Rating: really liked it
Steve Jobs was a damn dirty hippie.
He didn't much like to shower or wear shoes. He believed his diet kept him from getting stinky, not true apparently. In fact he was quite odd and obsessive about his diets, he would go on kicks where he would eat nothing but carrots for long periods of time until he turned orange. This makes me wonder if these strange eating habits brought on his cancer. Who can say?
Steve Jobs was an asshat.
He was an ass to everyone, even Steve Wozniak, who by everyone's standards is one of the nicest guys there is. Wozniak was Job's only friend at times, and looked up to him always, but Jobs screwed him over time and again. Jobs didn't even claim his first born daughter (until much later) as his own even though there was no doubt she belonged to him. He also was a very emotional man, lots of crying and snot when he wanted something. Impossible to please, even down to the color of things. I seriously don't know how anything got finished, I really don't.
Steve Jobs was a super genius.
Despite of (or because of) all this he created the most amazing things. Because he demanded the impossible, he would get it. I love my Ipod and my Ipad. I'm very attached, I don't want to live without them. I use the Ipod for my audiobook and podcast addiction. I'm even learning how to draw caricatures on the Ipad.....so frik'n cool.
Thank you Steve for being a damn dirty hippie, asshat super genius. Your creations have enhanced, and changed our lives.
Review also appears on Shelfinflicted....Go and visit!
Rating: it was amazing
There are three things necessary for a great biography:
1. A compelling subject
2. An engaging narrative
Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs has all three.
Steve Jobs was a fascinating person whose powerful personality and extraordinary life make for a very compelling read. He revolutionized many different technological and entertainment industries by successfully blending technology and the liberal arts, giving consumers products they didn't even know they wanted. He was able to defy reality by simply refusing to accept it (a phenomenon referred to as his "reality distortion field"), enabling him to do the impossible. On a personal level, Jobs was a very sensitive and emotional man, yet he was unable to empathize with the feelings of others, which, along with his "reality distortion field," led to him act in unsavory ways towards people in both his personal and professional life. After reading this book it was easy to understand why Jobs is such a polarizing figure. But whether you love or hate him, it's impossible to deny that he had a major impact on the world, or that he was an interesting person.
Isaacson's narrative style is engaging. Rather than listing a bunch of facts and quotes, which would make for a very dull read, he uses them to construct a story about Jobs' life. The book is also structured in a logical fashion. Although largely chronological, the chapters do center around certain themes. Isaacson also avoids getting bogged down by technological details, which can be a temptation in a book that features a computer company. Even when the technological aspects of a product are necessary to illustrate a point, they are explained simply so that even a reader who is not tech savvy can understand.
In terms of accuracy, I can only judge based on what I know from other sources as well as my impression after reading the biography. I do not have the resources or connections to go through every assertion made and verify them. I can, however, assess whether or not Isaacson appeared to be presenting an overly positive or negative picture. I believe that Isaacson presents a realistic picture of Jobs that includes both the positive and negative sides to his personality. Jobs comes across as a real person with a lot of flaws and perhaps a mental illness, but who has also accomplished some amazing things. I did not get the feeling that Isaacson was trying to whitewash or defame him.
This is not to say that Isaacson is unbiased, but I have yet to find a biographer who isn't. A biographer must be passionate about his or her subject in order to devote the time needed to write a thorough biography, and with passion comes bias, whether positive or negative. Isaacson was positively biased towards Jobs, however, this did not prevent him from exposing the darker side of Jobs' personality. He also contradicts Jobs' own statements with both facts and other people's accounts. I appreciated that he included both sides of a story. However, he does tend to justify Jobs' obnoxious behavior and negative personality traits by reminding the reader that these behaviors and traits also led him to do great things, and achieve the impossible. It often seems as though Isaacson is implying that the ends justify the means, although the reader is able to form his or her own opinion. If you can ignore Isaacson's apologetic tone, which is present throughout, the biography does present a balanced picture of Jobs.
Overall, I really enjoyed this biography. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Steve Jobs, Apple, or is interested in particularly influential people. Although Pixar plays a much smaller role, there are also some interesting stories about how Pixar came to be what it is today. I would not recommend this biography to Apple haters or Steve Jobs haters due to Isaacson's apologetic presentation of Jobs' negative traits, nor would I recommend it to fans who would rather remember an idealized version of Jobs. Also, I'd caution readers to remember that this is a biography about Steve Jobs, not about the history of Apple. While Apple is featured in this biography quite a bit since it was a huge part of Jobs' life, more so than his other companies or even his family, there are pieces of Apple's story that are missing or glossed over, presumably because in the grand scheme of Jobs' life, they were not that important. If you are looking for a complete profile of Apple, this is not it, although it will give you some interesting insights into the company, and provide a detailed, though incomplete, history.
Disclaimer: I think it's important to note my personal history with Apple. I have been drinking the Apple koolaid for about twenty years, which is most of my life. In high school, I used to get into debates with people over whether Macs or PCs were better, often being the only Mac defender in a group arguing for PCs. Like any Apple fanatic, I've regarded Steve Jobs with a sort of reverence usually reserved for rock stars and actors. I was, therefore, deeply interested in reading about his life. Take what you will from my review given my feelings towards Apple, and the man who made the company what it is today.
Rating: it was amazing
Update This is a very interesting view of Steve Jobs by the mother of his daughter, Lisa (although he denied he was her father, despite paternity tests) and his childhood sweetheart. She doesn't think the film goes far enough in depicting his character truthfully. I am sure that what she writes in her book The Bite in the Apple: A Memoir of My Life with Steve Jobs is absolutely true. Apple's lawyers would sue her out of all existence if there was even a word that they could latch onto. But still, her feelings and opinions are her own.
This is a fantastically well-written and exhaustive biography of a brilliant, if flawed, man, with no holds barred. Jobs great achievement was to marry an uncompromisingly zen creativity to electronically-advanced products when all around built boxes. The art of form following function taken to its extreme, where even the innards are as beautiful as the case, has an authenticity that appeals to all (even those who won't pay for an Apple product).
They say that when you are dying you regret not what you did but what you didn't do. Jobs scarcely regretted a thing, his ego was so vast he could hardly contemplate that he might actually have been wrong and since a young age, he only ever did what he wanted and could not be swayed or persuaded by anyone else to even do something as small as hold his acerbic tongue.
I was once an electronics designer. I made quite a lot of money and essentially retired at 25. Sir Alan Sugar, the originator of The Apprentice and a friend and business acquaintance asked me to come to work for him as his personal assistant. I didn't, I decided to sail around the world instead. More fool me.
The book made me wish, and not for the first time and not because I am now quite poor (all booksellers are, except the Amazon crew) that I hadn't left electronics, because my head is again full of ideas and that is where they will have to stay. So I have regrets even now.
I took the road less travelled and it turned out to end up in a tropical mangrove swamp where I sit, pleasantly bogged down. Jobs took the highway, the one with a good surface and plenty of signs. He overtook everyone and reached his destination of unqualified success, excellence, money and credibility in a very short time, and the world would be a lot poorer without him. RIP Steve. You were a true artist and visionary.
I haven't got a Mac myself. Because, as the advert said, I'm just not cool enough....
Edit May 2014. I went to dinner on a 93' yacht with a chef, hostess and a couple of crew and the captain gave me an iPad for a present. He said it was only a first gen. one and I was too cool not to have a Mac :-) This is true ;-). I did't see the captain for about three or four months. We were in the same marina bar. He asked me how I liked the ipad and I said great and went to get it out of my bag. It was gone. Someone had stolen it from my bag within the last ten minutes (I'd only been there that long). But who... in a crowd how can you tell? I have a really cheap under $100 Chinese tablet now. It does everything that the ipad did but it isn't thin and cool. But then neither am I.
Finished March 1, 2012
Rating: really liked it
When I was at the halfway point I became struck by what a jerk SJ was. Yes, he was brilliant and all that. But he seemed to view other humans as nothing more than ants in his ant farm, sub-biologicals that he could squish whenever he felt like it. And did.
Some might say that his gifts to tech development, or the fact that he changed and invented whole industries, would compensate. Maybe the two things went together, cruelty and brilliance.
But the lesson to be drawn here, future CEOs, isn't that his cruelty fed his brilliance. He was brilliant, and he was cruel, and they weren't linked. He was aware of the pain he was causing other people, yet like so many other overbearing, thoughtless and petulant overlords, Jobs was thin-skinned. Also, I don't believe that his often-cited sense of abandonment, from having been put up for adoption, justifies his behavior.
He was, as the author put it, "bratty." Jobs would fiddle with design changes to the point of driving his team mad. A thousand different variations of white weren't satisfactory. He wanted a new color to be invented, regardless of the damage done to the rollout of the new object.
As I said, I'm only halfway through the book. Hopefully there'll be some positive info about SJ that will balance out some of the negativity I've spelled out. I'll finish this review when I finish the book.
Nov. 8, 2011: I finished the book. Here are the rest of my thoughts.
Isaacson makes an interesting point when he says Jobs was a genius. He means genius not in terms of a high IQ, but in terms of an ability to see things in surges of intuition, inspiration, and creativity. (BTW here's an interesting rundown of the smartest people on the planet: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-sm...) Because of his genius, I agree that Jobs deserves to be included in the company of Edison, Franklin, et al.
Steve Jobs pushed everybody until they wanted to kill him, but the pushing yielded amazing, brilliant new products. His unique brainpower allowed him to see how things might align, merge, and serve each other, and how utility might be blended with art. That vision led to creations of whole industries.
His obsession with perfection and control led him to flirt with emulating the Big Brother that Apple was created to bring down. One of the fascinating threads of this book was the debate between proponents of closed and open systems. Was it better to manufacture a pristine, inflexible system or the messier free thinking open system? And what were the implications of that belief on Jobs' view of his customers and his worldview?
Yet he defined petulance. His food had to be just so. He would send back a glass of orange juice three times until finally satisfied it was fresh. He was vindictive, cruel and even Machiavellian. He wasn't much of a family man, and he ignored his kids to a painful extent. Isaacson mused that Jobs' meanness wasn't a critical part of his success. He was totally aware of its effect on others, yet he indulged.
In spite of my aversion to the man, I actually felt empowered as I came to the end of the book. Steve Jobs had lived by certain precepts, which in the current economy we could all benefit from:
---Know your value
---Have a skill you can sell. Be really, really good at something.
---Things can turn around if you persevere, but don't be afraid to walk away.
Unbending to the end, even the prospect of death didn't soften him up much, but he brought me up short on the last page of the book, because I am obsessed with the same question:
"I like to think that something survives after you die. It's strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, and that maybe your consciousness endures."
I closed the book with a bit more compassion for this difficult man and went outside to pick cilantro for that night's dinner. Since we'd just had a serious storm, I declined to rinse it. I simply cleaned it, thinking, “Organic and pristine from the garden. Steve would’ve approved.”
Rating: really liked it
so, we are having the event for this book at our store tonight. the number of people calling up to ask if steve jobs will also be present to sign is staggering. in other words, "i care enough about steve jobs to want to read a 600+ page book about him, but i am somehow unaware that he is deceased."
is what i hope. the alternative is ghoulish and i do not want to entertain it.
Rating: really liked it
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز یازدهم ماه سپتامبر سال 2016 میلادی
عنوان: استیو جابز - زندگینامه استیو جابز موسس و مدیرعامل شرکت اپل؛ نویسنده: والتر ایساکسون؛ مترجم: مهدی پاکنهاد؛ تهران، ستایش، 1390، در 703 ص؛ شابک: 9786005184419؛ موضوع: سرگذشتنامه استیو جابز از 1955 تا 2011 م - قرن 21 م
این دل میخواست کاش سرگذشتنامه ی ایشان را خود مینوشتم؛ اسطوره بودند، شاید آنگاه واژه هایم را میتوانستم با عطر گلهای سرخ نیز بیامیزم، و با آوای بلبل آجین میکردم، تا همیشه خوشبوی و شنیدنی باشند، از نخستین سالهای 1980 میلادی با نمونه کارهای سخت افزار، و سیستم عامل ایشان برای نخستین کامپیوترهای شخصی، یا همان پرسنل کامپیوتر اپل مکینتاش، و نرم افزارهای طراحی شده ی ایشان آشنا بودم؛ از همان روز نخست آشنایی، نیز برایم آسمانی بودند، آسمانی آسمانی. همیشه در خیالم بالای ابرهای پنبه عسلی بنشسته اند، و مردمان را از آن بالا مینگرند. روانشان همیشه و هماره شادمان. ا. شربیانی
Rating: it was amazing
Never expected to find this much enjoyment reading a biography. Isaacson has truly done a wonderful job with this book.
For those who are too busy to read the entire book, please try to grab a quick read of the last two chapters of the book at a book store or airport or someplace - These chapters are a concise summary of the entire book as well as the thesis Isaacson builds up to throughout the book. Besides, it will probably make you buy and read the whole thing anyway.
To call this man a "Great Marketer" is probably a great disservice to him and Steve would probably have had a fit about that. I used to think of him as an epitome of modern marketing as well, but he would probably classify marketing as 'evil' in his radar. He hated the idea of any company focusing on marketing and emphatically states that is the whole problem with most companies today. This is probably a difficult idea to get to grips with, but is essential too.
I hope every Management Guru and CEO is studying this book and drawing the right lessons. We could truly be in a better world if they do. Just to clarify, I am not a fanboy of all apple products though I am sure the Mac is the best tech device till date but I do I fall on the android side of the fence.
But, Jobs' philosophy on running companies and driving innovation is the best in the modern age and should be copied shamelessly, if not their product features (I am looking at you Samsung).
Rating: really liked it
Executive summary of Isaacson's "Steve Jobs":
- Remove everything that is unnecessary.
- Be ruthless about building an A team.
- Make stuff you believe in.
- Collaborate often through vigorous discussion.
- Push yourself and others to do the impossible now.
- Make great experiences by simplifying.
- Own your work and protect it.
- Live at intersection of intellect and intuition.
Rating: liked it
My background is as a post-1979 punk rocker. So naturally I view all dope-gorging smelly long hair Dylan-worshiping hippies with a certain amount of suspicion and disdain.
The author shows, on a page-by-page basis, what an insufferable asshole Steve Jobs was. I'm not exaggerating. But the book left me wondering: why? how did he become this way?
The book is fairly well researched, but except for a precious few anecdotes about his youth, very little is said about his upbringing. I'd really like to know more about his family dynamic. What was his parents' parenting style? The book says NOTHING about the adopted sister he grew up with. Anyone who has grown up with siblings can attest to the influence of siblings on their personality. To me the lack of insight into his teen and pre-teen life leaves a glaring hole in understanding the man.
My opinion of Steve Jobs: The ends don't justify the means. I don't care how creative or driven you are; you're not allowed to be an asshole to your fellow human beings.
Rating: it was amazing
This is an amazing inside view into the life of one of the great businessmen of our era. A must read.
The thing that struck me most about Steve Jobs was that he was an incredible perfectionist. He was a craftsman, and wanted the computers he built to be beautiful and amazing and useful. He believed that computers were "at the intersection of technology and liberal arts" - a phrase he used a lot - because he realized computers weren't just for geeks. They are for everyone, and needed to be able to be used by everyone.
Steve put design at the top of product pyramid at Apple - above engineering. This means they spent a lot of time trying to fit the hardware into the beautifully designed cases the designers came up with, and the designers and engineers had to work together closely. This can backfire (eg Antennagate), but largely it worked really well. It produced amazing computers that were visually distinct from everything else in the market, and that "just work". If I learned anything from this book, it's that Apple believed that design is paramount, and spending extra time and engineering resources to make a beautiful design work is worth it.
Apple's design philosophy is to "make it simple. Really simple". You still see this today - go to Apple.com - you will see ONE product. Now try Amazon. According to the book, Jobs learned this from Markkula, who taught him that "A great company must be able to impute its values from the first impression it makes".
Steve's ethos was basically that if you are going to do something, do it right. The book is full of examples of Steve doing this. When the iMac first came out it looked like no other computer. It was interesting to hear how difficult it was for the engineers to accommodate a handle on the computer - but it ended up being a defining feature of the computer. I also loved the story of how Steve was obsessed with quality glass, and ordered the highest end stuff he could find for his Apple Stores.
Steve's management tactics got a lot of scrutiny in the book - and many other reviewers use words like "jerk" to describe him. It sounds like Steve could definitely be a jerk to work for. His management style was to push people as hard as he could, and to let people know when they didn't perform. When pushed like that, a person can have one of two reactions: they either resent it, and end up quitting or getting fired (B-players) - or they accept the challenge to do better, and come back the next week with something even better. Win-win for Steve - he filters out the b-players and gets his a-players to produce the best work they can.
But, as was pointed out in the book, if Steve was nothing but a jerk, he wouldn't have built a company full of loyal employees - Apple has one of the lowest turnover rates in the valley. Jobs only hired people who "had a passion for the product". I also liked how he motivated by looking at the bigger picture; such as the story of how he convinced his engineer that saving 10 seconds off the boot time was worth it because across 5 million users that would save 100 lifetimes per year.
The book was full of references to Steve's dynamic personality; his "reality distortion field" is a great descriptor. Steve believed he could do anything - and he was so persuasive that he could convince those around him that they could whatever it was too. I think this is one of the most defining qualities of an entrepreneur - believing something can be done against all odds. Not being afraid to tear down walls or think outside the box.
I loved the description of Steve that "whatever he was touting was the best thing he ever produced." You see him do this in his keynote speeches too. He is always using words like "best", "amazing", etc to describe whatever he's launching.
A big theme that the author made was that especially early on, Steve viewed Apple as "counter-culture" rebels. They were hippies who thought they could change the world. And they did - but not only that - I think they embedded their can-do attitude deep in Silicon Valley, which is probably highly correlated with why it is the center of the technology revolution today. This quote is classic:
"The people who invited the twenty-first century were pot-smoking, sandal-wearing hippies from the West Coast like Steve, because they saw differently. The hierarchical systems of the East Coast, England, Germany, and Japan do not encourage this different thinking. The sixties produced an anarchic mind-set that is great for imagining a world not yet in existence."
"What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. They’re turning you into Microsoft. They’re causing you to turn out products that are adequate but not great."
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Rating: it was amazing
I downloaded the e-book on my iPad (quite fitting) Sun. night and stayed up until the very wee hours reading (on a work night, no less). Isaacson's writing style is very engaging and, at least so far, he seems to be embarking on a no holds barred, honest portrayal of this very admired, feared, respected, despised, controversial titan of industry.
As a college senior in '85, watching the iconic "1984" commercial, reading all about SJ & Woz and how they wanted to "change the world", I made it my mission to work at this amazing company. Apple hired me right after graduation and I spent the next 5+ years working with some of the most creative, bright, talented people ever. I was able to attend a few of SJ's employee meetings & product intros before he was unceremoniously "ousted" in that summer of '85, and It was amazing the power he had when he spoke in front of an audience. He's still the best, most evangelical, amazing speaker/presenter/showman I've ever seen. A master, bar none!
Can't wait to finish the book and learn more about what drove this amazing man to do all that he did.
Rating: really liked it
I had to be convinced by a GR friend to read this book, similarly to how Isaacson had to be convinced to write it.
Back in 2004, Steve Jobs approached Isaacson and asked if he was interested in writing Jobs' biography. Isaacson declined several times, thinking that it was too soon to write one and that it would be better to wait a few decades. It wasn't until 2009 when Jobs' wife bluntly told him that Jobs was seriously ill from cancer and that there was little time to lose. Isaacson said he hadn't known Jobs was sick; she said few people knew and that Jobs had been trying to keep it a secret.
Isaacson finally agreed to write the biography, and Jobs agreed that he wouldn't have any control over the book, which was rare, considering how controlling and demanding he had been over all the various projects at Apple.
I had been reluctant to read this book for several reasons. First, because Jobs was a known jackass and I wasn't that interested in reading the various examples of his jackassery. Second, I am not a techie, and while I like and use Apple products every day, I was hesitant to spend my precious reading time on a tech book. Thirdly, this bio is more than 600 pages long! That seemed excessive.
A solution was found in an audiobook (read by Dylan Baker), and I am glad I gave it a chance. I was won over early on in the book, when Isaacson included a quote from Jobs in the introduction:
"'I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,' he said. 'Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that's what I wanted to do.' It was as if he were suggesting themes for his biography (and in this instance, at least, the theme turned out to be valid). The creativity that can occur when a feel for both the humanities and the sciences combine in one strong personality was the topic that most interested me in my biographies of Franklin and Einstein, and I believe that it will be a key to creating innovative economies in the twenty-first century."
Now THAT is a theme I can get behind. I love the idea of combining artistry and technology, and it's true that Jobs and Apple excelled at creating innovative and beautiful products. Despite my hesitation, I ended up enjoying the stories of how Jobs got his start in computers, and how he met and started collaborating with Steve Wozniak, and the evolution of products at Apple over the decades. Growing up in the 80s, I frequently used those early Apple computers. My friends and I played games on them, and I wrote my school reports on them. Apple computers were just so cool.
I liked learning the details of how Jobs helped design the products, including his emphasis that even the parts that are not seen should be beautiful and well-built. He had learned this at a young age from his father, who was a mechanic and a craftsman, and he taught Steve to make sure that the back of something was crafted just as well as the front, even if no one saw it. Jobs took the spirit of artistry very seriously, and always insisted that the designers at Apple were making art with their products. He even had his design team sign the inside of the computer frames, just as a painter would, even though no one but them knew it was there.
Another part of the book that I found interesting was Jobs' history with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, with whom he had a fiercely competitive but (mostly) respectful relationship. The two men had very different ideas about system design, and computer techies will probably enjoy the debate of open vs. closed systems.
A lot has been written about what a jerk Jobs could be, including telling people to their face that they sucked, that their designs sucked, and that they should be fired for their suckitude. It is also true that he was a dirty hippie, and in the early days of Apple, colleagues had to beg him to take a shower. (Jobs thought that because he was a vegetarian, he didn't need to bathe.) At certain points, I was infuriated with Jobs, both over his treatment of others and later, over his refusal to deal with his cancer diagnosis. When he first learned he was ill, he defied his doctor's advice and delayed having surgery to remove the tumors, giving them months to spread. While impossible to prove, it is likely he could have greatly extended his life had he not been so stubborn in avoiding modern medicine.
In the end, I admit I was fascinated by Steve Jobs. He had a remarkable life and career, and while it is a cliche, his products helped change the world. I would highly recommend this biography.
Update April 2016
Last night I watched the "Steve Jobs" movie that is based on this book (starring Michael Fassbender), and I have to give a shout-out to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin for creating such a compelling film out of this sprawling biography. I was happy I had read this book before watching the movie, because I understood more of the context of the arguments between Woz and Jobs, and Jobs and his ex-girlfriend, and Jobs and everyone else. I highly recommend the film.
Rating: liked it
Oops! The publishers forgot to include a subtitle, so I've taken the liberty of helping them come up with one. May I suggest:
Steve Jobs: Unrelenting Narcissist, Suspected Sociopath and Giant Fucking Asshole
Isaacson writes a great biography: He tells a coherent, cohesive story, he interviews all the players and most important he doesn't feel the need to hoist his subject on a pedestal with his pen. When it comes to carrying a story, our author did all the right things.
His subject, however, left much to be desired. It's startling to see how someone can be so immensely successful in one aspect of his life and such a complete, utter failure in virtually every other. To illuminate just a few of the many failings of Steve Jobs, allow me to expound upon my proposed subtitle:
Unrelenting Narcissist: It's true that if you're going to launch a business in a cutthroat industry and be willing to fight to the death to succeed, you gotta believe in yourself. Jobs, however, took a little positive self-esteem to a whole new level and chose to recreate truth to position himself in the best light. He steals the concept of the GUI from Xerox and it's collaborative sharing, but Microsoft does, well, anything and it's because they're thieves, and we have no respect for thieves. Good ideas? He took credit for them, even if he would veto them upon first review. The man truly believed he could do no wrong, and I can't help but think he probably, just before taking his last breath, was thinking, "Well there goes the future of Apple."
Suspected Sociopath: To be clear, I'm using the term "sociopath" like I would if I were Wong's junior psychologist on SVU: that is, to define someone with an anti-social personality disorder. The man - Jobs, not Wong; Wong is amazing - fit the profile to a T: Despite having the ability to charm someone's head off when he needed to, Jobs had an absolute lack of genuine regard for almost everyone around him - his wife, his employees, his poor, cast-aside daughters (his son seemed to escape his scorn, which is a charmingly sexist detail), even his supporters (I can't bring myself to call them friends) who were there for him from the beginning. If a person could not - or could no longer - provide a benefit to Jobs, he would cast them aside...but not before cruelly shitting mounds of aggression and abuse all over their bare heads. See? Sociopath.
Giant Fucking Asshole: There are seriously almost too many examples of this to count, but let me curate a sample for your consideration. 1). He screwed one of the founding members of Apple out of founders stock that would now be practically priceless. 2). He thinks he can explain away the abuse he doled out to employees by saying that was "just who I am." Seriously? Do you not think that the people around you want to rip your head off every single day? They do, I assure you. But you know what? They hold it in, because collaborative, encouraging environments are better for everyone (unless you're a narcissist and/or a sociopath, in which case, see above). 3). There's something atrocious about a multi-multi-multi-billionaire who can envision how personal computers/GUIs/the mouse/touchscreens/computer animation/digital music/tablets/etc. can change the world for rich consumers, but who can't see that a fraction of his wealth could have changed the world for people who don't have water.
It's undeniable that Jobs was fantastically talented and will go down in the books as one of the great visionaries in history. I'm writing my review on my MacBook, and both my iPhone and my iPad (as well as a slew of iPods, Nanos and Shuffles) are nearby, so I guess the guy was doing something right. Still, I don't believe that being an asshole is the answer, and I don't believe it gets better results; it may not get worse results, but if today's Apple is what he created with vinegar, then I'd love to see what he could have done with honey.
Rating: it was amazing
I was a little surprised when Steve Jobs died that I actually had an emotional reaction of loss. He was always such a warrior for technological evolution, conceiving products that we didn't know we needed until we held them in our hands. I didn't know I needed an iPod, now I can't travel anywhere without slipping 13,000 songs into my pocket. I now have a playlist for any situation, a wedding, a long drive, robbing a bank, meditation etc. What was so unique about Jobs was that he was a creative person who also had the power to bring a progressive product to life. Good ideas did not die in committee at Apple or Pixar. For some reason conservative leaning people elevate to the highest positions in business in this country. Apple also went through a period of time when Jobs was too radical for a board of directors who wanted to make Apple more like other companies. After reading this biography, I know now that Jobs deserved to be ousted, and what a great occurrence for the world because Pixar would have never been created. He benefited from his time away, learning lessons of consolidating power. When Apple floundered and Jobs was brought back he was much better equipped to lead a company
I have always been mystified by the divisions in the country between Apple and Microsoft. I have owned a lot more Apple products than I have PC based products. So without even realizing I guess at some point I joined team Jobs. I used Apples and PCs without really thinking I was being disloyal to a brand, but I have been on the periphery of many heated arguments discussing the merits of PC versus the merits of Macs. I always felt that Jobs was the guy with the concepts and ideas and Gates was sitting around twiddling his thumbs waiting for Jobs to come up with the next "great thing" so he could clone it. There is more truth in that statement than fervent PC believers would like to admit.
One of Jobs ex-girlfriends happened to read in a psychiatric manual about Narcissistic personality Disorder and decided that Jobs perfectly met the criteria. "It fit so well and explained so much of what we had struggled with, that I realized expecting him to be nicer or less self-centered was like expecting a blind man to see." Jobs was brutal to his employees, to his family, and to his business partners. One of his favorite lines when looking at a new concept was to say "this is shit". He was a ranter, skilled with skewering insults, contemptuously rude, and yet so sensitive to any slight. When faced with a fond memory or a beautiful concept that he loved he would burst into tears. To say the least, being in the Steve Jobs orbit would have been not only stressful, but confusing. The people that did the best with him were the people that pushed through the "distortion field" that Jobs was nestled in his whole life. For all his failings as a human being and as a boss he was also a talented communicator inspiring people way beyond what they thought they were capable of accomplishing. He firmly believed that nothing was worth doing unless it was going to change the world and that belief was infectious to those that worked with him.
When Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer I can remember thinking to myself that no one had ever beaten that form of cancer, but I also thought to myself if anyone can it would be Steve Jobs. His money bought him time. They were able to map the gene of the cancer that was trying to kill him and better target chemo and drugs that would most effectively control the growth of the cancer. "One of his doctors told him that there was hope that his cancer, and others like it, would soon be considered a manageable chronic disease, which could be kept at bay until the patient died of something else." As Jobs said, "I'm either going to be one of the first to be able to outrun a cancer like this, or I'm going to be one of the last to die from it." As we know he lost his battle with cancer, but certainly the money he threw at the disease will end up benefiting all of us.
Walter Isaacson is an excellent biographer, I enjoyed his Benjamin Franklin bio very much and intend to read the Einstein biography as well. Steve approached Isaacson to write his biography and Isaacson asked him if he wanted him to write it because he associated himself with Einstein and Franklin. Jobs didn't deny it. He was well aware of his place in history. I liked Steve Jobs more before reading this biography. I have a deeper understanding of how and why he was so successful. I can not emulate his management style nor would I ever want to. He was a destructive personality that inspired creativity. I feel we are diminished by his absence from the ranks and I can only hope there is a young person in a messy garage, tinkering with the concept that will be the next "thing" that will change our lives.
Rating: really liked it
I'm still not entirely sure what to think. I keep flipflopping between annoyed/disgusted and inspired.
I applaud Isaacson for putting a masterful bio together without succumbing to the Reality Distortion Field and vomiting out a piece of Jobs-worship like some Apple/Steve-related books out there. I also really appreciate all these little anecdotes, some that I have seen before and others that are new and all the more enjoyable, that people that knew and interacted with Steve shared in one way or another.
On the other hand, I like my personal heroes to have a smidgen of friendly and positive virtues like courtesy and generosity. This book blows away many times over any idea I had that Steve might have been a nice guy at heart with occasional and sometimes very public extremism. The stories related to his daughters and many other women in his personal life nauseated me. I'm frustrated that what I already knew to be his horrifying but effective work attitude also crossed over to his personal life. I appreciate his work and his efforts and he is singlehandedly responsible for me being what I am today, but I despise myself at the moment for having thought this dickless asshole as an awesome role model when I was younger. I wasn't expecting perfection in this regard since we are all human after all, but it was eye opening to see the whole picture in a single book.
But that is what I signed up for when I decided to read a no holds barred official bio of Steve, I suppose. Good and bad and worse, all packaged together in a book that is no less beautiful than the products Apple puts out.
Tomorrow, I will probably feel bad about this review and feel more inspired by the positive aspects of this bio to push myself harder to work better and to do what is right, like Steve would have done. Then the next day I will be frustrated that he didn't have surgery sooner and think about the what ifs. Rinse, repeat.
edit: Tomorrow is today... and Mona's eulogy for her brother is in the NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/opi...). I think that wonderful eulogy brought more tears to my eyes than this bio or even his death did. Short, simple but beautiful, and more importantly, shows me another side of Steve that is more like the person I thought he was before I read the bio. The side that cared about his family but was hindered by the cancer, spreading and getting worse. Thanks for restoring my faith, Mona.