Perfectionist. Passionate. Strong Personality. Believes in Achieving the Impossible. Set on changing the world. Minimalist.
These are the first words that come to mind when I think about Steve Jobs.
As you might have gathered, I just finished the Steve Jobs Biography, by Walter Isaacson, this afternoon. Wow, what an incredible book and an extraordinary life.
There are so many fascinating insights, struggles, complications, and triumphs covered in this book.
I was completely captivated the whole time, and this is a 600+ page book, so thats saying something.
Isaacson’s Intimate Writing Style
Isaacson’s writing style is wonderful, and really makes you feel like you’re taking a stroll through Jobs’ life, and in some parts, like you are in the same room as Jobs listening to him reflect on his life.
I really enjoyed how Isaacson lists the cast of characters in Jobs’ life at the beginning of the book. Issacson gives a little snippet on each person that had meaning in Jobs’ life to set the stage for what is to come in the story.
It made me consider how all of our lives are made up of characters (our friends, family, work colleagues etc…) that all play a role in the story of our lives. These characters each help to mold our lives in different ways.
Its fun to think of my life as a story and to look at each person in my life as a contributor to my personal growth. This is probably a very healthy way to approach life and gain as much as I can from my interactions with others (ie: instead of being frustrated with someone, think “opportunity for growth” 🙂 ).
This book is so chock full of the details surrounding the history of the personal computer, and the personal life of Steve Jobs, it is difficult to capture it all in one post.
I thought I would outline my main takeaways from this book and list a few tidbits about Jobs that you probably did not know.
My Takeaways from this book about Steve Jobs, Apple, and Leadership
Steve Jobs was an exceptional person with a complicated personality. His drive and passion for Apple products are responsible for creating the world’s first personal computer.
His relentless pursuit of perfection became his defining quality. The lengths he would go to in order to ensure that the different Apple products were the best of the best were extraordinary.
Yes, he threw tantrums. Yes, he belittled people in public. Yes, he worked his team to the bone. Yes, he might have been quick to say an idea was bad (he used more colorful language than “bad”) before hearing a developer out, and then turn around and implement that “bad” idea. Yes, he might have used charisma to get his way.
But, through it all, no one had his passion. Without his passion, Apple would not have become a reality.
I believe the world is a much better place with a company like Apple to look to for guidance. Jobs believed that companies should focus on a few very high quality products, rather than push out many average products.
If all companies maintained their focus on the development of the product to best serve their end user, the world would be a much better place and filled with significantly less junk and clutter.
Jobs believed that meetings should be filled with sharing ideas and communicating face to face, rather than hiding behind a powerpoint presentation that had been memorized. He truly enjoyed the exchange of ideas focused on developing quality products, but wanted the ideas to come from the heart, rather than a prepared presentation.
Towards the end of the book, Isaacson discusses how Jobs has his son, Reed, join him in a three day meeting with senior management and publicity experts to deal with an Ipad problem.
Jobs talks about how those meetings that Reed witnessed were some of his most effective meetings ever, and how he is so glad that Reed was able to be a part of them. This took place in the last few years of his life.
The Wonderful Apple Retail Stores
When you walk into an Apple store, Jobs’ belief in minimalism and perfection is so evident. Jobs’ hope was to create a maximum statement through minimalist techniques with the stores.
In the book, Isaacson discusses the unbelievable detail Jobs put into the design of the Apple stores. When he presented the idea to the Board of Apple for retail stores where customers could touch and feel the products, no one was in favor. They pointed to the failure of the Gateway retail stores.
But, Jobs was not one to take the answer no very well, and was able to convince them to set up some retail stores. Well, as we all know, that was a multi million dollar idea. So, even when something had been tried before, that really doesn’t count, because Jobs had so much more creativity and drive than most people, that whatever he touched would most likely become incredibly effective and the best anyone has ever seen.
Because his passion ran so deep, he had to make many sacrifices along the way, but I think when you have his level of drive, it is difficult to hold back and temper that drive and passion. If he did, he wouldn’t be completely fulfilled.
I wonder, if Paul Jobs had not introduced Steve to electronics, if his passion would have been focused elsewhere. I believe I speak for millions when I say, thank goodness his passion was for computers and developing A+ companies.
I can say, as an avid user of all Apple products, with my iphone, macbook pro, ipod, and ipad, I wholeheartedly want to thank him for being the incredible, second to none visionary that he was for 35+ years. He will be missed.
Things you Might not Know about Steve Jobs
- He lived the first five years of his life in San Francisco. Then, his parents, Paul and Clara Jobs, moved the family to Mountain View, where he spent the rest of his childhood years
- His father, Paul, was a machinist and taught Steve how to rebuild electronics like radios and tvs in their garage
- He attended Reed College for a six months, then dropped out, although, he did audit classes for another year and half. During this time, he audited a calligraphy class and credits the fonts in the Apple computer to what he learned in this class. I had never thought of auditing a bunch of classes. Nice idea. Jobs was not one to follow the grain, so creating his own college plan was not at all surprising.
- He met Steve Wozniak in 1969 when he was just 14, and later, in 1976 would release the Apple I computer. In 1976, Wozniak left HP to join Steve at Apple and the company is founded.
- Jobs and Wozniak went on to create the Apple II computer in 1977 and by 1979, 50,000 units were sold.
- The Apple Computer is widely credited with being the first personal computer introduced to society.
- In 1985, Jobs is ousted from Apple due to his inability to control is temper and work together with the board of directors. I did not know this and was surprised that Jobs was kicked out from his creation, but in reading through the details in this book, it is understandable.
- In 1986, Jobs purchases the Graphics Group, which later becomes Pixar. I did not know this, but Jobs was the executive producer for Toy Story! I had always only associated him with Apple.
- Early 1990, Jobs meets Laurene Powell, who is a student at the Stanford Business School at the time. I love hearing “how they met” stories. In this case, Laurene was asked by a business school friend to go see a presentation with several top tech guys from Silicon Valley. Laurene went up to the first row and happened to sit right next to Steve Jobs. Apparently, they chatted a bit, then he went on stage. After his talk, he ran after her in the parking lot to ask her out to dinner that night. And, the romance begins. How sweet. 🙂
- In 1991, Jobs marries Laurene Powell in Yosemite and celebrates with a vegan mountain shaped cake in the solarium at the Ahwahnee Hotel. One of my all time favorite spots. Love, love, love the Ahwahnee.
- Jobs and Powell have three children together, Reed, Erin and Eve.
- Jobs has a daughter, Lisa, from a previous relationship, who is about 10 years older than his other children. Jobs has a tumultuous relationship with Lisa, but seems to reconcile in the end as indicated in the biography.
- Jobs loved having discussions and solving problems with people on long walks around his neighborhood. I agree with this one. Walking really helps the brain work out issues.
- In 1997, Jobs is asked to come back to Apple to run the company once again. He accepts and turns the company around like nobody’s business, bringing the company back to profitability within about a year. His passion for Apple drives him to take charge and take care of business. He is one of the most focused individuals I have ever read about or met in my life.
- 2005- Jobs negotiated the Disney purchasing Pixar deal. I always wondered when and how that happened.
Conclusion: Steve Jobs Biography
I highly recommend this book. It is incredible to read about the world changing development of the personal computer and the man behind this phenomenon.
Isaacson had personal access to Steve for several years and learned much about his life on walks around Silicon Valley. Because of his close relationship with Steve as his biographer, he really captures an intimate look into the life of this revolutionary figure.