I would like to bestow 4 pristine white stars to Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs was just a really fascinating guy. He was intelligent, focused, ruthless, and truly determined to change the world. And he did! Without his uncompromising vision, computer technology wouldn't have made so many great leaps in the past 40 years. And that's not to say that he invented all these great products, because most of the time the idea wasn't his, but he knew when an idea was great, he knew how to make it better, and he risked a lot to be sure the idea made it to consumers. What makes him different from other innovators and CEOs is that he (usually) never seemed to be in it for the money. He just wanted to improve humanity and he would never change a product based on cost if it would affect the product's integrity. Plus, he and his team made so many great products because they were always trying to make the products that they themselves would want to use.
|The first Macintosh was created in Steve's parent's garage.|
Apple is a great company and it wouldn't be what it is without Steve Jobs. He knew how to pick out A-players, how to push them to their limits, and he gave them the motivation they needed to make amazing products. His "reality distortion" made him believe in the impossible and although his team might have sometimes hated him for it, he pushed them and pushed them until they achieved that which had at first seemed impossible.
|He had a strange diet, often fasting or limiting his intake to fruits and vegetables. |
At one point, he was only eating apples.
Yes, he was an asshole. He's upfront about that (and Isaacson is too). He could be incredibly rude. And part of what makes this book so fascinating is looking at his brash, honest, contradictory personality. Although given up for adoption at birth, he refused for years to accept that his girlfriend's child was his daughter. Although once a hippie seeking spirituality in India, he became a billionaire CEO selling "closed" electronics. Although he was known for his rude exclamations (calling ideas shit, calling coworkers assholes), he was also known to become very emotional and cry when upset. And although many of his subordinates got fed up with his anger and brashness, they all seemed so happy to have worked with him in the end.
|He bought Pixar when the company was just a baby.|
This book was over 500 pages long and since I rarely read nonfiction, I expected to skim most of it. But perhaps because I didn't really know much about Jobs beforehand, I just found the whole thing fantastic. Isaacson keeps the narrative moving and likes to insert some humor where he can. It was so interesting to me to hear the stories behind products I've bought myself (as well as the Pixar movies he had a say in) and to see how much of an influence Jobs had on Apple. We owe him (and Apple as a whole) for so many beautiful products and improvements in technology. Steve Jobs was just insanely great and Isaacson did a wonderful job sharing his story.
|Steve with co-creator of Apple, Steve "Woz" Wozniak.|
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Raskin had one problem: Jobs regarded him as an insufferable theorist or, to use Jobs’s own more precise terminology, ‘a shithead who sucks.’”
“At one point the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated. Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked.”
“’ . . . I immediately liked the guy, because that’s how I worked too. Let’s just immediately put all the cards on the table and see where they fall.’ (In fact that was not usually Jobs’s mode of operation. He often began negotiations by proclaiming that the other company’s products or services sucked.)”
“’She would roll her eyes at his latest eating obsessions,’ recalled Homes. ‘She just wanted him to be healthy, and he would be making weird pronouncements like, ‘I’m a fruitarian and I will only eat leaves picked by virgins in the moonlight.’”
“He would shout at a meeting, ‘You asshole, you never do anything right,’” Debi Coleman recalled. “It was like an hourly occurrence. Yet I consider myself the absolute luckiest person in the world to have worked with him.”
TITLE: Steve Jobs
AUTHOR: Walter Isaacson
PUBLICATION DATE: 1 January 2011
VERDICT: 4/5 stars.