest mantras was simplicity. He believed that everything should be simple. For this reason, he removed buttons from the iPhone, implemented the wheel on the iPod, removed external drives from the Mac, and ensured that Apple only focused on a few essential products. I agree that simplicity is key, and I think that people often make things more complicated than they need to be. However, simplicity takes effort, and I think that simplicity in technology is similar to simplicity in writing. Technology, like writing, starts as something that is big and complicated. But with many iterations, it becomes simplified and concise. An essay becomes shorter and more direct. Technology becomes less complicated and easier to use. The trick to simplicity is vision and the willingness to iterate.
After Steve Jobs was fired from Apple for being hard-headed and unpredictable, he started another company, called NeXT, that was mostly a failure. When Steve left Apple, he was so sour that he sold all of his Apple stocks, except for one, so that he could attend Apple shareholder meetings. He invested roughly $50 million of his personal finances into his subsequent company, NeXT. Although NeXT was a failure, he eventually sold the company to Apple. Ten years after Jobs was fired from Apple, the company that Jobs founded with Wozniak was struggling and heading towards bankruptcy. In an effort to save his baby, Steve Jobs sold NeXT to Apple and became a member of Apple’s board. From his position on the board, Jobs transitioned to iCEO and finally to CEO. Under Jobs’s leadership, Apple transcended from near bankruptcy to market giant.
In addition to being Apple’s cofounder and CEO, Steve Jobs was CEO and the primary shareholder of Pixar. After being fired from Apple, Steve Jobs became interested in animation and recognized Pixar’s potential. Again, he was able to combine his passion for art and technology to build a successful business. He placed John Lasseter at the head of Pixar, and he partnered Pixar with Disney to create the immensely successful “Toy Story” and “Bug’s Life” films, Eventually, Steve Jobs sold Pixar to Disney. Pixar was another immensely successful endeavor. When Pixar when public, Jobs made $1.2 billion.
Although Steve Jobs was not a family man, he eventually married Laurene Powell, and they had 3 children. Jobs’s life was not characterized by his commitment to family, but by his business acumen.