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Customer Review

on November 11, 2011
So how did a guy who was described by one of his closest friends as "reflexively cruel and harmful to some people" and by the mother of his first child as "an enlightened being who was cruel"; who honed a "trick of using stares and silences to master other people"; who threw a "tantrum" when Apple's first president gave him employee badge #2 while Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak got badge #1, then demanded, and got, badge #0; who shouted down strangers at business meetings by yelling "Let's stop this b----s----!" and wooed engineering prospects by telling them "Everything you've ever done in your life is s---, so why don't you come work for me?"; who parked his car in the handicapped spot at the front of his building so frequently that an Apple employee "painted over the handicapped wheelchair symbol with a Mercedes logo"; who was considered by his first boss at that same company to be "not a great engineer", exactly, did Steven P. Jobs become the unstoppable force who, by intelligence, intuition and sheer willpower lead the creation of not one, but two dominate companies of their times, and directly affect the lives of more human beings than any other individual of his generation?

For the answer to that question, read this book. It's a terrific story, and Isaacson tells the story very, very well--mainly by letting other voices do the talking. The book flows quickly and without a hitch, because even though the author spent a great deal of time with Jobs in the waning days of his life, he does not interject himself, except when absolutely necessary to tell the story.

Also, it's not written as a straight chronology: it jumps ahead at times--for example, to explain Jobs' bond with Jony Ive, Apple's chief design guru, before going back to the `aha' moments that led to the iPod, the design of which Ive and Jobs shaped together--and always to good effect.
And Isaacson sugarcoats very little.

Along the way, you'll learn where Jobs got his love of craftsmanship; how the first product Wozniak and Jobs came up with was in fact illegal; why Apple was named "Apple"; how employees manipulated Jobs to (sometimes) reach the conclusion they thought he should reach; why the first iPod was all-white (even the ear-buds); how Jobs' work at NeXT and Pixar informed his return to Apple; how Jobs' exile in Italy after his first Apple career influenced the floors you walk on today in every Apple store; why Jobs wore turtlenecks; what he told the CEO of Corning while successfully persuading him to resurrect a failed Corning glass R&D project into what became the rugged but clear glass screen on your iPhone; and, over and over, how the perfectionist Jobs could obsess over any detail when it came to the design of a product, a hotel room, a business card--even an oxygen mask in the hospital as he lay near death.

Indeed, the word "obsess" appears nine times in this book, the word "tantrum" eight times, and the phrase "Jobs insisted" appears--I am not making this up--28 times in the book.

Still, the word that sticks in the mind after reading all of Steve Jobs is neither. In fact, it is in no way negative. The word is "magical," and it appears 19 times in the book, including three times when it's used by Jobs describing a technology or a product. But the most poignant and powerful use of the word comes from Jobs' wife who, in explaining how he at first avoided coming to terms with his initial cancer diagnosis--in a similar fashion to the way he routinely avoided coming to terms with the limitations of fellow human beings, thereby pushing them into making products that literally changed the world--called it, "his magical thinking."

So read this book. If you're a teenager who "thinks different" and wants to understand how Jobs took that same quality and changed it from a liability to a world-changing asset; if you're a geek who wants to understand how Jobs identified break-through technologies and made them commercial; if you're an investor who wants to understand how a company learns less from great success than from failure; if you're a board member who wants to understand how destructive a creative genius can be, and how to harness that genius without destroying a company; if you're a CEO who wants to discover what makes a product a flop like Microsoft's Zune instead of a hit like the iPod; if you're a design student who doesn't care about business but wants to understand why the iPad feels so comfortable to pick up (hint: rounded edges); if you're an advertiser who wants to understand how two frames can be the difference between a "great" TV commercial and a bad one"; if you don't care about any of that but just want to understand how all these products came to this book.

It's great. Maybe even insanely great.

Jeff Matthews
Author "Secrets in Plain Sight: Business and Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett"
Secrets in Plain Sight: Business & Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett, 2011 Edition (eBooks on Investing Series)
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