Sunday, December 18, 2011

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs was an asshole, knew it, and really didn’t much care. He was also an envisioning and marketing genius. You’ll note that I didn’t say technology genius. He wasn’t, but he was uncompromising when it came to what he wanted, and he was hard-core focused on merging technology and art. He envisioned instruments of technology designed for the masses (simple to use), and he wanted them to be elegant. He psychologically bludgeoned his employees and contractors until they came up with what he wanted, gave credit to no one but himself, and gave us the iPad, iPhone, iPod, iTunes, the Apple computers, Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Monster’s Inc., which is why even his tortured minions and wrathful competitors worshiped him and why he is an icon, even more so, in death.

When Jobs found out that he had pancreatic cancer, he went to author, Walter Isaacson, a former executive at CNN and Time who had written best-selling biographies about Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, and asked him to write Jobs' biography. He then, very atypically, gave Isaacson unprecedented access to his life, family, and friends and declined any control over the book (except the cover).  Jobs never read what Isaacson wrote about him.

Although I’m tempted to skip over these factoids, I’ll add that Jobs was also a huge fan of LSD psychedelic acid, claiming it was “one of the best things I’ve done in my life”; lived most of his life eating just carrots or apples; had serious hygiene issues; went barefoot most of his life – even to important meetings; only wore Issey Miyake black turtleneck shirts and Levi 501 jeans; never bothered to put furniture in his house; never used focus groups or market studies when designing his products (only what he wanted); never had a license plate on his car; was obsessed with Bob Dylan; never took responsibility; used people, including making them scapegoats; and he was a stingy-gut (eschewed philanthropy). Some want to say that Steve was just too busy for philanthropy, donated anonymously, and found public philanthropy “distasteful,” but it would be more consistent with his egomaniacal character that he just really didn’t see how it benefited him. CLICK ON READ MORE BELOW...

In spite of his propensity for being an ass, I guess just about everyone including myself, can’t help but admire Jobs. Highly effective leaders are often seen as mean, selfish and uncaring; when in fact they are just too busy to coddle feelings, and uncompromisingly absolute on what they want. But I don’t think that Steve Jobs was a tyrant just because he was busy. I think that he was incapable of empathy, and in fact there is mention in the book that Steve may have been a high-functioning autistic or had Asperger syndrome.

One situation in the book that really stuck with me was when Jobs was seeing two women and contemplating marriage to one or the other. His decision about which one to marry came down to a question he asked a friend, “Which one do you think is prettier?”

I also found it interesting that the ratings of the book on were so spread: 59% loved it, 20% thought it was pretty good, 10% thought it was mediocre, 6% thought it was pretty bad and 5% hated it.  It seemed strange to me that many of the negative reviews complained that Isaacson didn’t tell how Jobs built the iPad or iPhone or whatever. The truth is that Isaacson (pictured) couldn’t tell how Steve Jobs built those things, because Steve Jobs didn’t build them. He dreamed them up, and then badgered tech engineers until they got smart enough to invent his dream.

I also got a kick out of the very strange dynamics between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, which revealed a lot about the differences in character and philosophy between them.

Read it? Sure, Steve Jobs is the Henry Ford of our generation. 


  1. I got this great book on my birthday as a gift. I have read Google Story and Facebook Stories also. But this one was best and created a high respect for Apple products in my eyes. Steve Jobs was no doubt a great person in the history of tech world. This book makes me feel like Steve Jobs is my friend and while reading he is giving me lots of ideas to develop a great products for the world.

  2. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)