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Steve Jobs Hardcover – October 24, 2011
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Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Walter Isaacson
Q: It's becoming well known that Jobs was able to create his Reality Distortion Field when it served him. Was it difficult for you to cut through the RDF and get beneath the narrative that he created? How did you do it?
Isaacson: Andy Hertzfeld, who worked with Steve on the original Macintosh team, said that even if you were aware of his Reality Distortion Field, you still got caught up in it. But that is why Steve was so successful: He willfully bent reality so that you became convinced you could do the impossible, so you did. I never felt he was intentionally misleading me, but I did try to check every story. I did more than a hundred interviews. And he urged me not just to hear his version, but to interview as many people as possible. It was one of his many odd contradictions: He could distort reality, yet he was also brutally honest most of the time. He impressed upon me the value of honesty, rather than trying to whitewash things.
Q: How were the interviews with Jobs conducted? Did you ask lots of questions, or did he just talk?
Isaacson: I asked very few questions. We would take long walks or drives, or sit in his garden, and I would raise a topic and let him expound on it. Even during the more formal sessions in his living room, I would just sit quietly and listen. He loved to tell stories, and he would get very emotional, especially when talking about people in his life whom he admired or disdained.
Q: He was a powerful man who could hold a grudge. Was it easy to get others to talk about Jobs willingly? Were they afraid to talk?
Isaacson: Everyone was eager to talk about Steve. They all had stories to tell, and they loved to tell them. Even those who told me about his rough manner put it in the context of how inspiring he could be.
Q: Jobs embraced the counterculture and Buddhism. Yet he was a billionaire businessman with his own jet. In what way did Jobs' contradictions contribute to his success?
Isaacson: Steve was filled with contradictions. He was a counterculture rebel who became a billionaire. He eschewed material objects yet made objects of desire. He talked, at times, about how he wrestled with these contradictions. His counterculture background combined with his love of electronics and business was key to the products he created. They combined artistry and technology.
Q: Jobs could be notoriously difficult. Did you wind up liking him in the end?
Isaacson: Yes, I liked him and was inspired by him. But I knew he could be unkind and rough. These things can go together. When my book first came out, some people skimmed it quickly and cherry-picked the examples of his being rude to people. But that was only half the story. Fortunately, as people read the whole book, they saw the theme of the narrative: He could be petulant and rough, but this was driven by his passion and pursuit of perfection. He liked people to stand up to him, and he said that brutal honesty was required to be part of his team. And the teams he built became extremely loyal and inspired.
Q: Do you believe he was a genius?
Isaacson: He was a genius at connecting art to technology, of making leaps based on intuition and imagination. He knew how to make emotional connections with those around him and with his customers.
Q: Did he have regrets?
Isaacson: He had some regrets, which he expressed in his interviews. For example, he said that he did not handle well the pregnancy of his first girlfriend. But he was deeply satisfied by the creativity he ingrained at Apple and the loyalty of both his close colleagues and his family.
Q: What do you think is his legacy?
Isaacson: His legacy is transforming seven industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, digital publishing, and retail stores. His legacy is creating what became the most valuable company on earth, one that stood at the intersection of the humanities and technology, and is the company most likely still to be doing that a generation from now. His legacy, as he said in his "Think Different" ad, was reminding us that the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
Photo credit: Patrice Gilbert Photography
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Top Customer Reviews
The interviews with Jobs are fascinating and revealing. We get a real sense for what it must have been like to be Steve, or to work with him. That earns the book five stars despite its flaws, in that it's definitely a must-read if you have any interest at all in the subject.
But there are places in the book where I have to say, "Huh?"
The book is written essentially as a series of stories about Steve. The book continuously held my interest, but some of the dramas of his life seem muted. For instance, he came close to going bust when both Next and Pixar were flailing. There was only the slightest hint that anything dramatic happened in those years. In one paragraph, Pixar is shown as nearly running him out of money. A few brief paragraphs later, Toy Story gets released and Jobs' finances are saved for good.
We hear a lot about Tony Fadell's role in the development of iPhone. Tony led the iPod group and was clearly a major source for the book. You may know from a recent Businessweek article that Tony was basically driven out of the company shortly after the final introduction of iPhone, due to personality conflicts between him and Scott Forestall, the person now in charge of iOS development. But the book doesn't say a word about it. Tony simply disappears from the rest of the book with no explanation, and Forestall is barely mentioned.
Another strange incident was the Jackling house, the house he spent a large part of his life in. A case could be made that the house is historic simply because Steve spent many of his formative years living in it.Read more ›
No other book on Jobs has been based on first hand information from the Master himself, his colleagues and his detractors. There is no other way to know the man who changed the way we live and work. The fact that the book is engaging is a big bonus.
First Jobs' personal life, personality and beliefs. Like all fascinating people in history, Jobs was a bundle of contradictions. Born out of wedlock, he was an American icon and yet born of a Syrian Muslim whom he never knew, but had accidentally met. Adopted at birth by working class parents, he became skeptical of the Church as the all-knowing god did not help the starving children in Biafra and alternated between being a believer and a non-believer. He was, at different times, a vegan and a fruitarian (hence the name Apple). Jobs was influenced by the counter cultural ideas of the 60's and the 70's and yet become one of the most revered corporate figures of all time. He was a multi-billionaire who lived on a regular street with no high fenced compound, security or live-in servants; a Zen Buddhist who was obsessed with Zen-like simplicity but did not possess Zen-like tranquility; a son who tried to abandon his child like the way he had thought he was abandoned; a leader who was highly demanding of his colleagues and coworkers; a vastly influential figure in computing who neither built computers not wrote codes himself; a genius who was mean to many people. All these factoids had to have some influence on who he was and who he became and may keep interested psychologists busy for years.Read more ›
Apple has always meant more to me than as a computer company, because of my early experiences in the late 1970's and early 1980's from age 8 using the Apple ][, //e, and later the Mac. They represented amazing products that I could understand even as a child, that this was the direction of the future. It was odd to me then, that the world was still embracing the MS-DOS command line interface and the IBM PC/AT machines. When in the late 1990's, Apple neared bankruptcy, with Microsoft Windows dominating the market, it taught me as a young man that companies that try to make the very best can be under appreciated by the masses, just as the adults near me in the 1980's could not see the amazing nature of my Apple //e and Mac back then. Good guys, it seemed, do finish last. It was disheartening.
Since the return of Steve Jobs to Apple, the world now knows of his genius and brilliance.
This biography is utterly amazing. I could not stop reading the entire biography and finished in less than 2 days.
WHAT I LIKED
1. Extraordinarily comprehensive - The book covers an immense number of different "phases" of his life from his famous adoption story to the start of Apple Computer, to NeXt, Pixar, love life, development of his iconic products, to the time before his death (although his death is actually never mentioned).
2. Ruthlessly objective - As a fan of Steve Jobs, I cringed at all the negative descriptions of Jobs's conduct with strangers, his management team, other CEO's, etc. I knew of his candor and lack of sensitivity towards others, but the degree to which this is depicted made me cringe and even wonder if Jobs should not be garnering so much world-wide respect.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the best autobioigraphy i have ever read. So much detail and insight into a genius. The author was honored I m sure to have been selected to write jobs life story.Published 6 hours ago by Kindle Customer
A truly interesting look at a guy who always struck me as being an insufferable jerk. Turns out that he was indeed quite the jerk and this book makes no attempt to gloss over that... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
A good book. I did not think I would be so interested in it. Worth reading.Published 5 days ago by Dwight J. Worker
This is the longest book I've ever read cover to cover in my life, but it went really quick. I started it on a plane, and finished it a few weeks later. Read morePublished 7 days ago by jeeperz
It was a gift to my husband. It was delivered on time and great book.Published 8 days ago by sam-ikshya
A valuable contribution to the record. This book will help you understand how Apple/Jobs was able to make so many contributions to several fields. Computers, music, etc.Published 8 days ago by Picky computer user
Very insightful! Made me appreciate all my mac tools even more. gPublished 10 days ago by Gayle Womack