biography of steve jobs
Wow. I’m halfway through this book and, while it’s well-written and interesting, I can’t get over 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, 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 aware of the pain he was causing other people, yet like so many other cruel, overbearing, harsh, thoughtless and petulant overlords, he was very 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.
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.
—Don’t be afraid to walk away
—Things can turn around if you keep at it
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 my garden 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, “Rain-washed cilantro, organic, from the garden. Steve would’ve approved.”