Book Review: Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
Those who have been following my blog (and in turn wasting their precious time reading crap :D), might have noticed the change in the site’s name from I-review to iReview. It’ll be like challenging your ego (and brains) if I asked you to guess what comes to your mind the very moment you see an ‘i’ prefixed to a noun (or whatever word you can think of). That’s correct. Apple Computers. The maker of iPhone, iPod, iTunes, iCloud, iSight, iOS, and the list goes on and on. So what do you know about the creator of this truly innovative company? (I love dramatizing things :D) This person always imagined himself as an artist. He had the obsession that ‘unseen parts of a product should be crafted as beautifully as its facade’, just as his father had taught him when they were building a fence. He was obnoxious, rude, mercurial and on many occasions irrational. He always believed that ‘products are everything’ and they are supposed to be ‘insanely great.’ He was Steve Jobs.
Spread over 570 pages, Steve Jobs, an authorized biography of Steve jobs, is a great read. Great because the book covers Jobs abandonment (put up for adoption after birth), adventure (his quest for meaning of life in India), success (creator of 2 of the best companies of his era- Apple and Pixar), failure (crap machines he made at NeXT), arrogance and high-handedness (binary vision of the world- people are either ‘enlightened’ or ‘assholes’, a job is either ‘the best’ or ‘totally shitty’), a control freak (not planting arrow keys in Mac to make sure users used mouse to move the cursor, and no replaceable batteries in iPods to avoid users opening it).
I remember the day when I watched a video on YouTube in which Jobs gave a convocation speech at Stanford. In it he mentioned something about ‘connecting the dots.’ That part of speech really inspired me. He stated that one should gather knowledge from whatever source one can lay his hands upon. You wouldn’t know when and where that minuscule piece of knowledge can prove to be of great help. For instance, the classes of Graphology he attended while at Stanford inspired him to create ‘fonts’ in the early Apple-II.
I always thought that a person is admired only when he has achieved something substantial in life. (Of course, being a good-natured person also gains a lot of admiration but that comes only from those who know you very well.) On reaching a stage where one can safely declare himself successful negates all the negative aspects in one’s character and behavior. Reading this book has reinforced my faith in this notion. Jobs was mercurial and lacked sympathy. He tried to manipulate thoughts and emotions of others. But that were, in fact, the very same emotions that helped him reach the pinnacle of success where he remained until his last breath. If he had been any where closer to the soft-spoken and kind-hearted, Steve Wozniak, he would have been living a modest life, teaching school children, and being content with a job of a mid-level engineer at Apple (which is ‘NOT AT ALL‘ bad).
Isaacson must have been greatly relieved when Jobs gave him the freedom and breathing space to add verity to anything and everything he wrote. Jobs distinctly directed Isaacson that he (Jobs) should never be shown the final draft of his biography. Jobs feared that he might not like something in the book which shows him in negative light but, on the other hand, he also did not want that the ‘real’ Steve be shrouded in a cloak of a congenial personality while he was no where close to being called a gentle person. This aspect of freedom enjoyed by Isaacson is clearly evident from the openness with which the events and views have been explored. The anecdotes of various lives associated with Jobs have been beautifully projected, and an honest attempt has been made by the author to deliver unbiased opinions. In most cases the reader has been shown both sides of the coin and its up to the reader to form a logical judgment.
Still, it is not easy for us readers to relegate Jobs a binary status of either ‘genius’ or ‘arrogant-self-centered jerk.’ In fact, it is never easy to say whether a person is good or bad merely by considering few of his/her qualities. A human is deemed to possess both positive and negative aspects, which Jobs had too. It’ll be imprudent to negate the contribution of hundred’s of brains working to realize what Jobs wanted to create. It’s always the team that works for you, but you as a leader should be capable of leading the team and making them believe in their capabilities. And as I believe, Jobs was one of the greatest leaders of his era.
In this review, I have not gone in any details about his personal or professional life, nor his successes and failures. If interested, you can watch Pirates of the Silicon Valley to know about Jobs and Gates early years rivalry. Or, for more details, you can read this biography too. You’ll love the read. 🙂