Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I began reading this book at a time when I was considering buying the iPhone 4s; I was smitten by Siri. A hundred pages later, I swore off buying the phone and Steve was a detestable human being  (oops, such strong words, I think) I didn't feel like adding to his company's coffers. 'Asshole' seemed the most appropriate word for him. He was an extremely difficult person to work with, having gone ballistic over (seemingly) trivial things, such as the color of  factory machines and the aesthetics of screws. He deemed himself above the law, both legal and natural, so he drove without a license plate and parked in handicapped spaces, and eschewed science in favor of traditional medicine in the early stages of his cancer. He was extremely abrasive, not only in berating colleagues but also in his lack of personal hygiene––in his younger days, people begged for him to take a shower... at least once a week.

As far as biographies go, this is as objective and unbiased you can get. (According to the author, Steve didn't even read an advanced copy; his only request was that he be allowed to design the book cover, which was granted.) Walter Isaacson interviewed over a hundred sources, who included relatives, colleagues and competitors. In fact, Bill Gates offered a good number of anecdotes and scathing opinions. They are written matter-of-factly and as concise as possible. I'd describe it as a long, really long, Wikipedia entry, one that's well-edited and fact-checked––and that is good––although I'm thinking, it might have read better if it was written like a long Vanity Fair profile. If there were sentences that may be construed as editorializing, I think the author was merely putting things into context.

Eventually, I understood him enough to lift my self-imposed embargo on Apple products, and I wasn't even halfway through the book when I did so. Now, I realize it's hard to have a black-or-white opinion on someone who's changed the modern world. (If cerulean, as explained in The Devil Wears Prada, had a ripple effect down to those in the lowest level of the fashion hierarchy––aka the nerds, as the movie implied––surely, Apple has had, and continues to have, a bigger effect on world, as well as day-to-day, affairs.) That complex dynamic alone makes Steve's biography a satisfying and thought-provoking read.   

6 * :

thwany said...

i totally agree with you. while i appreciate steve jobs' impact on culture and technology, from all that has been reported about him and his life, i don't get all these people who claim to have been so in love with him. i even had people tell me that they cried when they heard he died, which sort of boggles the mind. some people are dumb.

Jason said...

Can't relate to it too. I don't think I've idolized anyone that hardcore though I'm usually stoic about these things, hehe

Raf Feliciano said...

I cried when I heard that he died.

I find his life inspiring. I think the corporate world needs a Steve Jobs. I understood what he wanted to do and I agree that the means cannot justify the end, but somehow, in fighting (or struggling) to make this world a better place, one has to really stand up, take responsibility and "araro" to hell.

I've picked up several strategies and styles from the book, especially in business, management and creativity. And in fact, could relate a little bit with how SJ effected his plans. The asshole style, believe it or not, gives these strategies the needed chutzpah to run, to work. Otherwise, others will just be happy with mediocrity and waiting for dismissal time everyday. Call it pushing people to their limit, challenging them.

I always remember a teacher from high school - hurting hearts is the most effective way to change people, deeply.

Jason said...

Spoken like a true Rayadillo :D

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