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Steve Jobs Hardcover – October 24, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: It is difficult to read the opening pages of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs without feeling melancholic. Jobs retired at the end of August and died about six weeks later. Now, just weeks after his death, you can open the book that bears his name and read about his youth, his promise, and his relentless press to succeed. But the initial sadness in starting the book is soon replaced by something else, which is the intensity of the read--mirroring the intensity of Jobs’s focus and vision for his products. Few in history have transformed their time like Steve Jobs, and one could argue that he stands with the Fords, Edisons, and Gutenbergs of the world. This is a timely and complete portrait that pulls no punches and gives insight into a man whose contradictions were in many ways his greatest strength. --Chris Schluep
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
About the Author
Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN, and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. Facebook: Walter Isaacson, Twitter: @WalterIsaacson
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When reading a book like this the attempt is to take something from it and apply it to your personal life:
Something taken away is to constantly strive for your customer and to continually improve both in process and design and never be complacent with the status quo.
As with many figureheads of our world he has complexity and the struggle for a human side he lacked many times vs. getting his vision correctly defined in his products and designs.
The book does a great job conveying this and leaves it up to your own interpretation as to how to take him and his lasting legacy.
Isaacson paints an enigmatic portrait of a man who appears to me as being the Willy Wonka of digital technology. At times it's difficult to like Jobs as he is portrayed, but at no time can you question his devotion, nor his passion for doing what he was so good at.
Isaacson is able to bring all of Jobs' achievements together as well as dealing with his battle against cancer with a respectful pragmatism.
If you ever wonder how our technology got to be what it is today, this book will help you to understand.
Steve's Vision , his Empahasis on design and User experience was captured well. I am amazed that he did not have any say in his biography. I think You need to have a lot of courage to do that.
I wish the author had captured more on his spiritual side. As what did Steve like in the "Autobiography of Yogi" book that he read it every year and it became his last gift to all the people who attended his memorial Service. "Autobiography of Yogi" is an amazing book, that I have read , but I would have loved to known Steve's perspective and what he learnt from that book.
Note : I strongly recommend reading/listening to the Unabridged version. It had so much fun listening to this biography ( audible version).
On the whole I think this is an extraordinary biography of a creative genius who did make a dent in the universe.
Isaacson doesn't just capture personal accounts of a man that lived and died and how he spent his time in the void, he introduces fundamental concepts and philosophies that get you, as a reader, to think; to ask questions, to become engaged, to be left with a desire to do better, be better. Isaacson has not just put words and accounts into sentences, but has drawn dots and shown a maze of Jobs's life from a bird's eye perspective and for that I am thankful.
As you may imagine, the book may have not been written without some bias - having the subject as a primary contributor of the content leads the user to question how much was introduced. But this isn't anything new; we can assume that most books contain bias; after all, for a book to be truly, genuinely written and still engage its readers, a piece of the author must also show through. Having witnessed various interviews, we can assume for this particular book, that the majority of the content is written objectively; however, the slant is written from a person that seems to have admired the subject and all that was accomplished in his lifetime.
There were some things that I also disliked, but learned to live with. For instance, there was repetition. A person only needs to hear about a "reality distortion field" or a unique diet so many times, before they grow fearful of hearing it again in the words to come. While there was a lot of repetition in the book as a whole, perhaps this was done so that the chapters could be read independently; which makes sense if planning to skip ahead, or re-read certain chapters again.
Having read this book, I look forward to hearing any audio tapes, or additional material that Isaacson may have in the future. At least, I hope there was some that was time-dated or has a non-disclosure agreement, which we can hope to experience in the days to come. The finite nature leaves you wanting more.
The life of S.Jobs is sad and inspiring. It seems the only thing that still is left without an answer regards his mood swings, which I would like to know how much was psychological and how much could have been drug-induced - I'm curious if LSD may affects logic/emotional receptors in the brain.
The biggest take away is to question our state of being, our government, our lifestyles - don't accept the here-and-now as a restriction for what could be. Thank you for the excellent read!
Mr. Jobs hired me when I was 15 becoming the company's youngest employee in 2007. After writing an email to Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson explaining why I wanted to work for him and why I loved Apple, Steve replied that my enthusiasm reminded him of himself at my age.
Just another neat thing he did for a random person.