Book Review: “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

I Listened to the audiobook version of the Steve Jobs autobiography. Very well written. Steve Jobs was a few years my senior so some of his experience is something I can truly relate to, especially around the semiconductor and computer revolutions. A few things stood out for me:

In his early life, he abandoned his daughter, Lisa, and other co-workers. The lack of loyalty stood out for me, perhaps his rapid growth required that he acquired new relationship and people he worked with. The author attributed this characteristic to his insecurity as he was abandoned as a baby and adopted by his loving parents. “The one that was abandoned abandons others.”

Throughout the book, his personality was characterized as bipolar (you’re ether a genius or bozo), mercurial personality: abusive and tough on engineers and others. His over use of intuition as he often touted may be the cause. At least his intuition got better and better along the way. Since he paid attention to the minute details of the designs, Jobs perfected the art of the product design and creating the reality distortion field to get his way.

Bill Gates, whose personality is an antithesis to Steve’s personality, holds different philosophy on software only strategy vs. integrated software/hardware strategy. This has served Microsoft well for the last couple of decades. But even now Microsoft is started to adopt Steve Jobs’ approach and come up with their own branded tablet. This just proved that Jobs is ahead of his time and a true visionary.

Steve Jobs’ relationship with his children seemed to have ups and downs due to his focus on his passion – designing great Apple products.

Though there is no scientific proof but I speculate his heath problem may be caused by his extremely emotional personality, his pure vegan diet, and his frequent purging/starving. This posed shocks to his digestive system and potentially weakened his organ functions. Why he does that is beyond anyone’s guess. How his wife put up with that is beyond my comprehension. For sure, she is no less than Steve Jobs’ success putting up with someone like that.

The big turning point for Steve Jobs wasn’t Apple but Pixar, after failing Next Computer. He suffered through a very difficult time at Pixar as the company struggled in red inks to come up with a different business models than designing the hardware gears for automation. He stumbled into the animation business, thanks to the many talents at Pixar and was able to multiply his $50M investment by 20x. Darn good return!

Steve Jobs’ obsession with simplicity is something I admire. We’re often bombarded with many distractions in our daily lives. Having products whose rough edges have been smoothed out really strike a chord with me. But simplifying things take real work as I discovered recently when I moved my residence. Discarding things and packing essential things takes real work physically and emotionally. I’m inspired to further make my own life simple.

On leadership, Steve Jobs is often direct and brutally honest about people and their results in his eyes. He wanted to work with A players and couldn’t stand B players. Staffing Apple with A players was his goal and his philosophy about leading and sustaining a winning company.

I admire Steve Jobs’ obsession with the mission of product excellence over profit, though profit often follows for Apple. Companies nowadays are often more profit driven than product/service driven. Jobs’ showed us a better way.

Walter Isaacson has captured in great details of Steve Jobs, the man with all his faults and shortcomings. But Steve Jobs’ greatness shines through. He’s truly the Michael Angelo of our time.