I've finally finished reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. Admittedly, I've not been the biggest reader in the world for most of my life; I've read novels assigned to me when I was in high school, but that was about it. In all honesty, sometimes I didn't even read those. But I own two Kindle devices now, and this was the first book to kick off this bold new Kindle-filled era of my life. And I liked it. I liked it a whole lot.
I started off a bit unsure of the book, and I decided to download the sample from the Kindle Store. The sample covered the very early life of Jobs and left off around the point of his meeting the other Steve--Wozniak. It was an effective sample, as I was most definitely left wanting more after being cut off.
The book's just superbly written. Throughout the book, Isaacson does a great job of keeping everything flowing and not too disjointed. I can imagine that being a real tough task when writing a biography that goes so in-depth. The book will jump around to different time periods quite a bit, but it's really the best way to handle this kind of writing, I think. Isaacson makes it quite easy to follow.
I really enjoyed this book because it gives fantastic perspective on a man and a company that, it turns out, I knew very little about. Honestly, this may sound kind of funny and/or ignorant, but I'd always had this semi-formed kernel of an idea in my brain that Apple was a bit evil. "They're an evil company and everything they make costs so much! Everyone that uses their products thinks they're better than everyone else!" etc. That said, I did own an iPod at one point. There were not many people at my high school that owned them at the time, and man, I was so much better than everyone else. I've always been a Windows guy when it comes to PCs, though. I grew up with it, and it's compatible with all of the PC games, so it's naturally superior, right? Well, that's more or less what I thought up until a few years back when I finally started giving Macbooks and things a real look. Anyway, the best part of reading this book was gaining a new perspective on Apple's role in the computer industry, and the technology industry as a whole. It's fascinating learning about the very early stages of how Apple was formed, and how chaotic that process was for Woz and Jobs in the beginning. As a result, I have so much respect for who Steve was as a person, and what he was able to accomplish with not only Apple, but NeXT and Pixar as well.
There are so many aspects of Steve Jobs's personality that I admire and can only wish came as naturally to me. His ability to speak his mind ranks right up there towards the top. I'm a very passive person in general, and it hasn't done me many favors in my life thus far.There were downsides to Steve's sometimes reckless disregard for other people's feelings, but to someone like me, the ability to be totally blunt and honest all of the time isn't something that comes easily. I'd say the other part of Steve's personality that I can't help but admire is his ambition. It's incredible. He was the kind of man who knew what he wanted to do, and he didn't let anyone stand in his way. It's hard to put into words how much I envy this quality. If I could be granted a wish, that would probably be it: I'd wish for the ability to be decisive in what I want to do, and then the courage to go and do it. From what I've read, these abilities seemed to have come naturally for Jobs, and I have a lot of respect for him because of that.
Of course then there's the more infamous aspects of Jobs's personality. Perhaps most notably, his binary style of thinking where everything would either be a one or a zero--amazing, or shit. A lot's talked in the book about Steve's ability to absolutely tear people apart over the smallest of things that he found weren't to his liking. Despite the deep flaws in Steve's personality, I can't help but envy it.
Steve's eye for design is well documented in the book, and that's something I particularly appreciated. The idea is touched on repeatedly that Apple is a company at the crossroads of technology and humanities, and that as a philosophy is really appealing to me. The designs that Steve and his teams were able to come up with over the years are inspiring to me. I can really appreciate Steve's design first approach, even if it occasionally leads to things like iPhone antenna problems.
Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this incredibly long and exhaustively extensive biography of one of the most interesting people to ever enter the technology industry. I would easily recommend it to anyone who has the slightest interest in technology and/or Apple. Steve was a visionary, and he really did change the world.
I wasn't necessarily planning on doing anything with these when I marked them, but I ended up making highlights of certain passages that I found funny and/or interesting. I may as well share them here.
The first highlight I've made here is Steve Jobs's famous quote that was able to convince John Sculley to leave his success at Pepsi and instead lead Apple as CEO:
"Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?"John Sculley ended up ousting Jobs from Apple just two years after coming aboard.
This next passage was just something I found funny. It describes Steve's mother's wish that Steve would keep a more traditional diet, and Steve's contrary stance on the subject:
"She just wanted him to be healthy, and he would be making weird pronouncements like 'I'm a frutarian and I will only eat leaves picked by virgins in the moonlight.'"In another humorous passage, one of the members of the original Macintosh team, Burrell Smith, details his plan to bypass the reality distortion field that he suspected Steve would initiate in order to keep Smith from leaving Apple:
"'I've got it!' he told Hertzfeld one day. 'I know the perfect way to quit that will nullify the reality distortion field. I'll just walk into Steve's office, pull down my pants, and urinate on his desk. What could he say to that? It's guaranteed to work.'"The next quote I've marked was part of Steve's Stanford commencement speech in 2005. It has a lot of relevance to me personally, so I imagine that's why I marked it:
"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."The last passage I highlighted is a Jobs quote that I think is incredibly smart. It's a key Apple philosophy regarding innovation, and I think it's truly inspiring:
"I think Henry Ford once said, 'If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me "A faster horse!"' People don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page."That's just so smart. The world as a whole could use a lot more of this type of forward-thinking.
With that, I'm fresh out of highlights. In retrospect, I wish I'd marked more of the passages that really caught my attention. At least I have a few of the good ones here.
Thanks for reading. Again, I highly recommend you all check out this finely crafted biography by Walter Isaacson. It's of course on Amazon in all forms.